Indiana is set to honor its 1953 NCAA championship team at halftime Thursday night against visiting Sam Houston State.
While this season's top-ranked Hoosiers have title aspirations of their own, coach Tom Crean believes his program still has a ways to go before hitting its stride.
After cruising to a 97-54 win over Bryant in Friday's season opener, Indiana (2-0) came out a bit sluggish Monday before putting away North Dakota State in an 87-61 victory. The Hoosiers led by just 10 points early in the second half, and Crean certainly was looking for a more dominant performance at home against a much weaker opponent.
"There's conventional, there's unconventional and then there's tonight," he said. "Your fundamentals, your technique, all your experiences, all those things are really, really important, but there's nothing bigger than energy and toughness. It's got to be there constantly."
Preseason All-American Cody Zeller had 22 points and nine rebounds while sophomore Remy Abell and freshman Jeremy Hollowell scored career highs of 14 off the bench.
"We're going to see everything from different teams this year," Zeller said. "I know they're going to try different strategies, that they're going to try to outphysical me, outphysical some of our other guys, try to get us in foul trouble, so you've just got to keep your composure and keep on working."
Zeller, whose 62.3 field-goal percentage ranked fourth in the country last season, was ill Monday but able to tough it out. He figures to be closer to full strength against the Bearkats (1-1).
"There are probably other times where he doesn't feel well and I don't hear about it, but when he mentions that he's not feeling well to the doctors and trainers he probably should have stayed home in bed," Crean said. "He's just got that kind of toughness level.
"He didn't have a great defensive game and he knows that but... any time he feels there's a little bit of weakness in this or that, he's spending that extra time and that's why he'll continue to work towards being as good as he can possibly be."
Indiana has outscored opponents by an average of 28.3 points during a 22-game home winning streak against non-conference foes, a trend it will try to continue against Sam Houston State.
After hanging tough in Friday's season-opening 73-68 loss at Arkansas, the Bearkats beat Division III foe Hardin-Simmons 82-31 on Tuesday. Sam Houston State forced 27 turnovers and held the Cowboys to 25.5 percent from the field, giving up 13 points in the second half.
"When you play a team like that and you get a big lead, whether you try to talk to your guys about not doing it or warning them about it, they tend to get a bit sloppy so to speak, or aggressive and gamble and do things we're not going to do Thursday night against Indiana," coach Jason Hooten told the school's official website.
The Hoosiers have never faced the Bearkats but are 4-0 against Southland Conference opponents. Sam Houston State has lost its last 10 matchups with ranked foes by an average of 24.1 points.
"It's exciting to have the opportunity to play one of the most storied programs in NCAA men's basketball," Hooten added. "Right now, we're just working on becoming a better basketball team. It's going to be a great experience playing the Hoosiers."
Senior Darius Gatson leads the Bearkats with 14.5 points per game. Junior James Thomas is averaging 13.0.
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