Improved Free Throw Shooting Key As Indiana Blasts Past North Alabama

The Indiana Hoosiers had what could best be described as a “sloppy” first half against the North Alabama Lions. The Hoosiers committed nine turnovers, tied on the boards with just 12 for each team, and allowed the Lions to shoot 7-of-10 from three-point range. Yet despite all that, the Hoosiers held a seven-point lead at half before turning up the defensive intensity in the second half to win 91-65.

So how did Indiana survive that first half?

Believe it or not, it was great free throw shooting that kept the Hoosiers afloat in the first half. Indiana made 17-of-20 (85%) foul shots during the first 20 minutes compared to North Alabama’s 5-of-6 foul shooting.

It didn’t turn out to be just a first half trend as the Hoosiers finished the game having made 37 out of their 45 free throw attempts (82.2%), including an incredible 14-of-15 foul shooting performance from Freshman Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

“He’s a unique player,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I’ve been telling him since 10th grade, he’s going to get fouled a ton (because he’s a left-handed post player). Proud of him tonight, 14 of 15 from the line, that’s a huge deal.”

Jackson-Davis, who made just 3-of-6 from the foul line during the Hoosiers first two games, didn’t just excel at the free throw line on Tuesday night. He also made 3-of-4 field goal attempts to give him a game-high 20 points while also leading everyone in rebounds (8) and tying for most blocks (3) with Race Thompson.

“Coach really put an emphasis on not starting the ball so far down low, but kind of putting it up. Less room for error,” said Jackson-Davis about his improved shooting, especially from the foul line. “It was really (about) concentration for me, and I did really well tonight.”

Tuesday night’s foul shooting performance wasn’t just a product of Jackson-Davis’ amazing night. Nine of the 10 Hoosiers that played made multiple free throws and all but De’Ron Davis (who was still a decent 4-of-6) missed no more than one free throw during the game.

The reason this is so noteworthy is because last season’s Indiana Hoosiers were a rather bad foul shooting team, hitting 455-of-695 (65.5%) over the course of the season. In addition, they had just as many games shooting above 70% as they did games shooting below 60% (12 for both).

That’s what made the free throw shooting display against North Alabama so impressive, as even if you remove the players who didn’t play the previous season, you are left with a combined 16-of-21 (76.2%) from Davis (4-of-6), Thompson (3-of-4), Justin Smith (3-of-4), Al Durham (3-of-3), and Rob Phinisee (3-of-4).

For comparison, last season Davis shot 41-of-71 (57.7%), Thompson shot 2-of-4 (50.0%), Smith shot 36-of-70 (51.4%), Durham shot 54-of-73 (74.0%, which was the highest on the team), and Phinisee shot 35-of-53 (66.0%).

Admittedly one game doesn’t guarantee this will be a much better foul shooting team than the 2018-2019 team (which despite a low season percentage did go 16-for-16 in a game against Maryland). However, for now the Hoosiers are shooting 76% through their first three games and have two games above 70%, having shot 22-of-30 (73.3%) against Portland State on Saturday. If the Hoosiers are to succeed this season, this will need to be a trend that continues.

Three Things The Hoosiers Can Learn From Their Upset Loss In Fort Wayne

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Hoosiers Aggressive On Offense and Defense During Blowout Win Over Morehead State

There was little doubt that Indiana would play better defensively after embarrassingly giving up 94 points to Duke on Wednesday. Yet the Hoosiers showed a defensive aggressiveness in their 92-59 win over the Morehead State Eagles that hasn’t been shown all season.

“Really proud of the effort, energy, attitude, the way they responded”, said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about the aggression his team showed against the Eagles. “It’s been a long couple of weeks and I thought they did an outstanding job of learning and applying it and bringing their practice game and practice preparation to the course, and they did it for a long period of time.”

After giving up quite a few open shots when playing zone against Duke, Indiana stuck to playing man-to-man for most of the game against Morehead State. The Hoosiers not only succeeded in man-to-man coverage, but they looked a lot more comfortable than they did when playing the zone the past few games. That comfort aided a suddenly confident defense as they held the Eagles to a season-low 59 points and only let them shoot 31.4 % from the floor.

“We were a little more connected in our coverages, and especially with our switching”, said Coach Crean. “Their mind-set was excellent. They were rotating well. We were drawing charges. We didn’t spend the game in rotation.”

Indiana was also aggressive on offense, attempting a season-low 15 three-pointers and instead they scored 46 points in the post by driving to the basket, scoring layups in transition, and getting the ball in the paint when a Hoosier was either open or had a mismatch. Because the Hoosiers went to the basket so much, it led to a season-high 36 free throw attempts. The Hoosiers took advantage as they shot 75% or better from the free throw line for the third game in a row after failing to reach 70% in five of their first six games.

The Eagles, who came into the game allowing the second fewest points per game in the NCAA at 55.2, ran a Wisconsin-style grind-it-out offense to limit Indiana’s offensive possessions and it worked for the first seven minutes as Morehead State held a 13-12 lead. Yet the Hoosiers were able to speed up the pace and from the 13:30 to 4:00 minutes left in the first half the Hoosiers went on a 27-6 run to take control of the game and would never relinquish it. Due to the faster pace, the slow-it-down Eagles committed 23 turnovers, which the Hoosiers turned into 27 points. The Eagles also committed 28 personal fouls.

The Hoosiers will be off for a few days but will return to action this coming Wednesday against IPFW in Assembly Hall. The game will start at 7pm but will not be broadcasted on television so check for radio stations, such as IU’s student-run WIUX 99.1 FM, if you can’t attend the game.

 

Stats From The Boxscore:

  • Indiana had five players score in double-figures. Troy Williams led the Hoosiers with 16 points, James Blackmon Jr. and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell both had 15 points, Thomas Bryant had 14 points, and Max Bielfeldt scored 12 points off the bench.
  • Both Bryant (4 of 4) and Bielfeldt (5 of 5) were perfect from the floor while Williams only missed on shot (6 of 7).
  • Ferrell’s layup with 14:07 left in the first half made him the 16th Indiana Hoosier to score 1,500 career points.
  • Ferrell also recorded seven assists, which now has him four away from claiming third on IU’s all-time assist list.
  • Not only did the Hoosiers attempt a season-low 15 three-pointers, but they only made 33.3% of those shots, tying their worst mark of the season (IU also shot 33.3% from deep against Eastern Illinois).
  • In addition to holding Morehead State to a season-low 59 points, the Hoosiers’ 92 points are the most the Eagles have allowed all season, with the previous high being 66 points allowed to Illinois State.