The Morning After: Minnesota

  • 01/18/2008 7:00 am in

t1_smith_si.jpgIn the days leading up to the Minnesota game, it seemed fashionable to proclaim Minnesota IU’s first road loss. It was an understandable diagnosis; The Barn is an historically difficult place to play, Minnesota has been playing well, and the common perception (a correct one, might I add) was that the competent coaching of Tubby Smith would be the difference in the game. Everyone convinced themselves of this, to the point that it became some kind of non-intuitive general consensus that IU would lose last night.

Am I the only one annoyed by these snowballing alternative consensuses? They happen every March, too. Some ESPN pundit or sportswriter somewhere or — heaven forbid, blogger! — says: Hey, watch out for Team X! And then a hundred thousand of us put Team X in our Final Four. (Not that it matters, but Team X usually flames out in the Sweet 16.)

So, for once, it’s nice to be on the side of the general consensus that should have been: That the Hoosiers are so much better than Minnesota that they can play the worst game of their season and still win in a tough road environment. Consensus or not, that was right. (Oh, and props to Big A, who put his nuts on the line a day early.) Onward:

— In many ways, the Gophers betrayed a blueprint for how to beat IU last night. That blueprint? Pressure defense to produce harried guard play; double-team D.J. White and force jump shots; tweak or otherwise bother Eric Gordon and get him in foul trouble early; hang on and hope for the best. The Gophers did each of those things last night, preying on erratic guard play and Gordon’s proclivity for silly fouls. It helped, of course, that the Hoosiers gave up 26 — 26! — turnovers, thanks to the lack of a true point guard on this team (more on that below) and the pressure defense. It’s hard to tease out how much the pressure defense had to do with it, and how much was just a bad performance by IU’s guards … either way, the turnovers kept Minnesota in the game for all 40 minutes.

— Oh, the point guard spot. I’ll admit I was convinced by Armon’s steadying influence in the second half against Illinois; if not for him, the Hoosiers might have lost last week. But last night, he showed why he really isn’t a point guard — his ballhandling still isn’t ideal, he’s prone to errors in judgment, and he gets caught moving side to side against pressure defense too often. Bassett’s still better than the other point guard option right now, though, which is Jordan Crawford. God bless him — Crawford’s shooting kept the Hoosiers in a solid standing in the first half. But he is even more turnover- and judgment error-prone than Armon. What he is now is a scorer, and little more.

Which gets us back to one of this very talented team’s killer flaws: point guard play. Right now, this team has no true point guard. They have a menagerie of guards who occasionally bring up the ball, and against half court pressure this isn’t a problem at all. In the half court, I love looking at Armon, Jordan, and Eric effing Gordon; that’s a guard combo that can score in droves. But in other facets of the game — or against heavy, constant pressure — those three are worth worrying about.

— Speaking of Eric Gordon: I think we witnessed his first genuinely bad game last night. And it was still a pretty good effort, given the killer free throws he hit down the stretch and his defense in the closing minute. Good to know away wins are possible when Gordon has his rare off nights.

— Speaking of the closing minutes (I promise I won’t use this lame transition device anymore starting … now), this marks two games in a row when IU, having played a sub-standard 35 or so minutes, was able to lock in, get stops, make free throws, defend on key closing possessions, and most importantly, come up with loose balls. The game is 40 minutes long, and each possession should be valued evenly, but those late minutes are where teams’ mettles are tested. The Hoosiers are 2-0.

— Anyone catch the lame Pizza Hut voting commercial last night? In the midst of a crapload of bad commercials, this one really takes the cake. Here it is:

OMG BRO! Don’t steal my delicious Pizza Hut pizza! In the meantime, bro, you should totally go vote! Unless you don’t live in a swing state, in which case, don’t bother! Political efficacy, bro! YEAH!

If this is what Pizza Hut thinks college students sound like, they really don’t know their primary pizza-loving demographic. And here I thought everyone that worked at an ad agency was a female living on the North Side of Chicago, ages 22-27. Apparently it’s all old people. Who knew?

— I’ll say it, and please don’t hate me: I thought Doris Burke was kind of good. She wasn’t needlessly screamy or over-the-top, she offered actual micro basketball knowledge, and she often seemed more on top of things than her play-by-play pal, Dave O’Brien. I think Burke might have a job as a play-by-play person herself, actually, if she wants it. She wasn’t perfect — her comment about IU’s offense in the first half was kind of egregious — but cheers to ESPN for at least trying it out. I think it worked.

— One more note on IU’s performance. Too much settling. I trust most jump shots, and Minnesota did well to prevent penetration at all costs, but IU seemed far too eager to settle on mid-range jump shots early in shot counts. Even E.J. — someone hell-bent on penetration — looked more passive. Here’s hoping that’s an aberration just like those turnovers.

Still, all things considered: Good win. I’ll take it. And I’ll rest assured that IU defied the general consensus when it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Filed to:

  • Tooch

    E, I'm gonna have to disagree with you about Doris Burke. I'm sure the man means well, but besides her comments about the Hoosiers' offense, she continually seemed to take small jabs at IU – even though the Hoosiers probably warranted some, if not most, of them. And is it just me or does it seem like most of the announcers so far this season have some sort of vendetta going against K-Samps?

  • stemdog

    Come on E, You have to give it up to the Stemdog. He's the reason they won.

  • Stunnedmonkey

    Agree on Doris Burke although I had an weird dream that I mounted her last night and made her talk basketball while we were going at it. I might have also been Buck Rodgers…that part was unclear. I still would like us to play Defense for more than 3 minute stretches and take care of the ball when we have momentum. Its almost as if Ellis controls his ADHD but then gets sooooo excited like JoJo the idiot circus boy and makes a horrible play. He then settles down and does again after 10 more minutes. You can almost see it coming.

  • CoveyDale

    a dream that you were mounting doris burke? sounds more like a nightmare.

  • ChicagoHoosier

    A couple of thoughts on the game:
    -I completely agree that last night showed this team's Achilles heal… the point guard position. Too much inefficiency.
    -While Crawford’s streaking shooting kept us in the game in the first half, it was a little nerve racking to think that he was going to shoot the ball every time he touched it.
    -Gordon, for what I believe to be the first time, played like a true freshman last night. We can sit here and argue what foul was legit and which one was ticky-tac, but the bottom line is, he needs to understand that if he’s saddled with one or more fouls within the first 5 min of the game, he shouldn’t be putting himself in the position for a ref to call a foul (ex: the officila already had the charge called before EJ even left his feet for his second foul)
    -Two side bar comments: While I hate to comment on how the game was officiated, I can’t help but feel that this game was done poorly. It didn’t feel like the refs could call the game consistently. As well, I can’t agree less with Doris Burke. She sounds like the Bill Walton of college hoops. Look, I can handle positive commentary about the opponent, it comes with a top 25 ranking. But let’s get real here, her ability to be color is severely limited at best. There's no need to tell me when a coach doesn’t like a call, I can tell by the look on their face, honey.

  • Scott

    IU fans need to start chanting D – J – WHI – TE at every game! Show him some love!

    When he gets pumped, the team gets pumped. I can't say enough good things about him. As long as he stays healthy IU is a final four threat. Our guard play will come and go… but DJ remains. The last 2 games are proof of that.

  • ZachH

    Crawford was really big for us last night, especially in the first half. I do feel like Crawford gets an unfair wrap sometimes. He certainly makes his share of freshman mistakes, but he'd be the best freshman on this team if one Eric Gordon wasn't on the team. I think we're guilty of expecting him to play at an EJ standard sometimes.

    I love when Bassett is our PG right now though; things seem much more fluid. Watching the game in a place without sound, was there a reason Bassett didn't play much of the second half? Was Sampson just hoping to ride the hot hand of Crawford?

  • Mr_C

    I am with you on that Scott. He even tried to fire up our team and fan base of ~50 people last night during a timeout. He really showed his range last night and I thought he did a great job on defense. The fouls he picked up were kind of cheap, but he didnt foul out which is great discipline. Also he went for 17 and 10, making it his 11th double-double in the last 12 games.

  • CoveyDale

    nobody is doubting crawford's scoring ability, but he does lead the team in the “what the hell was he thinking?” moments during the game.

    that being said, his basketball IQ will improve as the season goes along and i think the sky is the limit for him.

  • Mr_C

    I don't really think that we are expecting him (Crawford) to play at a higher level, I think it is the poor shot selection and sloppy ball handling that fans complain about. There is no doubt that he has talent, but he needs to choose his shots better and learn how to throw crisp passes. He did carry this team last night and for that I am extremely grateful. He even passed the ball a few times when he had open looks which is fantastic. I also love the energy he brings, he just needs to learn (like all young players) when to shoot, when to pass, and when to go to the rack.

  • Stem:

    I forgot about his big shot. Good call.

  • Reading back through, I realize I should clarify the turnovers note at the end. Turnovers themselves aren't and aberration for IU, but 26 is.

    Had to get that off my chest. I feel so much better now.

  • My joining of the consensus was based on the idea that IU has lost nearly every road game of import in the last 15 years. I'm glad it didn't happen, and I'm glad we held on despite a mistake-riddled effort, but I don't think my pessimism was unwarranted.

  • peaychris

    Last nights game was interesting to say the least. Minn was awful only shooting 39%! On top of that they shot 52% from the line. IU really dodged the bullet last night, but sometimes on the road on the BIG TEN the better team doenst always win!! on a side note i would like to thank everyone involved for putting this website together. I live in alabama now and its hard to find anyone to watch a IU game with me, but like my girlfried said its almost like i have friends to talk about the game with me!!! also the one commerical more lame than the pizza hut, are those insanley gay poetry raps about the big ten.

  • Fes

    Tell ESPN their production quality sucks…enough of the wives, the horrible seats, etc. There's a damned game going on, show it.

  • Qunicy

    There is something about playing in that big barn, elevated floor, and frigid weather atmosphere, that creates TOs . Its a W. Winning on the road in the B-10, is a new experience for us. Lets enjoy it!

  • goiu94

    Yes yes yes. Shot selection is his bugaboo… example: last night he hits those threes back to back. Next possession, he comes down the court with the ball and throws up an off balance three with a guy in his face. If he can learn to contain things and play with patience, Jordan's going to be a force for us in the future (assuming Lance Stephenson isn't absorbing all of his playing time in a couple of years) 😉

  • MultiSpork

    One of biggest worries about this team is its inability to execute bounce passes. Each game typically produces several cringe moment for me when the Hoosiers constantly throw skip passes. Last night was easily the worst night for that. There were several pass attempts into the post that were either deflected or knocked away from the post player because he had to catch the ball over his head. No wonder IU had 26 turnovers last night. Still, a win is a win and I'm thankful for it.

    PostmanE, this is an excellent point: “The game is 40 minutes long, and each possession should be valued evenly, but those late minutes are where teams’ mettles are tested. The Hoosiers are 2-0.” This attitude has been missing from this team for some time. It's nice to seem them fight until the end.

  • goiu94

    Couple of comments.

    1) Agree with Crawford comments. Needs more patience.

    2) Question for you all: anyone else just a tiny little bit worried about EJ's response to the pressure defense the last two games?I realize he still scored 17 points against Illinois, but he withered a touch under the pressure he was getting in both games. We'ver very rarely (!!) seen that look of frustration on his face before the last two games, but man have we seeing frequently lately. A very small voice in my head wonders if he just might need a little bit more time to mature before he heads to the pros. I'm very curious to see how he responds against quality competition/serious pressure for the rest of the season (we won't find that out for a couple of weeks. read: @ Wisconsin, @ Illinois, @ OSU over the span of a week and a half in early Feb).

    3) Couldn't agree more about DJ. Last night we TRULY saw why he could be the MVP of the team and potentially the big ten. Hostile environment, team playing poorly, down late…steady as she goes for the big man. ANOTHER double double, rallying the troops on the sidelines… amazing. He really is the man lately.

  • Robert

    I give it up to Stemler and DJ for helping keep us in the game last night….I agree with most of the comments I'm reading, in that, it's great to have the talented freshmen we do, but yet, we can't forget we still have freshmen… new to this level and still learning…..should be interesting down the road

  • nealE

    i know EJ struggled last night, but seriously – Did anyone see that defense on the last play? i was very impressed by his pressure. yes he was dumb to pick up the early fouls (which i did not see – i was at the double OT win in women's game vs minny in the hall) but he always plays pressure defense like that, and he is always going to drive hard to the basket, picking up some charges. he needs (a lot with all of our guards) to take better care of the ball, and he needs to learn when to ease off a little, but on the other hand he played a looooong stretch at the end of the game of in your face defense and didn't pick up a foul. so did he struggle? yes. was it a bad game for him? i don't know if i would go that far. bottom line is, if gordon doesn't play that in-your-face-defense, i think we lose this game. not that i really need to defend ej, but i don't feel last night was that bad. however, i want to BLOW SOMEONE OUT, and soon. i am getting tired of “proving we can win when we aren't at our best.” let's play our best and smoke people.

  • I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I'll admit it was a bit dicey there for a bit watching turnover after turnover after turnover, but the Hoosiers found a way to get it done in the end. Props go to senior captains Lance Stemler and D.J. “double-double” White for their leadership down the stretch.

  • Timmy

    I told you guys we'd win but a great team like UNC or Memphis would have destroyed minny by 20 last night. We lack discipline, focus and intensity from our guards. If we don't step it up, we won't be hanging another banner.

  • Jim

    One more point on EJs foul problems – if he's not careful & gets a reputation for being fould prone he will never get the benefit of the doubt. That could be horrible come March if the consensus is that he fould a lot – every questionable reach in will get a whistle!

  • CutterInChicago

    First, I'll agree with Doris Burke assessment. She was a pleasant surprise and I liked her candor. This game was awful to watch in many respect. turnovers last night. I mean lots of lazy/careless passes. There just seemed to be a lack of intensity in our game last night (and really last Sunday too). We also made a lot of bad, quasi-half-court passes to get out of the press. Why? We've got the guards to break a press.
    Second: Last night was the first time I ever seriously thought to myself, “Gordon really could use two years in school” seeing how he really puts himself in a position where a ref can call a dumb/non-existent foul on him and questionable passing too.
    Third: DJ White has really become a great Hoosier. I heard someone call him a more athletic version of Daryl Thomas. Can't disagree there.
    Fourth: Ratliff's foul on the Minnesota kid's three pointer was his 2nd or even 3rd time where he has fouled a player on a 3 point shot to get a 4 point play.
    Fifth: even though he hit big shots last night, Jordan Crawford still is not a starter and should not be our point guard.
    Sixth: Thank God for Lance Stemler last night.
    Seventh: any Big Ten road win is still huge, even if they are ugly.
    Eighth: Jimmy Dykes was painfully to listen to during the Tennessee game. He's a younger, dumber, Southern version of Billy Packer

  • IU_Vegas

    Just a note about the refs last night. If the game was evenly called and they were being consistent on both ends, EJ's first foul would have meant IU would have shot about sixty free-throws last night. Hand-checks were not called again in the game. It has to be difficult on EJ(and to a lesser extent DeAndre) to be so physical that contact from you is a foul and on the other end you are expected to play through the same contact. I don't want to say that is the reason EJ did not play well last night, but as a freshman I feel he may get frustrated with this at times and last night he appeared more frustrated than I have seen. It seems he has been a focal point of Big Ten officiating as they decide what contact he has to play through which is not comparable to other players. Sorry a little over the top at the end but does anyone notice this trend?

  • HoosierSmitty

    We won. We played as a team. We played like a Sh*&&y team for much of the night, but at least we get things done as a team. We don't need EJ to drop 30 points for us to win.

    We do, however, need DJ to continue playing well. Someone called me crazy the other day when I said losing DJ would be worse to this team than losing EJ. I still don't think I am crazy to say that.

    What we do need is consistent role play from one or two guys each night. Bassett gave it to us the other night and last night it was Stemler and Crawford really coming up big.

    Go Hoosiers!

  • MLOVE

    Scott – I agree bud i dont go to school there anymore, but if i were at the GAMES (which i wish i was, trust ME i would be Starting that CHANT… HE IS a senior and deserves the backing as he has been playing like a MAN SOOOOOO for all you still going to the games PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE start that chant in the opening MINUTES…

  • MLOVE

    Timmy dont start you never said we were going to win bud… U wanted us to lose remember???? And i believe UNC only beat a GT team by one.

  • Scott

    A lot of good commentary here. What I saw was a horribly officiated game. The officials set the tone early. This was a game where major contact was allowed and when that's established 5 minutes into the the game it's going to be ugly. Of the many IU turnovers I counted at least 7 that were a result of major contact. (See Tollackson playing piggy-back on Deandre). With this being the case, how many fouls were called on IU off the ball? It's a complete double standard.

    Meanwhile, as usual the commentators are noting “Big Ten Basketball” is on display. I got news for you guys, this isn't basketball at all and I have proof. Every season we watch the officials let Big Ten teams maul each other for 40 minutes. What happens in the NCAA tournament? It's back to reality. Hand checks and scrapes are called consistently and the average ACC or SEC team blows us out by 20 points. (See the ACC-Big 10 Challenge).

    The Hoosiers pulling this out was just short of a miracle. No they did not play well but many of us in this blog have played street basketball and know what it's like to play under these conditions.

    MAJOR props to Stemler for nailing that 3 and keeping two possessions alive late.

  • Jmoney2584

    I'm glad to hear someone else say that Dorsis Burke “is the Bill Walton of the NCAA”. I posted that exact same thing in the game thread last night and couldn't agree more. Yea, props to her for gving it a shot and maybe it's just some sexist repressed side of me coming out from my ancestors in the 1920's ( i doubt it), but I hate it when some female announcer thinks they are on track and is really FAR off base with unecessary commentating. I think women are great at announcing figure skating, but keep them away from my teams college basketball. If I wanted to hear female announcers, I would watch the WNBA…and no one does that. If Doris Burke was cuter she could be the sideline correspondent…not to say I wouldn;t mount her as someone put it earlier, but I wasn't blown away by her “attitude or candor”.

  • Second: Last night was the first time I ever seriously thought to myself, “Gordon really could use two years in school” seeing how he really puts himself in a position where a ref can call a dumb/non-existent foul on him and questionable passing too.

    It doesn't take much for any of us to come to this conclusion, but that's just wishful thinking, my man. 🙂

  • Jmoney2584

    Other than our insane number or turnovers, my biggest problem with this game was the inconsistence of the officiating. How this game could not be up for NCAA review is beyond me. I'm not saying every call was against us, sure a lot were, but there were numerous situations where a call was whistled at one end of the court, only to see the SAME exact thing take place on the other end and sometimes to a higher degree, result…NO CALL. I know officiating on the road in the Big Ten is often suspect for the away team, but come on…this 5 on 8 shit isn't going to cut it. I'm really suprised no one on our squad (coaches OR players) got ripped with a technical last night. I know everyone has touched on this this morning, but I needed to vent.

  • Postman E:

    Big props for the Doris Burke comment. As I looked at the live feed last night, couldn't believe people didn't like her. Except for the point when she quoted Jimmy Dykes, she did a great job. It's obvious she knows the game, and for the most part, she didn't rely on cliches. Wanted to reply to the Burke haters last night, just didn't know how to do so without sounding like a total feminist trapped in a 200 pound man's body. Come to think of it, that sounds worse.

    A big omission from your article (or am I the only one that wanted this?) was the absence of a feverish AJ Ratliff. Thought we could have used him last night, especially when our jump shots went cold. Would have loved to see Sampson take out an obviously pressing EJ at about the 4-5 minute mark and replace him with Ratliff, but Ratliff had a fever, and the only prescription was not to play.

  • CutterInChicago

    I'm in a Quixotic mood today… seriously, until last night I had not really thought from a critical standpoint, that more college ball would substantively help Gordon play in the NBA. After last night, I thought “maybe another year would be an actual – not just my pipe dream – good thing.” Well, here's to hoping that the 1% chance he comes back, comes to fruition

  • Jmoney2584

    ..or a supremely large dose of cow bell

  • goiu94

    Couple of comments.

    1) Agree with Crawford comments. Needs more patience.

    2) Question for you all: anyone else just a tiny little bit worried about EJ's response to the pressure defense the last two games?I realize he still scored 17 points against Illinois, but he withered a touch under the pressure he was getting in both games. We'ver very rarely (!!) seen that look of frustration on his face before the last two games, but man have we seeing frequently lately. A very small voice in my head wonders if he just might need a little bit more time to mature before he heads to the pros. I'm very curious to see how he responds against quality competition/serious pressure for the rest of the season (we won't find that out for a couple of weeks. read: @ Wisconsin, @ Illinois, @ OSU over the span of a week and a half in early Feb).

    3) Couldn't agree more about DJ. Last night we TRULY saw why he could be the MVP of the team and potentially the big ten. Hostile environment, team playing poorly, down late…steady as she goes for the big man. ANOTHER double double, rallying the troops on the sidelines… amazing. He really is the man lately.

  • goiu94

    Couple of comments.

    1) Agree with Crawford comments. Needs more patience.

    2) Question for you all: anyone else just a tiny little bit worried about EJ's response to the pressure defense the last two games?I realize he still scored 17 points against Illinois, but he withered a touch under the pressure he was getting in both games. We'ver very rarely (!!) seen that look of frustration on his face before the last two games, but man have we seeing frequently lately. A very small voice in my head wonders if he just might need a little bit more time to mature before he heads to the pros. I'm very curious to see how he responds against quality competition/serious pressure for the rest of the season (we won't find that out for a couple of weeks. read: @ Wisconsin, @ Illinois, @ OSU over the span of a week and a half in early Feb).

    3) Couldn't agree more about DJ. Last night we TRULY saw why he could be the MVP of the team and potentially the big ten. Hostile environment, team playing poorly, down late…steady as she goes for the big man. ANOTHER double double, rallying the troops on the sidelines… amazing. He really is the man lately.

  • MPmike

    I agree with you about Burke. She made a doubtful comment in the Purdue/Illinois game about IU not being legit because of their ball handling against Minnesota.

  • MPmike

    I agree with you about Burke. She made a doubtful comment in the Purdue/Illinois game about IU not being legit because of their ball handling against Minnesota.