Eleven days after the Indiana Hoosiers upset the Kansas Jayhawks in overtime, the Hoosiers found themselves getting upset by the Fort Wayne Mastodons 71-68 in overtime.
While some might argue that Tuesday’s loss negates the impact of that classic opening night victory, I actually think this could be a positive building block for a team that should still have the same aspirations as they did coming into this game. The key will be whether or not the Hoosiers learn from the mistakes that cost them their first loss of the season.
Here are three things the Hoosiers can learn from this loss to become even better later on in the season:
- Be less reliant on the three-pointer: Success from behind the three-point line has been a huge factor for several years in determining whether the Hoosiers won or lost. Yet it feels like this year’s team is even more reliant. Look no further than the first four minutes of the game where five of the first six IU shots where from deep. Indiana went 1 for 5 and fell behind 13-3. A similar thing happened at the beginning of the Kansas game when IU’s first eight shots were from deep. The difference then was that the Hoosiers went 4 of 8 on those shots. No team in the country is as lethal from behind the arc, but that can’t be your whole offense. Expect to see the Hoosiers run an offense more like the one shown in the second half where the ball always went through the post, whether it was a long-range jumper or not.
- Become more consistent from the free throw line: Granted the Hoosiers have already made a couple of clutch free throws so far this season, but the foul shooting as a whole really needs to improve. Indiana was already shooting a lackluster 70.4% (57 of 81) from the charity stripe before shooting 57.9% (11 of 19) against the Mastrodons. While Bryant’s two free throws at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime, the game was lost in part to missing the front-end of two one-and-ones in the extra period. Practice is the only way to get better, and considering the shooting talent on this roster, this team has the potential to be close to automatic from the free throw line.
- Take better care of the ball/adjust to the pace: In addition to three-point shooting, another staple of recent Indiana teams is the breakneck pace. However, going at a such a fast pace has made the Hoosiers very susceptible to committing turnovers either because they are going too fast or they become too impatient when the opponent slows down the tempo. It’s the second one that hurts the most as the turnovers are compounded by the fact that the other team is limiting the number of possessions in the game. Being able to adjust to a slower pace and limiting mistakes have been an key attributes of recent successful Hoosier teams (2013 and 2016) and will need to be a key attribute for this team if Indiana wants to reach its potential.