The Morning After: Iowa

  • 01/03/2008 8:30 am in

deservevictorychurchill.jpgGiven the difficulty inherent in any Big Ten road game, we should probably just be thankful that IU won last night. After all, the Hoosiers have a history — at least in the past few years — of struggling in Iowa’s decrepit Carver Hawkeye Arena, of coming out flat and staying that way and giving inferior Iowa teams easy home wins. We should be thankful that IU won a game on the road in the Big Ten. We should be … sated.

Nonetheless, I think I speak for plenty of us when I say this: We are not, most definitely not, sated. We want more from this IU team. We deserve it.

But before we get too far into the complaints, let’s get the positives out of the way:

— Jamarcus Ellis continues to be a steady presence for IU. He makes his share of mistakes — particularly frustrating is his penchant for forcing shots after unsuccessful drives, not to mention the occasional defensive lapse — but on the whole, Ellis is a solid third wheel for IU. He does the things most people think Lance Stemler does, things that don’t always make it to the scoresheet, but things that are absolutely necessary to win at any level.

— Iowa’s late-minutes scoring flurry was just basically ridiculous and lucky and patently silly. Never was that more evident than during Justin Johnson’s angling 30-foot chuckshot that miraculously glanced off the backboard and went in. I mention this as a way of saying that, overall, the Hawkeyes probably shot a little bit better than they are — they most certainly did during the game’s final stretch — and that for all of IU’s faults last night they deserve credit for weathering the late storm on the road. And, above all, winning. Winning is good.

And that’s just about it for the positives! A win’s a win, sure, but seeing as Iowa is bad and IU is not, the game should never have been as close as it was for as long as it was. List of gripes commences after the jump.

— Hedging screens! Oh, hedging screens. If only commenters complaints about mis-hedged screens (I don’t mean that derisively; I agree with every one of y’all) were dollars in ad revenue, the three of us could quit our day jobs and run ITH full-time. Sigh. I’m not sure what it is about this team’s inability to hedge screens at the top of the key, but it remains a glaring weakness. How many times did D.J. White or Lance Stemler or DeAndre Thomas overplay a screen way too high, allowing for either direct entry to a rolling big man or for a wide open three in the corner? This might have to become a new site challenge: Count all the poorly defended high screen and rolls without fainting. We could make it into a drinking game, but none of us would last past the first five minutes.

Here’s my pledge to our coaching staff, one that seems to know what it’s doing: Please, for the love of Branch McCracken, play screens lower. Not a lot lower, mind you, but low enough so that D.J. doesn’t feel the need to sprint to the center circle every time his man sets a screen 17 feet and out. This has to get tweaked, for the good of the team and for our collective sanity. We’re going crazy over here.

— Other than screens, which were the most glaring issue last night, defensive rotations in general were shoddy and slow. I praised Ellis above, but he had a series of defensive lapses last night. Some were solely his fault, and some were caused by bad closeout defense. In general, IU’s defense seemed eager to pressure at the top of the possession — and forced a few steals because of it — but after a few seconds and some penetration by whichever generic Iowa guard had the ball at the time, the defense was broken down and preyed upon. I like the idea of high ball pressure, but not if it allows inferior teams pathways to open looks. And yeah, closeouts are a problem. But just because this might not be the best group of individual defenders on Planet Earth doesn’t mean they can’t be a good defensive team, right? Right?

— A final defensive caveat: As bad as it looked, like I said, it looked even worse because Iowa shot so well from the perimeter (especially at the end of the game). I’m not intimately familiar with the Hawkeyes, but a quick glance down their lineup leads one to believe that not only will Justin Johnson not score 29 points in a game the rest of the year, but that the team won’t put up those sorts of numbers again for a while. If ever.

— Now, on to the offense. My complaints, shared with Big A last night throughout the game, have to do with the way IU seems to be misusing their half court offense. There’s a lot of freelancing and standing around, as Big A noticed, which is to be encouraged on the break — who among us doesn’t want Eric Gordon to freelance in the break? — but which makes things look stagnant and slow on the offensive end. Gordon’s first touch was an IU fan’s dream: Screen, cut, catch, release, money. Far too infrequently did that combination happen after that first success. Usually, the most sophisticated offensive set was a high screen and roll, or a dump to D.J., who had serious problems with Iowa’s center on the offensive end, and who usually just passed the ball back out to the perimeter. Whether this is a symptom of not having played quality defenses is up for debate, but whatever it is, IU needs to figure things out on offense. Too much standing around is a waste of the solid assemblage of talent on this team. It’s a waste of Eric Gordon. And we deserve better.

As always, your thoughts, opinions, or severe ennui are welcomed in the comments.

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  • Steve

    I cannot tell you how upset I am about the whole hedge the guard at the top of the key thing. This should have been corrected way before now. They have been doing this all year!! One other point, Jordan Crawford is nothing more than a one on one ball hog that cannot play defense. I guess he and his brother do have something in common.

  • Steve

    I cannot tell you how upset I am about the whole hedge the guard at the top of the key thing. This should have been corrected way before now. They have been doing this all year!! One other point, Jordan Crawford is nothing more than a one on one ball hog that cannot play defense. I guess he and his brother do have something in common.

  • MPmike

    I wish I could comment on the game but I could not see it on tv like the rest of the games on the BTN. However, I heard the last few minutes on the radio. Why didn’t IU made sure the ball was in the hands of Eric Gordon in the closing minutes? There were too many missed free throws and having DJ White and even Lance Stemler shooting free throws from in-bound plays is not smart basketball. Hopefully, IU will learn to closeout games before it will cost them.

  • MPmike

    I wish I could comment on the game but I could not see it on tv like the rest of the games on the BTN. However, I heard the last few minutes on the radio. Why didn’t IU made sure the ball was in the hands of Eric Gordon in the closing minutes? There were too many missed free throws and having DJ White and even Lance Stemler shooting free throws from in-bound plays is not smart basketball. Hopefully, IU will learn to closeout games before it will cost them.

  • Tom

    The team is doing what the coaches want on hedging and offense.Lighten up. CKS was quoted as saying :”some teams pass the ball 4-5 times while we drive and dish or shoot–that’s who we are”-or words to that effect. Craw ford played a decent game with Bassett hurt. Complainers like you above are laughable. We get to the foul line more than any team in the country.We scored almost 80 points against a team that gives up 55 a game. If not for the Twilight Zone shooting of Johnson , we would have won by double figures. Sometimes our offense isn’t pretty- but usually its effective. Admittedly, we needed more assists–but give credit to Iowa–they did not prepare in a vaccuum and they were emotional.

  • Tom

    The team is doing what the coaches want on hedging and offense.Lighten up. CKS was quoted as saying :”some teams pass the ball 4-5 times while we drive and dish or shoot–that’s who we are”-or words to that effect. Craw ford played a decent game with Bassett hurt. Complainers like you above are laughable. We get to the foul line more than any team in the country.We scored almost 80 points against a team that gives up 55 a game. If not for the Twilight Zone shooting of Johnson , we would have won by double figures. Sometimes our offense isn’t pretty- but usually its effective. Admittedly, we needed more assists–but give credit to Iowa–they did not prepare in a vaccuum and they were emotional.

  • MPmike

    This is not a complaint. This is stating something that is crucial at the end of a game. The person above me hasn’t answered my question. Would you like the ball in the hands of your best player, better ball handlers and free throw shooter or would you want one of your big men to dribble the ball and have a chance to loose it if not fouled then hoping they will hit al least one of the two free throws?
    The answer is simple- Give the ball to Eric Gordon to close out the game.

  • MPmike

    This is not a complaint. This is stating something that is crucial at the end of a game. The person above me hasn’t answered my question. Would you like the ball in the hands of your best player, better ball handlers and free throw shooter or would you want one of your big men to dribble the ball and have a chance to loose it if not fouled then hoping they will hit al least one of the two free throws?
    The answer is simple- Give the ball to Eric Gordon to close out the game.

  • ray

    iowa suffered only it’s second conference loss at home in over two seasons…it’s a win. i expected a much bigger win, but i also expected much less from iowa. now it’s looking like minnesota may be iu’s first loss and not the game in madison…i don’t know it could go either way…hopefully iu can pull off an 18-1 start and then surprise wisconsin by knocking them off…again, i say HOPEFULLY!

  • ray

    iowa suffered only it’s second conference loss at home in over two seasons…it’s a win. i expected a much bigger win, but i also expected much less from iowa. now it’s looking like minnesota may be iu’s first loss and not the game in madison…i don’t know it could go either way…hopefully iu can pull off an 18-1 start and then surprise wisconsin by knocking them off…again, i say HOPEFULLY!

  • ray

    i read somewhere that bassett has bone chips in his ankle…that’s not good, is it? i mean, does anyone know the severity of such an injury?

  • ray

    i read somewhere that bassett has bone chips in his ankle…that’s not good, is it? i mean, does anyone know the severity of such an injury?

  • Steve:

    I somewhat agree on the Crawford comment. I love that he’s fearless and confident and he really can score in droves. But he also never saw a shot he didn’t like. He seems to always look to shoot or drive first and that gets frustrating from time to time.

    I guess it’s that old adage: “He’s a freshman.” Hopefully KS will wrangle him in when appropriate. Although, since our offense seems to be based around this kind of play maybe we’ll just have to deal with it.

  • Steve:

    I somewhat agree on the Crawford comment. I love that he’s fearless and confident and he really can score in droves. But he also never saw a shot he didn’t like. He seems to always look to shoot or drive first and that gets frustrating from time to time.

    I guess it’s that old adage: “He’s a freshman.” Hopefully KS will wrangle him in when appropriate. Although, since our offense seems to be based around this kind of play maybe we’ll just have to deal with it.

  • Jim

    One thing I like is the barrage of 3s Johnson hit at the end of the game. It’s a good lesson for them to learn early – you better play to the final buzzer!

  • Jim

    One thing I like is the barrage of 3s Johnson hit at the end of the game. It’s a good lesson for them to learn early – you better play to the final buzzer!

  • KEN

    A win on the road in the B10 is a win. There are seldom any “easy” road games. I think that most of “us” expected a blow-out of sorts – maybe a 20 point win. This Iowa team may not end up with a very good B10 record this year but, at least at home, they are going to put up a good fight. This shows the character of their coach. Also, if Johnson doesn’t throw in those last two prayers, IU wins by 15 anyway. Also, this is the first B10 road game for many of these guys. Good win.

  • KEN

    A win on the road in the B10 is a win. There are seldom any “easy” road games. I think that most of “us” expected a blow-out of sorts – maybe a 20 point win. This Iowa team may not end up with a very good B10 record this year but, at least at home, they are going to put up a good fight. This shows the character of their coach. Also, if Johnson doesn’t throw in those last two prayers, IU wins by 15 anyway. Also, this is the first B10 road game for many of these guys. Good win.

  • Timmy

    Disturbing trend all year has been our interior defense against post players. Illinois, MSU and UW will rip our hearts out if we don’t get it together down low.

  • Timmy

    Disturbing trend all year has been our interior defense against post players. Illinois, MSU and UW will rip our hearts out if we don’t get it together down low.

  • Cutter in Chicago

    The high hedging screens drive me nuts. Its been a problem all year and DeAndre and Stemler are particularly bad at this. I understand going out on a screen but anything beyond the 3 point line is nuts and in the case of DeAndre, past the foul-line is silly.
    I realize that Iowa was shooting the lights out but I’m a little surprised we did not use a few possessions of zone defense, particularly when DJ picked up his 3rd foul just to try and change the tempo up a little. Jamarcus is becoming a favorite of mine, still some defensive lapses but overall he’s a gamer. Jordan Crawford’s ball handling is maddening, his dribble is as high as Uew Blab’s dribble. I do like his outside shooting though (how he can’t hit foul shots perplexs me).
    A road win is a win and that’s the key. It was not pretty but we would have won by 8 or 9 had the 3pointers not started falling from all over. Maybe this will open their eyes to the rigors of Big Ten play.

  • Ricky

    It is absolutly incredible that only a few times a game do we run plays where gordon creates shots for himself off the ball. Think of all the plays Duke used to run for JJ Reddick. I hate the guy too, but if he could do one thing it was shoot, and Duke would set screens for him off the ball like crazy to get him open looks. If we do things like that it will make things a lot easier on gordon and will create open shots. We could even do things like that for crawford, albeit not as much hopefully

    but i agree with the comments saying that a road win is a road win. Since IU is one of the top teams in the Big Ten and maybe the country, 9 times out of 10 we are going to get the best effort from teams we play on the road, and that is what happened last night. also on the road you will never get as many friendly calls from the refs, thats just the nature of the game. so a road win is a road win, no such thing as a bad road win.

  • Ricky

    It is absolutly incredible that only a few times a game do we run plays where gordon creates shots for himself off the ball. Think of all the plays Duke used to run for JJ Reddick. I hate the guy too, but if he could do one thing it was shoot, and Duke would set screens for him off the ball like crazy to get him open looks. If we do things like that it will make things a lot easier on gordon and will create open shots. We could even do things like that for crawford, albeit not as much hopefully

    but i agree with the comments saying that a road win is a road win. Since IU is one of the top teams in the Big Ten and maybe the country, 9 times out of 10 we are going to get the best effort from teams we play on the road, and that is what happened last night. also on the road you will never get as many friendly calls from the refs, thats just the nature of the game. so a road win is a road win, no such thing as a bad road win.

  • Cutter in Chicago

    The high hedging screens drive me nuts. Its been a problem all year and DeAndre and Stemler are particularly bad at this. I understand going out on a screen but anything beyond the 3 point line is nuts and in the case of DeAndre, past the foul-line is silly.
    I realize that Iowa was shooting the lights out but I’m a little surprised we did not use a few possessions of zone defense, particularly when DJ picked up his 3rd foul just to try and change the tempo up a little. Jamarcus is becoming a favorite of mine, still some defensive lapses but overall he’s a gamer. Jordan Crawford’s ball handling is maddening, his dribble is as high as Uew Blab’s dribble. I do like his outside shooting though (how he can’t hit foul shots perplexs me).
    A road win is a win and that’s the key. It was not pretty but we would have won by 8 or 9 had the 3pointers not started falling from all over. Maybe this will open their eyes to the rigors of Big Ten play.

  • Chuck

    I am anxious to see how Indiana does against Michigan… specifically, the defense noted throughout all these comments, but also the offense. How our team has by most accounts the best shooter in the country and does not make sure the ball goes through him at least once every half court possession is beyond me. We have the best shooter in the country for one year, let’s do all we can to make sure he is getting some open looks. Gordon scored 25 last night and it did not seem like he did that much… have to run the ball through him to keep the opposing defense honest, if nothing else.
    I was releived that our first road game was a win, but I was stunned that Indiana did not get the ball to Gordon at the end of the game as someone else noted above… it did not even appear that they were trying to get it to him, that comes down to Coaching! It was directly from a timeout one time.
    Hopefully, many of these items will be fixed in the next game and it was just first Big Ten road game gitters… we will see.

  • Chuck

    I am anxious to see how Indiana does against Michigan… specifically, the defense noted throughout all these comments, but also the offense. How our team has by most accounts the best shooter in the country and does not make sure the ball goes through him at least once every half court possession is beyond me. We have the best shooter in the country for one year, let’s do all we can to make sure he is getting some open looks. Gordon scored 25 last night and it did not seem like he did that much… have to run the ball through him to keep the opposing defense honest, if nothing else.
    I was releived that our first road game was a win, but I was stunned that Indiana did not get the ball to Gordon at the end of the game as someone else noted above… it did not even appear that they were trying to get it to him, that comes down to Coaching! It was directly from a timeout one time.
    Hopefully, many of these items will be fixed in the next game and it was just first Big Ten road game gitters… we will see.

  • Chuck

    I am anxious to see how Indiana does against Michigan… specifically, the defense noted throughout all these comments, but also the offense. How our team has by most accounts the best shooter in the country and does not make sure the ball goes through him at least once every half court possession is beyond me. We have the best shooter in the country for one year, let’s do all we can to make sure he is getting some open looks. Gordon scored 25 last night and it did not seem like he did that much… have to run the ball through him to keep the opposing defense honest, if nothing else.
    I was releived that our first road game was a win, but I was stunned that Indiana did not get the ball to Gordon at the end of the game as someone else noted above… it did not even appear that they were trying to get it to him, that comes down to Coaching! It was directly from a timeout one time.
    Hopefully, many of these items will be fixed in the next game and it was just first Big Ten road game gitters… we will see.

  • TBall

    Being at Carver Hawkeye arena, this is what I witnessed. Decrepit? Why, because of no skyboxes..there is not a bad seat or sight line in that arena.
    Critique Crawford all you want, but right in front of me I saw him get beat on a drive, recover, block the shot and keep possession. He also followed his missed shots which very few basketball players do these day.
    Lastly, Stemler is a joke. The last out of bounds to him, he had someone at midcourt wide open, but instead of passing, he wants to be the hero, keeps possession and almost loses it for IU.

  • TBall

    Being at Carver Hawkeye arena, this is what I witnessed. Decrepit? Why, because of no skyboxes..there is not a bad seat or sight line in that arena.
    Critique Crawford all you want, but right in front of me I saw him get beat on a drive, recover, block the shot and keep possession. He also followed his missed shots which very few basketball players do these day.
    Lastly, Stemler is a joke. The last out of bounds to him, he had someone at midcourt wide open, but instead of passing, he wants to be the hero, keeps possession and almost loses it for IU.

  • ronb

    Tom has it right. There are 2 teams in the country that go to the
    line more than anyone IU and North Carolina. EJ is a great shooter but 86% at the line is a better average than anything he shoots! He had more points than any IU freshman in history at his 1st Big Ten game. I hope he goes to the line 30 times a game if he can. Most of us grew up playing or coaching the Bob Knight motion offense so it drives us crazy not to see all the screens and movement of players but this is what IU does now so you can let it continue to drive you crazy or change and be happy. Why do you think NC goes to the line so much? They go one on one to the hole. The 2 teams are 26 wins and one loss. Also DJ
    and Stemler are seniors and road tested. These freshman are not so if you can’t get the ball to EJ and Bassett is hurt then DJ and Lance were our best percentage shooters at the line in the game. I believe last year IU was 2-6 on the road in big ten play
    so we already have 1 road win. This is a good team!

  • ronb

    Tom has it right. There are 2 teams in the country that go to the
    line more than anyone IU and North Carolina. EJ is a great shooter but 86% at the line is a better average than anything he shoots! He had more points than any IU freshman in history at his 1st Big Ten game. I hope he goes to the line 30 times a game if he can. Most of us grew up playing or coaching the Bob Knight motion offense so it drives us crazy not to see all the screens and movement of players but this is what IU does now so you can let it continue to drive you crazy or change and be happy. Why do you think NC goes to the line so much? They go one on one to the hole. The 2 teams are 26 wins and one loss. Also DJ
    and Stemler are seniors and road tested. These freshman are not so if you can’t get the ball to EJ and Bassett is hurt then DJ and Lance were our best percentage shooters at the line in the game. I believe last year IU was 2-6 on the road in big ten play
    so we already have 1 road win. This is a good team!

  • Alan

    MailmanE:

    I hope you were kidding (or intentionally using hyperbole) when you said, “We deserve it.”

    It’s good to be a fan and root for IU. It’s certainly acceptable and healthy to comment on team and individual player weaknesses. This is what I think most people on this board do.

    But some people, the “We deserve it” crowd, go too far. They seem to identify themselves in an unhealthy way based on how IU is doing. That’s why I hope you were joking or exaggerating when you said, “We deserve it.” In my opinion, “You deserve better.”

  • Alan

    MailmanE:

    I hope you were kidding (or intentionally using hyperbole) when you said, “We deserve it.”

    It’s good to be a fan and root for IU. It’s certainly acceptable and healthy to comment on team and individual player weaknesses. This is what I think most people on this board do.

    But some people, the “We deserve it” crowd, go too far. They seem to identify themselves in an unhealthy way based on how IU is doing. That’s why I hope you were joking or exaggerating when you said, “We deserve it.” In my opinion, “You deserve better.”

  • Alan:

    I definitely am not one of the “I deserve a good IU team” people — I hate those people too. Their haughty sense of entitlement makes want to kick them in the balls, presuming, of course, they’re male and have said balls to kick.

    By “We deserve better”, I was just trying to say that it’s unfair to everyone involved to waste the talent on this team with sloppy defense and the other ugly stuff two nights ago. I just think it would be a shame to waste this team by being disorganized.

  • Alan:

    I definitely am not one of the “I deserve a good IU team” people — I hate those people too. Their haughty sense of entitlement makes want to kick them in the balls, presuming, of course, they’re male and have said balls to kick.

    By “We deserve better”, I was just trying to say that it’s unfair to everyone involved to waste the talent on this team with sloppy defense and the other ugly stuff two nights ago. I just think it would be a shame to waste this team by being disorganized.