Notes on a 100-66 win over Northwestern State:
At first, Northwestern State’s pressure defense, strong rebounding and ability to match IU’s energy brought some worry.
Would this be the the team’s first loss of 2010-11?
But as we’ve seen a few times so far this season, the Hoosiers weathered the first-half storm and put it well out of reach in the second half on the backs of their defense — one that led to a dominating transition offense.
For as much talk as there was about how many points the Demons were scoring this season before tonight (86 a contest), they were getting them more on the strength of their pace (75.4 possessions a game, good for third in the nation) than on their offensive efficiency (99.3, adjusted, only 180th in the nation) or effective field-goal percentage (51.2 percent, 102nd in the nation).
And the Demons are an even poorer defensive unit. Entering tonight, they were letting opponents score 106.6 points per 100 possessions (adjusted, 290th in the country) and giving up an effective field-goal percentage of 55.5 percent, which ranks near the bottom of all Division I at 313th in the nation.
If you want to know how IU got to the century mark for the first time in the Tom Crean era, start there.
This isn’t to say the Hoosiers’ effort should be discounted. It was a strong, balanced performance on both sides of the ball. They got it done tonight. No doubt. They’ve been getting it done all season, and should take much confidence and pride in their performance thus far for a squad that hasn’t tasted a lot of success the last two seasons. 6-0 is a great start for the program and for a fanbase starving for success.
But it’s time for a test.
This team has proven they can discard with the less talented, smaller schools in the early non-conference slate inside Assembly Hall.
But what will happen against a larger conference opponent on the road? We’ll find out against Boston College on Wednesday night in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
What will happen on the road against a rival ranked in the top 10 with NBA-ready talent? We’ll find out on Dec. 11 against Kentucky.
These next two weeks could either see the Hoosiers humbled in defeat or emerge as one of the biggest surprises of this early college basketball season.
Whatever the future holds, this team’s near past has shown sizable signs of improvement on both sides of the ball. There’s reason for optimism, regardless of the opponents’ skill level.
Yes folks, it’s true: There’s not only optimism from Crean’s recent/stellar in-state recruiting run, but optimism also because of how IU has taken care of business on the court in the early goings of 2010-11.
Just know better competition lies ahead.