GOOD: VAST IMPROVEMENT.
Yes, Indiana lost, and ended up 0-3 in Puerto Rico. But the Hoosiers looked much better against George Mason this morning than they did against Ole Miss and Boston University.
Guys like Bobby Capobianco — seven points, 10 boards (five offensive) and Jordan Hulls — eight points — played the best games of their young careers. Bobby C. might not have a ton of polish, but he did the dirty work on the boards and finished around the rim. It’s exactly the kind of play Tom Crean is looking for from him off the bench. Hulls played with poise, and I think did a better job of orchestrating the offense today than Rivers had done in the previous two games in this tourney. Crean recognized that, and when both Hulls and Rivers were in the ball game, it was Hulls bringing the ball up.The box score only reads 13 minutes for Hulls, but he played so well when he was in there, it seemed like much more.
Hulls lacks athleticism and when you couple that with his size, it can create some matchup problems. But he’s solid, doesn’t make many mistakes and has great basketball IQ. And he flashed some range today with two threes. If the Hoosiers would have gotten a chance to get a three off to tie the game instead of Mason fouling so they had no chance to pop, Hulls was the guy I wanted shooting the ball.
IU seemed more under control, and their 15 turnovers came less off trying to do too much or getting out of control on the break, and more off some passing problems. On the offensive end, they looked more mature, looked more confident. But they just weren’t knocking down shots (20-of-57 for 35 percent shooting), and missed a lot of bunnies around the rim. It proved quite costly.
Perhaps most important in this loss was the way IU closed out the game. It wasn’t an implosion like we saw against Boston University. They didn’t wilt. They scored when they needed to. And with the game tied and Mason looking for a go-ahead bucket, IU played terrific defense and forced Cam Long into a desperation three with the shot clock winding down and a few Hoosier hands in his face. He just happened to hit that desperation three. On a bank shot. A bank he most certainly didn’t call. Tough way to lose, especially for a young team looking for confidence.
The Hoosiers also hit 21-of-28 from the line, good for 75 percent. Lets hope those early free-throw woes are a thing of the past.
THE BAD AND UGLY: DEFENSE.
For as improved as the Hoosiers looked with the ball in their hands this morning, their defense was atrocious. It seemed no matter what they tried — man or zone — Mason just dunked all over them. They were able to get behind Indiana’s zone for high-percentage shots, and they got a lot of alley-oops off penetration. There’s a reason Mike Morrison shot 64 percent from the field this morning: all he did was dunk.
George Mason scored 42 of their 69 points in the paint.
Tom Pritchard got into foul trouble early. And in 14 minutes, he had two rebounds, an assist and no points. This sort of production is starting to become a trend for him. You wonder if someone else steps up — perhaps Bobby C. with his play today, or Tijan or Bawa — they might be inserted into the starting lineup. That’s a bit of a scary prospect, but Crean might have no other choice soon.
Christian Watford also had a rough go of it in Puerto Rico. He looked like he’d be the runaway Pick to Click winner every game after Howard and USC Upstate, but this morning he was only 3-of-13 from the field, and he shot 25.8 percent on 8-of-31 shooting in Puerto Rico. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the athleticism of Ole Miss, and his lack of strength is sometimes an issue.
But he’s a freshman. You’d expect the shot to come back at some point soon here.