It all caught up with the Hoosiers tonight.
The defense that’s been slumping? Minnesota exposed it tonight, its guards finding lanes to the hole, penetrating from the perimeter past Indiana’s olé’ing defense to the hoop for scores. And when the Hoosiers went 2-3 zone for extended minutes — something they’ve barely flirted with in-game all season — things did not get better. Minnesota attacked a 2-3 zone the way you’re supposed to: It found the man in the middle; Indiana collapsed in; the Gophers found seams off the baseline and kicked out to wing shooters that were hitting shots. Minnesota scored 1.15 points per possession inside Assembly Hall tonight. A performance like this, my friends, will not pull Indiana’s defense out of the Big Ten cellar.
That 3-point shooting that’s been transcendent? It fell from the sky to the earth with a loud thud. Indiana had its worst shooting night beyond the arc of the season (4-of-18, 22.2%).
On nights when shots aren’t falling and defense is lacking, there are still ways to win. Indiana stayed in this one because it got to the line and converted rather well (23-25, 88%, 45.5% FTR). It got into the bonus with a lot of time left in the second half (9:05), and hit 9-of-10 down the stretch. Two of those came on and-1 situations from Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller during IU’s final, furious run — one in which they almost snuck back into this game and stole a victory.
Offensive rebounding (second-chance points) and taking care of the ball (turnover percentage) are other ways. For a stretch in the second half, Minnesota seemed to be grabbing every offensive rebound in sight for putbacks. The Hoosiers didn’t do a good job of keeping the Gohpers off their offensive glass at all, as they rebounded 43.2 percent of their misses. Yet, Indiana actually won this battle, as the Hoosiers rebounded 45.2 percent of their misses and scored 22 second-chance points to Minnesota’s 13.
If there was anywhere they let this one slide away, it was that on top of shooting poorly from beyond the arc and playing bad D, the Hoosiers were sloppy. They turned the ball over on 23.7 percent of their possessions (16 times), which was just a little bit too much to overcome. The above video is a pretty apt summation of Indiana’s night; as the Hoosiers mounted their comeback, Christian Watford almost knocked a rebound out of bounds. A subsequent pass to an open Zeller near the basket which could have pulled the Hoosiers within four fumbled off his hands. (Though, Zeller did steal the ball on the next Minnesota possession, which led to Oladipo’s and-1.)
At some point, this was bound to happen. At some point, this team, which got off to a remarkable start no one saw coming, was bound to have an off night, lose a bit of their edge.
And this is but one game. That needs to be kept in perspective.
But the Hoosiers are showing a vulnerability on the defensive end, and don’t think the rest of the Big Ten isn’t taking notice.
SHORT & SWEET
+ Will Sheehey didn’t skip a beat in his return. He scored 12 points (5-of-7, 2-of-2 from the line) and snagged six boards in just 15 minutes of play. He felt like the spark Indiana needed at times tonight, so it would have been nice to see him more. But it’s likely he just wasn’t ready to play the 20 minutes a night he was averaging before he went down with injury.
Also: Tremendous to hear the Assembly Hall faithful give him an ovation and chant his name when he first checked in.