My Two Cents: Bright Lights Don’t Faze Indiana Hoosiers Sophomore Guard Tamar Bates
LAS VEGAS, Nevada — It’s Tamar Bates’ first trip to Las Vegas, but all the glitz and glamor means nothing to him. He’s here to work, so there won’t be any bells and whistles, just basketball.
Saturday’s meeting with no. 10 Arizona is all that matters to him.
“Before we jumped on the plane, we knew it was a business trip,” Indiana’s talented sophomore guard said Friday night when he met the media outside the MGM Grand hotel here in Las Vegas. “We didn’t come to her for all the gadgets and gizmos here in Vegas. If you want to do that, you come back to Vegas on our own time. We’re here to win a basketball game. We know how the atmosphere is off the track, so it’s just about being smart and not forgetting why we’re here.”
Bates, a Kansas City native who played his final year of high school ball at IMG Academy in Florida, had never been here. This was not an option for several reasons.
“This is actually my first time in Vegas. My AAU team, we never got out here. The one opportunity I did get out here is from Kansas, and they drove. It wasn’t my main team no, but they wanted me to come and play with them, and I said, “I’m not getting on that bus. I’m not going to Las Vegas.”
This is another big test for the Hoosiers, something they lacked in last year’s non-conference schedule. Indiana coach Mike Woodson has been all about challenging his team more this year, so there are now several high-profile national games on the schedule. They’ve already beaten Xavier and North Carolina, and now get Arizona here at 7:30pm ET and play at Kansas next Saturday.
That’s what it’s all about. Big players like big time games. So are the rabid Indiana fans, who pour into Las Vegas.
“It’s good for our fan base, number one, and if you’ve got a good enough team that can compete at that level, why not give it a shot,” Woodson said of the tougher schedule. “As a player and as a coach I have never feared any team or any players, so I think we are good enough to beat anyone in the country if we connect for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor .”
Bates has had some big games off the bench lately. He made five three-pointers against Nebraska on Wednesday and scored 19 points, and hit four threes and scored a career-high 22 points on Nov. 25 against Jackson State.
In between, though, he played just 12 minutes against North Carolina and scored three points and was 1-for-7 from the field in the loss at Rutgers, missing all three three-pointers and scoring just two points.
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Woodson and others raved about Bates’ growth over the summer, and he’s an important part of this team. There’s no doubt they need him every night.
“There’s no secret formula to it, it’s just about putting in the work,” Bates said when asked to shoot the ball better this season. “That’s what my team expects from me, to make my shots and help my team win when I can.
“I really feel that when it comes to me being more consistent, it’s more like when I’m consistently playing minutes, long stretches of time, that I usually perform. The numbers show that. So it’s me doing what I can to stay on the floor and produce the way I can. When I make one, it’s all about being ready to make the next one. I get the same shots almost every game. I just have to be ready to knock them down .”
Bates scored just 125 points as a freshman all season, and he’s already at 75. He’s made 13 threes so far, second on the team to Miller Kopp (19). He is more mature and more focused this year. He went through a lot last year, having a baby and being away from home while adjusting to the college game.
He has grown up now, and people see it in him.
“I’ve had some adversity, but I’ve been able to find myself more and I’ve come out personally now as a better person and a better man,” Bates said. “Now that I know I have a bigger role in the team compared to last year I have to be available. That’s the most important thing, and that’s why I spend a lot of time taking care of my body.”
Bates and junior guard Trey Galloway have had to sit out the past two games with starting guard Jalen Hood-Schifino unable to play. He was dealing with a back issue and missed the Rutgers and Nebraska game. He will also be a game-time decision on Saturday night. The plan is for him to train just before the game and see how he feels.
Point guard Xavier Johnson has struggled the past two games with Hood-Schifino out. He committed 13 turnovers in two games and made just 4 of 19 shots and just 1 of 7 threes. That puts even more pressure on Bates – and Galloway – to act.
“I think X, the fact that we’ve really been practicing with two point guards for the last six months, and we’ve taken the ball out of X’s hands a little bit,” Woodson said. “And (now) not having Jalen on the floor put it back in his hands in a dominant way, which is fine, but you have to be smart about some of the things you do.”
Bates knows full well that the Hoosiers need to make shots to win, and he’s all about that. He also knows that to be a solid rebounding team, everyone has to buy in. The Hoosiers are 8-1, but in that one loss to Rutgers, they gave up 17 offensive rebounds, including several to guards.
Bates knows that can’t happen, especially against Arizona and a massive front line that includes 6-foot-11 Lithuanian Azuolas Tubelis, who is averaging 20.1 points and 8.3 points per game and shooting 61.0 percent from the field. shoot down the floor. Oumar Ballo, a 7-foot center from Bali, is averaging 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds, shooting 76.9 percent from the floor (60-for-78)
“We can never get out,” Bates. We have to start games well and be physical on the boards from the start. Arizona, they really like to get out in transition and we have to make sure our transition defense is in check. But we are also going to have to score at a high level.”
- HOW TO WATCH: Here is the information on how to watch the Indiana-Arizona game on Saturday, with the correct game time and TV information, a preview of the game and details about the game. CLICK HERE
- POINT SPREAD: Indiana has strongly embraced the added difficulty of its non-conference schedule this season, and the No. 14-seeded Hoosiers faced a big test Saturday against No. 10 Arizona in Las Vegas. Oddsmakers favor Arizona. Here’s the latest on the point spread, and some great history behind the numbers for both teams this season. CLICK HERE
- PHOTO GALLERY: Indiana basketball fans are jumping on the chance to head to Las Vegas this weekend, flocking to Sin City for the Hoosiers’ big nationally televised showdown with Arizona on Saturday. We met several fans – and some of the basketball moms – at the MGM Grand on Friday. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA-ARIZONA 10 THINGS TO KNOW: First, let’s get the game time right for Indiana and Arizona on Saturday night. It starts at 7:30 PM Eastern Time. Here’s the facts and much more about the big neutral court showdown in Las Vegas. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA’S GOALS ARE ON 3-POINT SHOOTING: Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates lit it up from three-point land on Wednesday night, helping the Hoosiers make 11 three-pointers in the win over Nebraska. It’s their third double-digit game from deep this season, and it’s key to any long-term success for this team. Otherwise it won’t work. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA BASKETBALL SCHEDULE: The 2022-2023 Indiana Hoosiers men’s basketball schedule has been set. Here’s the full schedule, with dates, game times and TV info, plus links to the stories about the games already played. CLICK HERE