Hoosiers look for better defense in return to Nebraska

  • 01/18/2012 11:49 am in

The Hoosiers faced very little adversity in the first 16 games this season.

They cruised to a 15-1 record beating then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State, losing only a road game against a hot Michigan State team.

They were the surprise team that was taking the nation by storm. They soared into the top 10, had every major publication talking about Cody Zeller and every Indiana fan screaming the words ‘We’re Back!’ to anyone that would listen.

But in the matter of two games in only one week, some of that has changed. The Hoosiers lost back-to-back games to Minnesota and Ohio State, and now have their first losing streak of the season as they prepare to play at Nebraska Wednesday night.

The shots haven’t been falling for No. 12 Indiana (15-3, 3-3) like they were earlier in the season, but the Hoosiers’ biggest struggles have come on the defensive end. They have allowed at least 77 points in each of their last three games.

“I don’t think it’s anything major,” Zeller said. “I think it’s kind of getting back to where we were at in the beginning of the season, getting back to the fundamentals, getting into people – getting back to what we’re really about.”

Perhaps the solution for a struggling Indiana defense is a Nebraska team that doesn’t score the ball well. The Cornhuskers (9-8, 1-5) average only 61.1 points per game, and they’ve scored more than 55 points only once in six conference games.

Nebraska has been better of late with the return of Jorge Brian Diaz and Dylan Talley from injury. Diaz and Talley each missed five games, including the first three games of the Big Ten season. Since their return, the Cornhuskers have gone just 1-2, but their two losses were by only five points each in tough road environments at Illinois and at Wisconsin. Nebraska opened the conference season with a 24-point home loss to Wisconsin without Diaz and Talley.

Diaz’s return has changed the Cornhuskers back into a post-oriented team. The 6-11, 245-pound Diaz is averaging 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this season, but he hasn’t scored as well since returning from injury.

“He catches the ball, usually with at least one foot in the paint,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “He’s not scoring a lot of points yet, but there’s a lot of touches. You’ve got to do a great job in trying to eliminate those touches in the post.”

The method Zeller and the Hoosiers use to stop those touches might depend on how the game is being called. Zeller has gotten in foul trouble twice already this season when trying to keep Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger from getting the ball.

“When he’s allowed to play, he’s pretty good,” Crean said of Zeller. “What I hate to see with somebody like him is that the game is called real nitpicky. He’s doing a good job with his positioning, with getting up, he’s getting his hands up. He’s doing a very good job adjusting to (Big Ten play).”

As important as Diaz is to Nebraska’s success, the Cornhuskers’ most dangerous player is guard Bo Spencer. He’s averaging 14.8 points per game and has been in double-figures in each of the last five conference games.

“Spencer is like [Tim] Frazier for Penn State,” Crean said. “He can create tremendous havoc in the break by getting to the basket, he’s a very good shooter.”

The comparison between Spencer and Frazier may be an easy one to make, but it’s hard to compare Nebraska to any other team in the conference. In many ways, the Cornhuskers still play like a Big 12 team.

But Indiana guard Victor Oladipo said that even though the Hoosiers haven’t visited Nebraska since 1942, it feels like just another conference game.

“It feels like a regular old game,” Oladipo said. “They’re in the Big Ten. So we have to go in there with the same edge, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

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  • Anonymous

    IU by 11.

  • Anonymous

    IU by 11.

  • matt

    people say Vic needs to play smarter and i agree, but i would also like to see some of his early season confidence come back. The whole team has been playing scared the last two games.

  • matt

    people say Vic needs to play smarter and i agree, but i would also like to see some of his early season confidence come back. The whole team has been playing scared the last two games.

  • Anonymous

    I have been harping on defense for some time.

    If Nebraska scores over 70pts, we lose the game.  If they score over 65pts, its close.  If we keep them to around 60pts, we should win the game.

    I am not worried about offense.  We can afford for people to have off nights.  Hulls and Watford’s lack of productivity against MN were not why we lost.  We lost b/c we gave up 75 pts at home!  When you have approx. 6 players averaging above 10ppg, you are going to score.  We need to start stopping people and let the offense come…it will.

    We need to get that trend rolling tonight, come back home and protect our court, and go from there.  These next two games could be a watershed moment in our Big10 schedule.

    Go Hoosiers!

  • Just thought I’d share this. I got the opportunity to go to a college basketball season kick-off luncheon back in October. At the lunch they had a roundtable moderated by Jay Bilas, with the roundtable being Jay Wright, Gary Williams and Mark Turgeon. 

    At one point Bilas asked Wright what the hardest part of coaching in the Big East was. Wright said not losing 3 in a row. He said in a league as tough as the Big East it’s almost a certainty you’ll lose 2 in a row at least once if not twice a season. He said the key to being a good and mentally tough team is not letting that 2-game losing streak become a 3-4 game losing streak. 

    I just thought that was an interesting comment and very applicable as we head into this game.  

  • Just thought I’d share this. I got the opportunity to go to a college basketball season kick-off luncheon back in October. At the lunch they had a roundtable moderated by Jay Bilas, with the roundtable being Jay Wright, Gary Williams and Mark Turgeon. 

    At one point Bilas asked Wright what the hardest part of coaching in the Big East was. Wright said not losing 3 in a row. He said in a league as tough as the Big East it’s almost a certainty you’ll lose 2 in a row at least once if not twice a season. He said the key to being a good and mentally tough team is not letting that 2-game losing streak become a 3-4 game losing streak. 

    I just thought that was an interesting comment and very applicable as we head into this game.  

  • WindyCityHoosier

    Justin… what were you trying to say with the statement “In many ways, the Cornhuskers still play like a Big 12 team”?  What is it about their style of play that’s not Big Ten and more Big 12? 

  • CreamandCrimson

    Applicable indeed.  Thanks BGleas, I am sure that was a very interesting roundtable.  Bilas is great and the three coaches have all had a lot of success.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    I don’t want to call this a “must win” game so early in the season, but it’s certainly a “key game”. Even the best teams in the country right now have lost when they were not supposed to (in the case of OSU and UK, thanks to IU!), and during the last week the best B1G teams were defeated, so IU is in good company. That’s fine, we’re still having an awesome season, but the time is now to get back on our feet and string some wins together. 

    This game and the next will be key to see how our players respond, and could show whether the awesome cinderella season will continue, or if we will settle into being an average team. Either way, I’m proud of what the boys have done already, but I have faith that some of our best moments of the season are ahead of us.

  • CreamandCrimson

    For the record…Vegas has us favored by 5.  Not sure what KenPom has but it will be similar to that.  Anyone expecting a blowout is probably going to be disappointed.  I don’t care what we win by as long as we win (obvious, I know).  Defense will be critical and preventing Nebraska from getting second opportunities will be tied into that.  They are not a particularly good offensive rebounding team, we can’t let that change tonight.

  • CreamandCrimson

    For the record…Vegas has us favored by 5.  Not sure what KenPom has but it will be similar to that.  Anyone expecting a blowout is probably going to be disappointed.  I don’t care what we win by as long as we win (obvious, I know).  Defense will be critical and preventing Nebraska from getting second opportunities will be tied into that.  They are not a particularly good offensive rebounding team, we can’t let that change tonight.

  • Anonymous

    Defense will be key in an IU 8pt victory. Crean also needs to figure out whatever has Oladipo in his funk and snap it. Whole team feeds off his energy.

  • Hoosiered

    Defense= toughness and this is where we need to grow.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    This is a huge, huge game for IU. 

    If IU is a tournament team and a high seed team at that, they need to come out and comfortably win a game like tonight’s.  The last thing IU needs is to lose a game like this because they could quickly go from solid tournament lock to sliding bubble team by losing games like this.  The Minnesota game was a bad home loss, but Minnesota isn’t too bad and will win more B1G games.  Nebraska, however, isn’t going to win a lot of games and they aren’t a very good team so a loss like that would really hurt.

    Let’s hope the Hoosiers come out with that swagger again and play with heart and effort.  If they do, it should be a comfortable win.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Amen brother!

  • Anonymous

    In order to win this game we must change what has become less of a trend and more of what I would call a blueprint to defeat us as of late.

    +  We must have better defense overall but especially out of our guards. We must not allow it to be a leisurely stroll, as we play matador defense, when they drive it to the rim. Jordy I luv ya man but I believe part of that blueprint says that whoever you are guarding is supposed to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim. VJ3 your name pretty much has the word “ditto” by it.

    +  Our defensive rotation has got to be a whole lot better, too many wide open shots after we rotate poorly.

    +  We must rebound better on both ends. Have noticed that CW seems to have a really hard time blocking out when opponents shoot free throws. He either allows them to get around him or he allows himself to be pushed under the basket, out of position, thus allowing the shooting team another possession / shot. It doesn’t get any more fundamental than blocking out on a free throw, come on man play and act like your 6’9″ and 240, on every free throw, not on just some of them. The rest of you check that part of his game out maybe it’s just me getting too picky but the other team getting their own missed free throws, a lot more often than they should and usually over the same player when it happens just drives me crazy.

    +  That blueprint also says that getting up in the grill of our guards has been shown to accomplish different things and carries little risk to it since we have such a hard time being able to drive the ball to the rim with any real success. One, it cuts down on our ability to hurt the other team from beyond the arc. Two, it makes what we already seem to have a hard time doing, passing it into the post, that much harder for us and at the same time making good passes in general that much harder. And last but not least it allows them to go over the top of screens since we rarely use a screen the way it should be used and we look for the screener rolling to the basket even less.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see Will and Vic feed off each other.  They did that really well before Will’s injury, and I was hoping that was going to come back with Will’s re-emergence.

  • Anonymous

    They seem to be playing good teams really tough so I’d be surprised if we blow them out. Got to get the ball to Zeller early, get them to double down, maybe get Christian going from outside. Gotta get our swagger back. I will be shocked and extremely disappointed if I don’t see high energy and effort tonight. We are still in the hunt for the big ten. Illinois will level out, we don’t have to play osu anymore, msu at home. NO MORE SLIP UPS BOYS!!! let’s do this!

  • It was really interesting. The funniest part was that since the lunch was in Baltimore, Turgeon was trying his best to pay homage to Gary Williams, who most in Maryland love, while also trying to extremely temper expectations for this season. 

    It was an awkward game of “I respect Gary and love him like you all do, but he left me with nothing, but it’s not his fault, but don’t forget I have nothing this season, but I love Gary”. It was a little weird. 

  • Anonymous

    It’s a true saying in all sports “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.”  

    Nebraska is the weakest team in the B1G but they will still be dangerous on their home court. If we get after them from the start of the game defensively and maintain that intensity we will be alright.IU wins by 7 tonight…GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • Anonymous

    It’s a true saying in all sports “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.”  

    Nebraska is the weakest team in the B1G but they will still be dangerous on their home court. If we get after them from the start of the game defensively and maintain that intensity we will be alright.IU wins by 7 tonight…GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • Anonymous

    Pomeroy projects IU by 10 with 83% chance of an IU win and 20% chance of snow

  • For what it’s worth, I agree with you on Watford’s trouble with free throw block outs.

  • For what it’s worth, I agree with you on Watford’s trouble with free throw block outs.

  • Anonymous

    that had to be an awesome experience. those are some great basketball minds

  • 888

    I wonder why AE isnt seeing any minutes. He should have been redshirted if CTC didnt plan on using him. Im from Tipton and have seen him play a few times and can tell you he does everything well. I dont see him staying if it doesnt change. Hes just too good to sit. Well regret it if he does cause I think hed excell at Butler. I hope he gets in cause we need him.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    This game needs to be a full throttle blitz from the tip. We have a lot to prove tonight and the Huskers need to be dealt with swiftly.

  • BEAT KENTUCKY

    Let’s hope Pomeroy is more accurate then the weather nerds .

  • Anonymous

    It’s very simple. We win if we’re mentally tough. If so, we’ll play with more passion, more focus, more confidence. Which should result in better fundamental play at both ends (defensive stops, better rebounding, fewer turnovers). As one HOF coach stressed: ” the mental is to the physical as 4 is to 1″. 

  • SHEEHEYisApimp

    Disgusting!

  • SHEEHEYisApimp

    Prophetic! Impressive as well! But still disgusting! 🙁