Three Ways IU Can Rebound From Current Three Game Losing Streak

At the midpoint of the college basketball season, the Indiana Hoosiers are going in the wrong direction. The Hoosiers’ 75-68 loss against the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday night marked the third straight loss for Indiana and fourth loss in six games.

However like I said, there is still a second half of the season to play and plenty of time for the Hoosiers to rebound from this slump and peak going into March. Here are three ways Indiana can improve during the rest of the season:

More De’Ron Davis: There was a five-minute span in the second half against Wisconsin when De’Ron Davis could not be stopped. Against Badger forwards Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, Davis was unfazed as he was given the ball in the post on four of six possessions, scoring three times and splitting a pair of free throws on the fourth possession.

As we near midseason, Davis is now 100% healthy and is ready for more playing time. He doesn’t need to necessarily start every game with Thomas Bryant, even though the two have worked well together quite often. Davis has been brilliant offensively in the post on a limited basis, and having out on the court more may help draw defenses’ attention from the three-point line where the Hoosiers have shot just 32.8% (20 of 61) the last three games.

Avoid Live-Ball Turnovers: With the pace that Indiana plays, getting rid of turnovers altogether is going to be a tall order to fill. However, the Hoosiers can make their lives so much easier if they just limited live-ball turnovers.

The Hoosiers are capable of neutralizing their high turnover rate because their elite offensive rebounding creates enough second-chance shots to even it out. Yet it’s when a turnover is compounded by an easy basket by the opposition that it becomes too hard for the Hoosiers to overcome their mistakes. Nebraska, Louisville, and Wisconsin averaged 21 points off of turnovers during Indiana’s current losing streak. Cut that number in half and Indiana would have won two of those games.

Avoid Getting Into Big Holes: One reoccurring theme in all five of Indiana’s losses this season is that the Hoosiers have fallen behind by double-digits, causing them to exert all of their energy to even up the game again only to run out of gas near the end.

  • Fort Wayne led by 10 with 16:04 left in the first half, and then led by 12 with 9:49 left in the second half
  • Butler led by 14 at half and by as much as 16 with 19:23 left in the second half
  • Nebraska led by 12 with 10:33 left in the first half
  • Louisville led by 12 at half and by as much as 16 with 5:50 left in the second half
  • Wisconsin opened the game on a 13-0 run and led by 14 with 16:09 left in the first half

Compare that to the North Carolina game, where Indiana never trailed at all during the game. Of course it’s unrealistic to expect that in every game so let’s compare it to the Kansas game:

The Jayhawks’ biggest lead was by nine points with 18:44 left in the second half. Over the next four minutes, the Hoosiers responded with a 14-5 run that tied the game up at 56. From there the lead changed 15 times and was tied another eight times before Indiana came out on top. The reason IU did come out on top was that they took a five point lead with 3:45 left in the second half and effectively flipped the script with Kansas having to claw its way back.

I’m not saying the Hoosiers are incapable of overcoming double-digit deficits. It’s just that the Hoosiers need to find out a way to avoid falling behind by so much, because it’s a lot easier to win a game when your sole focus doesn’t become trying to overcome a big deficit.

 

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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.

Five Takeaways From Indiana’s Big Win Against Kansas

The #11 Indiana Hoosiers started the 2016-2017 season off with a bang as they outlasted the #3 Kansas Jayhawks 103-99 in the Armed Forces Classic.

For many, including myself, it was the first time they got to see this new version of the Hoosiers. So with that in mind, let me give five observations, based off of last night’s game, about what the season has in store for this season’s Hoosiers:

  1. Blackmon Is Not Only Back, But Will Fill The Yogi Role Of “Mr. Big Shot”: It’s so great to have James Blackmon Jr. back, as his shooting and scoring turn this offense into something special (see observation number five). Yet, the most important fact to come out of last night’s win was that Blackmon looks ready to carry the team in crunch time and take over Yogi Ferrell’s role of “Mr. Big Shot”. Blackmon has always had a knack for hitting big shots but his confidence and demeanor last night were something we have never seen from him before. He was an assassin who continuously made big three-pointers, driving layups, and critical free throws. If he stays healthy, we might be in for a special season from Blackmon.
  2. Bryant Is The New Captain: Ever since he came to campus last year, Thomas Bryant has been one of the most passionate Hoosiers, but with Yogi Ferrell gone, I think we can finally call Bryant the “heart and soul” of Indiana Basketball. While Blackmon did take over down the stretch, there was plenty of evidence to suggest this is Bryant’s team. Bryant played whatever role was needed, whether it was scorer in the first half or glass-eater in the second half. Perhaps most telling was that Head Coach Tom Crean continuously played Bryant in the first half even after he recorded his second foul, something Crean only usually did for Ferrell.
  3. Jones Could Be The Spark Plug Off The Bench: On a night where the world expected to see #2 ranked freshman Josh Jackson of Kansas begin what should be his only season as a Jayhawk before he gets picked in next year’s NBA lottery, it was Indiana’s freshman Curtis Jones that stole the show with 15 points off the bench, including seven crucial points in overtime. Jones provided instant offense not only in overtime but also in the first half when he scored his other eight points. Jones also showed he wasn’t afraid of the big moment as he scored the final four points of the game for the Hoosiers.
  4. Morgan Has A Legit Shot At Having IU’s First Triple-Double In Over 40 Years: The last and only Hoosier to record a triple-double was Steve Downing. In his sophomore season, Downing put up 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 blocks against Michigan. While I am in no way saying that Juwan Morgan will have a game like that in his sophomore season, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to end up with a statline of 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Morgan’s skillset of being such a strong rebounder and ability to handle the ball as a point forward has already given him an opening night statline of 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. You’re telling me he couldn’t get a triple-double against one of the cupcake non-conference opponents IU has on its schedule?
  5. This Team Might Be An Even Better Shooting Team Than Last Year’s Team: It may be hard to believe but based on what the Hoosiers just did against what should be one of the top defenses in the nation, IU’s offense might be even better this year than it was last year. Part of it will be a healthy Blackmon back and ready to prove himself. Bryant should improve as a scorer both in the post and on the perimeter. OG Anunoby will continue to improve offensively. Add all that to a roster that is full of shooters and we might be set for a record-breaking IU offense this season.

Three Questions From Indiana’s Blowout Loss At Michigan State

Even though they led by as many as 10 points late in the first half, the Indiana Hoosiers still had to feel really good about their play going into half even though they were down by one. However, that feeling disappeared when the Michigan State Spartans dominated in the second half and ended up demolishing Indiana 88-69.

Not many expected the Hoosiers to win in East Lansing, but it was the fact that IU showed it was capable of winning that game that has Hoosier Nation asking questions. While I don’t have the correct answers, I’ll still give my opinion on what I think are the three of the biggest questions that have surfaced from this loss. If you have a different opinion or just want to add on to my opinions, please leave a comment below.

  1. Is it time to bench Troy Williams?
    • Benching Williams is not a viable long-term solution, but it may be a good short-term one. The man I call “Tornado Troy” has been a force all season, wreaking havoc against both Indiana’s opponents and Indiana itself. When Williams is at his best he’s an NBA lottery pick, but when he’s at his worst he’s a walking turnover-machine. Even though there were quite a few good things from Williams on Sunday, the fact he was scoreless in 20 minutes of play outweighs all of them. My solution would be for Williams to come off the bench for just Indiana’s next game (home against Nebraska) and in his place start OG Anunoby. Williams’ play has responded positively to being benched in the past, and might be what he needs to get going again. It’s also arguably the easiest game the Hoosiers have left so if the switch backfires IU would still be able to overcome it. Williams is the wild card in determining IU’s fate this season and like it or not he needs to play.
  2. What’s the reason behind Yogi Ferrell’s shooting slump?
    • The overwhelming theory is that the heavy minutes load is starting to catch up to him. While that does sound reasonable (Ferrell is playing 34.2 minutes per game), one look at his yearly stats and you notice he played around the same amount of minutes both last year (34.9mpg in 2014-2015) and during his sophomore year (33.8mpg in 2013-2014). Instead I think it goes a little deeper. With James Blackmon Jr. out, Ferrell has made it a point to put the team on his back Add that with the fact the Hoosiers have had a hard time functioning on the court without him and you end up stacking even more pressure and stress onto those minutes. The only real fix to this is if the Hoosiers can prove they can play well enough without Ferrell for extended periods of time so Ferrell can rest a few more minutes. The good news is that IU did just that in its win over Iowa. Now it’s up to Ferrell to take advantage of any extra minutes of rest.
  3. How crucial is it for Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume to get a road win over a great team?
    • I really doubt that not winning a road game against a top team is going to keep the Hoosiers out of the NCAA tournament. I also don’t think it will affect seeding that badly (one seed-line at most). If Indiana is able to grab wins over Maryland and Purdue, it won’t really matter to the selection committee that those games were in Assembly Hall. Where road wins are important to IU is in the Big Ten title hunt. Despite the loss on Sunday, Indiana still controls its own destiny as the Hoosiers still have one more game against Maryland and Iowa. However the game against the Hawkeyes will be in Iowa and is now a must-win, but only in terms of winning the Big Ten.

Three (Very Small) Positive Takeaways From Indiana’s Blowout Loss At Duke

When you face a team that has won 120 straight non-conference home games in a row (translation: they haven’t lost a non-conference home game since 2000), then there was a pretty good chance that the Indiana Hoosiers would leave Cameron Indoor Stadium sitting with a season record of 5-3. Well the Hoosiers did lose to the Duke Blue Devils Wednesday night, but it was by an ugly score of 94-74.

The Hoosiers actually looked like they were going to give the Blue Devils quite a challenge as Indiana responded to Duke’s 10-4 start by going on a 17-5 run that had the Hoosiers up 21-15 with 11:40 left in the first half. Then after the TV timeout, Troy Williams, who to that point had a team-high six points, collected his second foul on a Derryck Thornton and-one that cut the Hoosiers’ lead to just three points. From that point Indiana never recovered as Duke outscored the Hoosiers 33-21 during the rest of the first half and started the second half on a 9-0 run to put the Hoosiers too far out of reach.

Williams finished with a team-high 17 points and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell added 15 points and five assists. The Blue Devils were led by star freshman Brandon Ingram, who has struggled for parts of the season but caught fire and scored a career-high 24 points. Upperclassmen Matt Jones (23 points) and Amile Jefferson (8 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists) also had big games for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.

You’ll probably find a lot of articles about what went wrong for the Hoosiers (and rightfully so as both the defense and the rebounding were horrendous), so I’m going to go the other way. I dug deep into the game’s boxscore to find three positive takeaways from the Hoosier’s blowout loss. All three of them will feel fairly insignificant considering the lopsided loss but they are still positives nonetheless. Let’s take a break from all the negativity and take a look at three things that sort of went Indiana’s way:

Hoosiers were able to keep Grayson Allen in check: It seems weird to start off a list of positives by bringing up the Hoosiers’ defense, but when it came to limiting Allen, who came into the game averaging 22.6ppg, the Hoosiers became only the third team this season to hold him under 20 points and the only team to hold him under 30 points when Allen plays at least 35 minutes (Allen played a season-high 38 minutes vs IU). In fact, his whole stat line (16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) looks a lot less impressive when notice that 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists came after the Blue Devils had already pulled away from Indiana in the first couple of minutes of the second half, making those stats look fairly empty. I am aware that part of the reason Allen didn’t score much was because Ingram was having a career-night, but if you take a closer look you’ll see that Ingram had nearly no scoring help from his teammates for the first 14 minutes, as he scored 18 of his team’s 32 first half points before going to the bench with two fouls. The Blue Devils would go on to score 19 more points before halftime but without Ingram’s offensive explosion, the fact that the Hoosiers bottled up Allen early would have been a bigger deal.

IU is finally hitting their free throws: One of the weirdest and most underrated subplots of this season is the fact that this year’s Hoosiers are considerably worse at free throw shooting than they were a year ago. It’s even odder because they are basically the same group of players with Thomas Bryant and Max Bielfeldt switched in for Emmitt Holt and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Last season the Hoosiers shot a passable 71.9% from the charity stripe, but coming into the Duke game this year’s team was only hitting 64.9% of their foul shots. The fact that they had their best free throw shooting performance of the season on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium (76.5%) is actually pretty impressive. It’s also only the third time all season the Hoosiers shot above 70% from the foul line (the other two games being Wake Forest and Alcorn State). It’s also interesting that two of their best foul-shooting games have been their most recent ones, which points to them having improved during the season. If the Hoosiers are able to bring the team’s overall average up it could be the difference between winning or losing a handful of close Big Ten games.

First game of the season with fewer than 10 turnovers: Another trend that is much worse this season than it was the previous is turnovers, which have jumped from the 12 per game last season to 17 per game heading into Wednesday. The Hoosiers had three checkmarks that they needed to hit if they wanted to beat Duke: play competent defense, compete on the boards, and limit turnovers. For as bad as some will say this loss was for the Hoosiers, know that even though this team fell impossibly behind they still only committed a season-low nine turnovers. Hey that’s progress.

Five Takeaways From Indiana’s Bounce-Back Win Against Alcorn State

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:

  1. 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).
  2. …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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.