After starting the season with three dominating wins, the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Hawaii hoping to add some games against top-tier opponents to their resume. Unfortunately the Hoosiers never got a chance to face the best teams as the Hoosiers stumbled to a 1-2 record and a sixth place finish in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
The Hoosiers lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 82-78 and thus were placed in the loser’s bracket for the rest of the trip. The two consolation games ended up being a 83-73 win over the St. John’s Red Storm and a 72-69 loss to the UNLV Rebels.
While the two losses hurt, it was how the Hoosiers lost those games that hurt the most and felt all too familiar.
All of the defensive improvement the Hoosiers showed during their first three games of the season vanished as opponents were able to score at ease, especially on post-ups and drives to the basket. The Hoosiers allowed 50 points in the first half to the Demon Deacons, 42 points in the second half to the Red Storm, and 41 points in the first half to the Rebels. In the case of the two losses, the Hoosiers did make defensive improvements at the start of the second half only to fall short when it came to the closing minutes.
Now while there was some troubling play this past week it doesn’t mean the Hoosiers are doomed to repeat what happened last season. In fact, if the whole team embraces reviewing these games and learns from their mistakes, the season will still have a lot of promise. Here are some of the mistakes that need correcting:
Consistent aggression: The Hoosiers played some of their most inspired defense during the first 10 minutes of the second half against the Demon Deacons. They contested every post-up and never allowed guards the opportunity to drive to the basket. However, whether it was fatigue or playing scared and trying not to lose the lead, the Hoosiers went away from that aggressive play. For a team that tries to wear out their opponent with their pace, I think the switch in mindsets (from being the trailing team to the team with the lead) is what tripped them up the most. Many teams become a lot less aggressive when they have the lead because aggressive play can lead to mistakes. However, despite the possibility of mistakes, aggressive play also puts a ton of pressure on the team that is trailing to be even more aggressive, thus making the opposing team likely to make even more mistakes. If the Hoosiers can continue to play their pace even when they have the lead they can make it harder for teams to come back on them.
Situational defense: I think we all learned this past week that this Hoosier team isn’t going to be a top 25 defense this season but that is OK. The Hoosiers don’t have to be defensively brilliant to reach their ceiling; they just have to focus on which situations require them to play to the best of their ability. Most of those situations occur in the final four minutes of games where a lot of Big Ten games will be won or lost. Knowing the situation is probably the biggest improvement this team can make. In the Wake Forest game, the Demon Deacons were able to drive to the basket simply because a defender was more focused on preventing a pass to the post than cutting off the driving lane to the basket. Preventing driving lanes is one of the best ways to stall out an offense that needs to score quickly and forces the opponent to rely more on jumpshots, which percentage-wise is an advantage for the defense. Knowing how to position yourself in those situations will require a lot of practicing and drills but it will make end-of-games situations a bit more favorable.
Crunch-time offense: This was maybe the most surprising development that happened in Maui. A lot of people expected the defense to be a recurring problem but several times the offense stagnated and thus let opposing teams take advantage of the Hoosiers’ suspect defense. The Indiana offense thrives on ball movement but more often than not the ball was only in one person’s hands for the majority of its late-game possessions and when the ball did move it was more for the sake of just moving the ball instead of trying to get someone open. Again I’m not sure if this has to due with nerves or not, but because the offense stops scoring in crunch time it places a lot of pressure on the defense to hold the lead or keep the deficit small. Some late-game plays may need to be drawn up during practice specifically for these types of situations going forward as it seems the Hoosiers can’t play at their usual pace during crunch time and thus feel uncomfortable in those situations.
There is no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff is already drilling the players on how to improve in these areas. As long as the players learn and implement these lessons going forward this team will be fine. After all, it’s only November.
Stats From The Boxscore:
Due to the drastically different play of some Hoosiers during this tournament, I decided to use this edition of Stats From The Boxscore to highlight some of the main players’ averages during the past three games and compare them to their first three games. There will be no analysis; this will just be for those who are curious about how differently some key Hoosiers played this last week.
- Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell
- First three games: 16.7ppg, 7.3rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.7tpg, 1.3fpg, 52.8% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 30.0mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 14.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 40.6% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 73.7% FT, 35.0mpg.
- James Blackmon Jr.
- First three games: 18.7ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.67spg, 3.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 55.3% FG, 55.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 24.7mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.67spg, 0.33bpg, 4.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 39.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 23.0mpg.
- Troy Williams
- First three games: 13.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.67spg, 0.67bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 53.3% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 26.0mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 10.7ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.3apg, 2.33spg, 1.00bpg, 3.3tpg, 2.0fpg, 54.5% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 27.3mpg.
- Thomas Bryant
- First three games: 13.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.67bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 20.0% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 22.3mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 11.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 55.6% FT, 25.0mpg.
- Max Bielfeldt
- First three games: 7.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 53.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 17.3mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 9.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 0.7apg, 1.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 25.0% FT, 20.0mpg.
- Colin Hartman
- First three games: 2.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.67spg, 0.7tpg, 2.7fpg, 36.4% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 18.3mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 3.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.67spg, 0.67bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 17.7mpg.
- Rob Johnson
- First three games: 7.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.3apg, 0.33spg, 2.7tpg, 2.3fpg, 53.3% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 16.7mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 7.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0tpg, 1.3fpg, 38.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 42.9% FT, 22.7mpg.
- Nick Zeisloft
- First three games: 9.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 0.33bpg, 0.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 64.3% FG, 64.3% 3FG, 19.3mpg.
- Three games in Maui: 9.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 56.3% FG, 57.1% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 20.3mpg.