By ALEX KLINE
Special to ZAGSBLOG
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — On a night when Indiana coach Tom Crean said he was “disgusted” and “disappointed,” freshman Noah Vonleh was about the only bright spot for the Hoosiers.
The 6-foot-10 Vonleh went for 17 points and 6 rebounds as Indiana lost to No. 4 Syracuse, 69-52, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Carrier Dome.
“The second half we just got away from what we were doing in the first half,” said Vonleh, who scored 13 points at the line.
Syracuse went on a 12-0 second-half run after Vonleh tied it at 33.With a number of new faces and key players emerging on a very young Hoosier team that is now 6-2, Crean could not come up with the perfect formula to get back into the game after halftime.
“I’m disgusted with the lack of leadership, and unbelievably disappointed with the lack of fight in the second half,” Crean said. “That was one of the poorest displays of fight and communication that I’ve ever seen.”
Indiana has yet to pick up a key victory this season with both losses coming to top-15 teams, UConn by 1 at Madison Square Garden, and now the Orange.
Vonleh may be considered one notch below elite freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, but he has remained consistent early on.
He is averaging a double-double of 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds and has five double-doubles in eight games. In a sixth game, he went for 18 points and 9 boards.
This was a learning experience for him, though, as he frequently became anonymous on the offensive end. He also struggled with foul trouble in the loss to UConn and was limited to 10 minutes in that game.
Projected as the No. 8 pick in this year’s NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com, Vonleh may only end up staying in Bloomington until the end of the second semester.
Along with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Will Sheehey and Jeremy Hollowell, he hopes to mature and help Indiana become dangerous by March.
Humbled by a blowout loss on national television in December can only help in the long run as Crean’s job to motivate his team becomes easier now.
“I’m just appreciative of all my opportunities,” Vonleh said. “To be in this position now is a complete dream.”
Photo: AJ Mast/Icon SMI
Photo: Syracuse Athletics