Whoa, right? After a couple of bad losses to teams we didn’t even look competitive against, IU was given a coming-home gift Wednesday night. That gift, the TCU Horned Frogs, was about as inept a basketball team you’ll see all year, including the kids in cream and crimson. They were awful. So was IU. At least for one half.
The second half? As ugly as it was, and as much as I winced, and as openly as the ESPN studio clown mocked it — after the game, he said something like “They won’t be submitting that footage to the NCAA!” — IU undeniably played better than at any time this year. It was still ugly, sure. But there were signs of something underneath, too, a baseline level of competence, athleticism, and defensive ability that the Hoosiers had yet to showcase in their young, fitful season. It was nice to watch.
The point is that no matter how bad TCU is, or was supposed to be, IU has played its fair share of bad teams this year already (Chaminade, for one) and barely come out with a victory. Next to Cornell, and the first 20 minutes of Wake Forest, this was still IU’s most impressive performance to date.
I’m typing this from my apartment this morning as I rush out the door to an end-of-year corporate meeting that I didn’t know I had, so I won’t go too long with it, but a couple of things I noticed:
TP, OG: Tom Pritchard is a skilled big man. It took me a while to realize this — at first, I basically just wrote him off as a slightly-better version of Kyle Taber. He didn’t impress me. But he did last night. In a game against a team with no post presence whatsoever, Pritchard did what he was supposed to do: he had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and he controlled the interior for large stretches. Many of his buckets were the result of a) good positioning on the offensive glass or b) catching the ball in good spots and finishing easy baskets.
Pritchard may never be a star, and he might get eaten up by bigger, more athletic Big Ten forwards, but for now I’ll take him. He is a smart big man. He gets things done. That’s really all we can ask.
Verdell Jones, please come back: As much as I like Little Daniel Moore — “Little Daniel Moore” sounds like the protagonist in an Irish folk song — he has some key flaws. For one, his size; no amount of skill can overcome being smaller, and also less athletic, than D-1 college players. So Moore forces his dribble into places it shouldn’t go, and then loses it. He did this a couple different times last night. He is also a huge liability defensively, and he almost refuses to shoot, which reduces IU’s options on the offensive end. He’s a nice player, sure. But he’s not what he could be.
Which is why we need to get Verdell Jones back in the lineup ASAP. The two will complement each other nicely, I think, but asking Moore to carry the point guard load on his own is way too much to ask.
Finally, turnovers. Turnovers. Sigh. Turnovers. Even in the best IU games, turnovers are still an issue. IU had 19 turnovers last night. TCU, for what it’s worth, had 21. IU turned the ball over on 29.5 percent of its possessions. TCU turned it over on 32.8 percent. IU had, by all accounts, an incredibly sloppy night. To be honest, a better team — or maybe even a less turnover-prone TCU one — might have beaten IU. Maybe not. But with this game comfortably in our rearview, let’s take the one abiding lesson we know from our first foray in Indiana basketball:
If these turnovers continue, this season will not improve.
It’s just true. A team like IU gives up so much already — size, experience, speed, wile, athleticism, skill. All of the things that make up raw basketball talent, IU doesn’t have. So no one is expecting IU to win much in the Big Ten, and that’s fair. But to compete in the Big Ten, to compete on Saturday, IU has to stop turning the ball over. Has to. At the very least, that TO rate has to come down out of the stratosphere. The Hoosiers are too far behind in too many categories to just give the ball up to superior teams. We’re already playing with the short deck; we don’t need to forfeit any more cards.
Fortunately, Big Blue Nation likes to cough it up, too. So we’ll see how it goes.