NOTE: Due to some transportation issues, I was unable to attend Assembly Hall on Monday night. So instead of the usual game recap, this time I’m going to just go over five things I noticed during Indiana’s win over Alcorn State. Expect normal coverage to continue when Indiana faces Duke on Wednesday.
The Indiana Hoosiers bounced back from a disappointing trip to Hawaii by obliterating the Alcorn State Braves 112-70 on Monday night. The Hoosier offense was on fire as James Balckmon Jr. scored a career-high 33 points and the team as a whole shot an insane 67.2% (39-58) from the floor. It was a much needed confidence booster after the Hoosiers received heavy criticism from the national media for finishing sixth at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational last week.
Unfortunately the Hoosiers won’t have long to savor this win as they have to travel to Durham, North Carolina to take on the Duke Blue Devils this Wednesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Combine the short turnaround with the fact that the Braves are rated as one of the worst teams in the NCAA according to KenPom and there doesn’t seem to be too many takeaways from this game. However, I was able to find five that will be worth following up on after Indiana’s game with Duke. Here are the five things I noticed from the Hoosiers’ 112-70 victory:
- The defense is still a problem…: Most of the criticism from last week revolved around the Hoosiers’ abysmal defense and how the team hasn’t improved much from last season on that side of the ball. Short of holding the Braves under 50 points, there wasn’t anything that the Hoosiers could do this game that would convince the doubters that they have turned it around defensively. Unfortunately the Braves actually did very well offensively against the Hoosiers as their 70 points is the team’s second highest total of the season (Alcorn State scored 71 points against Florida A&M). The Braves also dominated the glass in the first half coming away with a 17-14 rebounding edge that included nine offensive rebounds. There were also quite a few defensive lapses and missed rotations that led to either easy buckets or second chance points (Braves had 14 second chance points).
- …but the Hoosiers are taking the steps to correct their defense: Yet with all that being said, there were also some positives from the Hoosier defense. In the second half Indiana outrebounded Alcorn State 23-9. The defense played with more aggression as it recorded 12 steals and turned those into 26 points for the offense. Most importantly Monday night the Hoosiers showed some new defensive coverages, switching to zone for a while during of the second half and finding success with it. Above all else, the fact that the Hoosiers are willing to try new things is a step in the right direction.
- Some high-profile players may have to play a supporting role instead of a star role: The Hoosiers aren’t going to score over 100 points every game so some players will have to accept that there will be games where they barely score or don’t score at all. The most intriguing player who could see his scoring numbers drop is Troy Williams. Williams was expected to have a breakout season where he would make the leap from potential NBA first rounder to lottery pick. However, as seen Monday night, the Hoosiers really thrive when Williams focuses more on crashing the boards and making athletic defensive plays. I’m not saying Williams won’t have the occasional night where he leads the team in scoring but with so many other players on the team who can score, Williams will be a bigger asset if he concentrates on his other strengths.
- The three-guard lineup may become the norm for Indiana: This isn’t the first time the Hoosiers have started a three-guard lineup, but this game showcased its potential. The Hoosiers came roaring out of the gates to take an early 12-0 lead and never looked back. The Hoosiers have tried to matchup against their opponents by playing a bigger lineup but, as seen against the Braves, they could go the other way and force the opponent to matchup with their smaller but faster, high-scoring lineup. Rob Johnson is the main reason why the three-guard lineup works as shown when he recorded three points, two assists, and two steals during that opening 12-0 stretch.
- The Hoosiers actually have depth at the forward position: Another advantage to starting three guards means you are only playing two front court players. This can really help the Hoosiers as fewer starting spots for forwards means more depth for what’s consider the thinner part of the roster. The worst-case scenario for the Hoosiers every game is if Thomas Bryant gets in foul trouble. If Max Bielfeldt and Collin Hartman aren’t starting that means that either can fill-in down low in that scenario and would be more likely to have zero fouls when subbing in for Bryant. While it does make the Hoosiers thinner in the back court there are plenty of players on the roster who are good enough ball-handlers and athletic enough to play guard in a pinch.