The Morning After: Georgia Tech

  • 11/28/2007 8:00 am in

sampsonclose2.jpgA win is a win, sure, but there was plenty to complain about during IU’s 83-79 win over Georgia Tech last night. So let’s get into it. Hopefully this doesn’t become a recurring theme, because this team is too talented to grumble about all year.

— Turnovers. As in, too many of them. As in 17 of them. That’s not a catastrophic number by any means — when the number creeps up into the 20’s we can begin to really worry — but last night, the Hoosiers looked too prone to turnovers. Part of the reason was a sped-up pace driven by Georgia Tech’s effective full-court press, and the other part was general sloppiness by IU’s guards. Armon Bassett, Eric Gordon, Jamarcus Ellis — each is prone to unwieldy passes and errant dribbles, and the results kept Georgia Tech in the game longer than anticipated.

— Beyond turnovers, IU’s defense was again suspect. Transition defense, especially in secondary break situations, saw the Hoosiers yield easy layup after easy layup, easy dunk after easy dunk. Players flew at head fakes, doubled when one defender was sufficient, and just generally looked every bit as disorganized as they did in their ugly loss to Xavier. Kelvin Sampson being what he is — a very solid defensive coach — I’m keeping the faith things get turned around eventually. But it’s becoming clear that the fix isn’t going to be nearly as quick as any of us had hoped.

— Lance Stemler hit three threes. This should not be notable, but it is, because it is so very outside the norm. That’s how bad Lance Stemler has shot the basketball for the past oh, 25 games or so.

— It’s also becoming clear that Eric Gordon, as good as he is, is most comfortable in the open floor. Without comparing him too literally to LeBron James (sorry folks, but EJ is no LBJ), he resembles LeBron in that they are both far more at home when sprinting at defenders in the open floor, rather than attempting to find themselves in the half court. Bear with me here.

In the half court offense, Gordon has yet to integrate himself in whatever minimal offensive flow the Hoosiers have. Instead, when he gets the ball, he usually attempts to beat his man off the dribble; failing that, he either dishes it or shoots a step-back jumper, and his mid-range game has yet to to really impress. On the other hand, Gordon is an absolute shark in the open floor. Regardless of the defenders in front of him, if Gordon catches the ball on the break around, say, half court, it’s a guaranteed basket. Watching him sprint forward, overpowering and eluding defenders, is a sublime experience, one I’m hoping he soon extends to his half-court attack. If he does, he’ll be even more unstoppable than he already is.

(Then again, he still scored 29, so I’ll, um, temper my criticisms.)

— Speaking of “minimal offensive flow,” the Hoosiers’ offense took a tiny, almost imperceptible step forward Tuesday night. The pluses: IU located D.J. White in the post in better positions, and even ran the offense effectively enough to lead to several easy White buckets. When guards broke down defenders on the dribble, White pivoted to good spots on the block, and the shooters relocated efficiently. This team is talented enough to score even when everyone looks lost.

Which is good to know, because the Hoosiers looked lost often. Again, give part of that credit to Georgia Tech’s full-court pressure, which Paul Hewitt’s scouts surely saw the Hoosiers hadn’t yet faced, and which forced the Hoosiers into rushed offensive posessions. Give the rest of the credit to a team that looks confused, Still, even when IU got settled down, they showed little in the way of organized offensive strategy. Why Sampson doesn’t run Gordon off high screens more often baffles me. There are so many variations off a quick high screen — a Gordon drive, a D.J. White jump shot, a D.J. White roll, a Gordon jump shot, a dish to a suddenly open wing player — that it seems inconceivable to not run it. If anyone doubts such a simple play’s efficiency, watch the Phoenix Suns very closely. Sampson seemed eager to let Earl Calloway run high screen and rolls all year last year; surely he can trust Gordon with a similar task.

After Sampson installs a high screen and roll — favorite play of grade-school offenses everywhere — maybe we can move on to off-ball screens. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

— One last complaint about the offense: In 49 field goals last night, the Hoosiers had — get this — 10 assists. 10! That’s an incredibly low number for 49 field goals, and tells us at least one thing: this team is not playing together. Not at all. And I’m not sure how offensively effective they can continue to be if that doesn’t improve.

Brief Off-Court Notes

— First: Anyone else have trouble with ESPN’s HD signal last night? I need to know whether to berate my cable company today or not.

— Second: Color me impressed by Jimmy Dykes. It seems like broadcasters have to do something extra to impress us jaded, post-postmodern Internet types out here … but Dykes crossed that threshold for me last night. Besides his brief slurp of Lance Stemler — just because Lance is a mediocre white dude doesn’t make him “blue-collar,” people — Dykes was insightful, articulate, and well-prepared. He had a full-on scouting report of Eric Gordon, had clear impressions of nearly everyone on the floor, and had chemistry with play-by-play man Brad Nessler. Pair him up with Gus Johnson, and we just might have my dream college basketball team.

As always, your additions in the comments.

Filed to:

  • ALH ’00

    “…but they do not have much experience with having enough talent around them to have made passing part of their regular offensive diets”

    They are constantly passing off of their drives to the bucket…sometimes the bigs are ready for the pass, though. That chemistry should improve with time. Plus Gordon probably should slow some of his rocket passes on the breaks…not everyone has his hands and coordination.

    I also agree with Steve O on Holman. I thought last night would have been the perfect opportunity for him to eat some minutes, with GT’s running style. They rarely scored back-to-the-basket, so there is less of a body match-up problem there.

    Finally, I guess it was “good-Stemler” for everyone last night. The criticisms are much less harsh when you drop 15. Still, I though I heard the crowd really cheering when he came out of the lineup with about 15:00 to go in the 1st half? Poor kid.

  • mark

    I was at the game. I don’t think there were ever any cheers because Lance came out of the lineup. May have been cheers for his effort. I can’t recall that point in the game though.

  • mark

    I was at the game. I don’t think there were ever any cheers because Lance came out of the lineup. May have been cheers for his effort. I can’t recall that point in the game though.

  • Kyle Trowbridge

    Dykes was awful last night. He just seems better because he isn’t Vitale. After the 1st half I had to switch it to Fisch and Leary.

    ESPN commentators are by in lage awful, and Dykes is one of them.

  • Kyle Trowbridge

    Dykes was awful last night. He just seems better because he isn’t Vitale. After the 1st half I had to switch it to Fisch and Leary.

    ESPN commentators are by in lage awful, and Dykes is one of them.

  • slojoe

    Craig, although ESPN was reporting an indefinite suspension, Coach Sampson said 3 games. But I think White not redshirting was only partially due to the suspension. We did need another body with the suspension but AJ is coming back in 3 games and he is in the backcourt like Crawford. I think Coach Sampson has just had enough of our lack of interior defense and problems blocking out and rebounding. These are things that you know Mike White will give us. Yes, he will miss bunnies and have problems guarding taller and physical bigs but he can give us those two things which we don’t apparently have at this time with Eli and Thomas.

  • slojoe

    Craig, although ESPN was reporting an indefinite suspension, Coach Sampson said 3 games. But I think White not redshirting was only partially due to the suspension. We did need another body with the suspension but AJ is coming back in 3 games and he is in the backcourt like Crawford. I think Coach Sampson has just had enough of our lack of interior defense and problems blocking out and rebounding. These are things that you know Mike White will give us. Yes, he will miss bunnies and have problems guarding taller and physical bigs but he can give us those two things which we don’t apparently have at this time with Eli and Thomas.

  • ray

    yeah…dykes drove me insane. i couldn’t stand listening to him talk again and again about quality road wins!

    as for the play of gordon, again he played completely out of control in the first half.

    the best part of last night’s game, besides dj getting 18 and 14, was that they won…oh yeah, and that coach made a brilliant decision to play mike white (even though by now he lost 5 games of his senior season)…and i guess one more thing, ellis impressed once again.

  • ray

    yeah…dykes drove me insane. i couldn’t stand listening to him talk again and again about quality road wins!

    as for the play of gordon, again he played completely out of control in the first half.

    the best part of last night’s game, besides dj getting 18 and 14, was that they won…oh yeah, and that coach made a brilliant decision to play mike white (even though by now he lost 5 games of his senior season)…and i guess one more thing, ellis impressed once again.

  • ray

    as for the cheering of stemler leaving the line up…fans appreciated his effort last night…that’s what fans do when a player plays well and gets sent to the bench for a much-deserved rest.

  • ray

    as for the cheering of stemler leaving the line up…fans appreciated his effort last night…that’s what fans do when a player plays well and gets sent to the bench for a much-deserved rest.

  • ray

    MCD

    you are exactly right about dj, but unfortunately it’s nearly the entire team that doesn’t sprint back! that, as i’ve stated in previous posts, is all about conditioning or a lack of desire…either way, there education is paid for because the university and its fans expect this type of effort. so MCD, i agree…SPRINT BACK!

  • ray

    MCD

    you are exactly right about dj, but unfortunately it’s nearly the entire team that doesn’t sprint back! that, as i’ve stated in previous posts, is all about conditioning or a lack of desire…either way, there education is paid for because the university and its fans expect this type of effort. so MCD, i agree…SPRINT BACK!

  • Dylan

    It was a toss-up which was more frustrating: IU not rotating to prevent numerous easy jams or Jimmy Dykes gushing about GT. He began with Sampson’s infractions, and what other coaches thought. Kept talking about Crawford being suspended. As for the game, he either talked about Gordon or Georgia Tech. At the end, he saw time was running out, so he tried to get all his final insults in before they cut away. But he got on my nerves way before that. “I’m not convinced IU is better than Georgia Tech.” Why not just say “GT really came in here and gave it all they got.”? I think all ESPN announcers were told to be at least a little anti Big Ten now that ESPN is competing with the Big Ten Network…

  • Dylan

    It was a toss-up which was more frustrating: IU not rotating to prevent numerous easy jams or Jimmy Dykes gushing about GT. He began with Sampson’s infractions, and what other coaches thought. Kept talking about Crawford being suspended. As for the game, he either talked about Gordon or Georgia Tech. At the end, he saw time was running out, so he tried to get all his final insults in before they cut away. But he got on my nerves way before that. “I’m not convinced IU is better than Georgia Tech.” Why not just say “GT really came in here and gave it all they got.”? I think all ESPN announcers were told to be at least a little anti Big Ten now that ESPN is competing with the Big Ten Network…

  • Indiana Jim

    Who is EJ?

  • Indiana Jim

    Who is EJ?