THE GOOD: KEEPING IT CLOSE, RESERVE PLAY.
Hmmm, where to begin. Let’s take some baby steps here. Save for the last few minutes where it all unraveled, Indiana hung right with Maryland, and during several stretches, outplayed and outworked the Terrapins — a tournament team last season. A team that was ranked earlier this year. IU had a lead with 9:44 to go. It led for a good stretch in the first half. As much as we want expectations to be higher and wins to be a result, at this juncture in the season it’s progress.
The Puerto Rico incarnation of these Hoosiers likely doesn’t keep it this close for this long, or look as poised and as polished as IU did for stretches tonight.
About the only other thing I want to point out here is one key difference this year as opposed to last, and that’s IU actually having viable options off the bench. When Jeremiah Rivers went down with his injury early in the first half after that nifty layup– I worry his trashing style of play might lead to more scary moments like that later in the season — Jordan Hulls filled in without skipping a beat. He hit a three, and had a dazzling no-look pass to Christian Watford under the bucket. Watford scored, was fouled and hit the free throw. Having two capable point guards will be huge as the season progresses. Derek Elston also showed some spark off the bench, too. He didn’t have a good shooting night, but he had nine boards in 20 minutes. He continues to make the most out of his time on the court.
THE BAD: LOOOOONG SCORING DROUGHTS.
IU still seems to be figuring things out in the half court. When they got out in transition in the first half, they made some heady decisions. But when they were forced into half-court sets, there still seems to be a lot of indecision, and it’s clear this is still a facet of the their game that’s a work in progress. However, there was good ball movement in stretches.
But when you add in a night of awful shooting — IU shot a woeful 23-70 from the field (32.9 percent), 7-of-26 from three-point land (26.9 percent) and 15-of-22 from the charity stripe (68.2 percent) including the front end of one-and-one’s in the second half — and some poor shot selection (Devan Dumes, I’m looking at you) on top of some inexperience in the half court, it’s incredibly difficult to pull out a victory, especially against a team of Maryland’s caliber.
There’s a reason IU had had 20 offensive rebounds tonight: they had plenty of misses to gobble up.
THE UGLY: LATE-GAME FOULS, THE SLATE AHEAD.
This is a minor, petty gripe, and I know a game is never over till it’s over, but IU seemed to be fouling when they were down 12 or so with around 30 seconds left. It prolonged the sting of the loss, and that’s never fun.
IU has week a off, and then takes on Pitt — another fringe Top 25 team — at Madison Square Garden. The following Saturday, they have Kentucky — one of the best teams in the nation — at home. If they don’t start shooting better, they may be out of those games far earlier than tonight’s affair.
At some point, IU is going to put it all together, and beat a team that has more talent and experience. They have too much talent, and will only continue to get better. But don’t expect it to come until Big Ten play starts.