THE GOOD: A BIG WIN, SOME CONSISTENT PLAY.
First, the big picture: It got a little too close for comfort at the end of the game, and it took longer than some IU fans would have liked, but the Hoosiers finally have a signature win under Tom Crean. Yes, Pitt isn’t at full strength. Yes, they are projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big East this year. But this was still a team that came in to the game 7-1, and was favored to win the game on a court they’re far more comfortable with than IU. Congrats are also in order to Tom Crean, who notched his 200th career win with the victory.
The story of this one? IU outworked and out-hustled Pitt the whole night. They deserved to win this game. Their zone was active around the arc; they closed in quick on open shooters. But, the Hoosiers also seemed to have caught Pitt at the right time: they only scored 47 points Friday in a win, and tonight their offensive woes continued. Sure, IU’s D deserves some credit, but Pitt only shot 31.4 percent from the floor tonight. They were sloppy at points, and had 15 turnovers on the evening. It’s clear their halfcourt game is a work in progress right now, and the Hoosiers capitalized on it. They had a plan, and executed it.
Big ups to Verdell Jones. He had 20 points on the night, and hit some key shots. Sometimes Jones get lost in the shuffle when we talk about Maurice Creek and Christian Watford being able to score in bunches, but when Jones in on, when he’s pulling some crafty moves out of his pockets like he did tonight, he’s a joy to watch.
The Hoosiers only had 12 turnovers tonight, and they finally shot well as they hit 24-of-54 shots from the floor for 44.4 percent. (They were only 1-of-7 from three-point land, though.) Good things happen when you shoot a respectable percentage from the field and take care of the ball. They dominated in the paint, too: 40 points for them, while Pitt managed half that at 20. And they were able to dominate the free-throw game as well: the Hoosiers converted on 25 of their 34 attempts, good for 73.5 percent. Pitt had 17 foul shots on the night, and converted 12 of them.
This was the type of display IU fans were hoping to see in Puerto Rico and against Maryland, but didn’t get. If the Hoosiers can build off this win and the confidence they’ve gained from it, they should be able to stay competitive in Big Ten play, and maybe even surprise a bit.
THE BAD AND UGLY: THE END.
On nights like tonight, it’s hard to gripe much about this team, especially where they’re at right now with so many new faces and schemes. But Indiana did have some trouble finishing this game out. They were up 18 points with 2:58 to play, and saw the league shrink to six with 58 seconds to go. In two minutes, a blowout became a game that was too close for comfort. Part of Pitt’s comeback was because they finally started hitting shots. But Indiana had some trouble with Pitt’s pressure, they had some lapses on the defensive end and they didn’t seal up on the boards. The Panthers ended up out-rebounding IU 45-39, including 21 offensive boards. They had some key offensive rebounds late, and it helped keep them within striking distance. If Pitt converts more of their second-chance opportunities, this game may have ended up in the loss column for IU.
But alas: it did not. IU moves to 4-4 on the season with a big win over Pitt.
Bring on the Wildcats.