The Minute After: Penn State

  • 01/11/2014 3:12 pm in

Thoughts on a 79-76 win in Happy Valley: 

The candy stripes never left Jeremy Hollowell’s body. Jeff Howard and Austin Etherington played crucial minutes during crunch time. Indiana has its first Big Ten victory, and Tom Crean’s message is clear: Play smart, limit mistakes, do your job and you’ll see the floor.

Indiana kept its turnover percentage under 20 percent (19.2 percent) for just the fifth time this season and its first time in Big Ten play. A lineup of Evan Gordon, Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey, Etherington and Howard may not scream athleticism or five-star talent, but it was one Crean rode for several minutes down the stretch and it kept Indiana right in this one. It did not make careless, dumb mistakes with the ball. While Penn State would get buckets, it also was a defensive lineup not lost or clueless on assignments and switches. It is possibly Indiana’s most mistake-free lineup in a season where the Hoosiers entered the contest turning the ball over more than 326 other teams in the country.

Crean has stressed that each possession matters for weeks now, and for the first time this season he trotted out a lineup that personified this message. Over the final 11:25 of the game, the Hoosiers would turn the ball over just once.

Etherington may be mostly invisible on offense and susceptible against more athletic players on defense, but he knows what he’s supposed to be doing and knows where he’s supposed to be. He can be trusted on the floor in ways Troy Williams, despite doing some good things on occasion in this one, can’t right now. He also stepped up and hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:22 to give the Hoosiers the lead. It was one they’d never relinquish. Noah Vonleh started this game in beast mode, but he was erratic and turnover-prone in the second half around the rim. When it starts going bad for Vonleh, it has often compounded this season. So Howard would play and get key rebounds, hit free throws (4-of-6) and play strong, sound defense down the stretch.

And when Vonleh did come in for an offense-defense switch late in this one, it wasn’t a mindless dump into the post with the hope the freshman would be in control for a score. It was a pick-and-roll with Ferrell and him as the only IU offensive players on the left side of the floor. They ran it to perfection, as Vonleh ended the possession with an uncontested dunk at the 2:12 mark to tie the ballgame at 70.

It helped that Penn State had several players in foul trouble and IU capitalized in a huge way (29-of-35, 82.9 percent) — especially down the stretch, hitting big free throw after big free throw late. Penn State has now lost six games in which it led at halftime. The Nittany Lions have had their troubles closing games out and they aren’t the toughest opponent. This helped, too. Stanford Robinson also chipped in during this one by creating for others and scoring (nine points), though he finished just 3-of-10 from the field.

But the biggest point is this: Indiana went out and won a toss-up game on the road because it limited mistakes and valued its possessions. This is smart basketball and a welcomed change from the carelessness with the ball we’ve seen so often this season.

Filed to:

  • MisterSlippery

    Marshall Strickland. Duh!!!

  • Joe Heath

    Are you reading anything I’m saying? Stating obvious flaws of a team, which are in fact reasons why a run may not be made, in no way “implies” a team can’t improve. Improvements can certainly be made, but to say there’s “no reason” why IU can’t make a deep run is simply not true – for the reasons I mentioned.

  • Joe Heath

    If I implied anything, it’s that a deep run is unlikely; which is true.

  • Joe Heath

    No, other reasons we wouldn’t be able to make a run include high turnover rate, lack of shooting ability, and a lack of depth. Sure, a couple of these things can be improved upon, but there’s also a chance they may not improve these areas, making them legitimate reasons why we wouldn’t be able to go on a run. How are you not understanding this?

  • Joe Heath

    By the way, you just gave a couple more reasons why they wouldn’t be able to go on a run, so you’re agreeing with me. They are plenty of reasons why…

  • pcantidote

    “Duke and Illinois are comparable” — thought exactly no one but you. You are still very wrong, Illinois is a very average team. Stick to reading the rankings, and I will take care of the knowledge of the game and heavy lifting on analysis.

  • CreamandCrimson

    They also combined for only one turnover in those 23 minutes.

  • JethroTroll

    Smug to the end. At least that you’re consistent about.
    I never compared Duke to Illinois. Nor have I said Illinois is a great team. I guess you just have to exaggerate to make your points now since nothing else is working. Im not surprised though that you would dismiss Duke’s bad road loss since that would only screw up your point about Illinois’ bad road losses. Nothing like arguing from both sides of the fence, huh?
    And that brings me to Illinois, and your contradictions while referring to them. You said Illinois is just a ‘very average team’. You also said that they would most likely be a bubble team competing for an NCAA bid. According to you then, there are only at most about 50 above average teams or better, which would leave about 300 ‘very average teams’ or worse. That makes sense to you? Reality is that the number is more like 100 above average teams, which would include Illinois, and then that leaves 250 average or worse teams, since all teams earning at large bids are good teams.
    But of course, being smug, vague and contradictory are your best attributes.

  • pcantidote

    It’s ironic that YOU inserted yourself into this conversation by saying, and I quote: “You must be new to this college basketball thing.” I think you kinda set the “smug” tone there, but sorry if you are now getting your feelings hurt.

    I think this boils down to different definitions of what an average team is. For me, if you are not in contention for NC, not in contention for your conference (you agreed with both of those points), and will probably end up around .500 in your conference and on the bubble, then you are just an average team. To you, that apparently denotes greatness. I don’t think we are going to bridge the gap on our definition of what an average team is. Maybe it will start to help when Illinois drops WAY out of the top 25 this week, never to be seen again.

  • unclekerfuffle

    You and me, Mike.

    Kindred spirits.

  • Jakedipo

    Think again rookie biatch!