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November 16, 2011
A game like tonight's 94-73 win for Indiana over Evansville can cure a lot of ills and one of the many positives from the night may be that Christian Watford, the Hoosiers leading scorer last season, is back on track offensively.
After averaging 16.0 points per game his sophomore season, Watford came into tonight's road opener with two games he'd like to forget. Just 2-for-7 shooting in the opener Friday night against Stony Brook with just two rebounds in 25 minutes followed by a 1-for-7 shooting game against Chattanooga on Sunday.
In 24 minutes tonight at Evansville, Watford made 5-for-7 shots including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, hit all three of his free throws and finished with 15 points. He was better on the boards as well, pulling down eight defensive rebounds.
"My teammates have been doing a great job of keeping my head up," said Watford. "Times have been tough and I've been struggling but it's all about the team and we've been winning."
"Watford is the guy that probably hasn't had a lot of good play to this point but he certainly played well tonight," said Evansville coach Marty Simmons. "They were clicking on all cylinders"
The Hoosiers shot 55.9% for the game and had an impressive 24 assists on 33 field goals.
A minor leg problem had curtailed Watford's practice time in October.
"I felt like the injury had kind of set me back a little," said Watford. "Injuries happen, that's just a part of basketball.
Indiana head coach Tom Crean added another key for the turnaround in his forward's play.
"Defensive energy," said Crean. "When you miss some quality time, that time he missed at the start of the season. He was playing at such a high level in our workouts and he missed valuable time which meant his conditioning, rhythm and those things were not where they needed to be. He just needed to make sure he had his mentality adjusted to what it needed to be on the defensive end and rebounding end. To turn back around and get 15 (points) and eight (rebounds) and defend the way that he did. He had some very tough matchups tonight and he'll continue to have that."
The Hoosier team had a big clue that Watford might break out tonight by what they saw from him earlier this week.
"He's a product of how he's practiced," said Crean. "He's a product of his mentality. If he continues to do what he did the last couple of days, he'll continue to have good games like he had tonight."