Indiana looks to solve Northwestern defense

  • 02/22/2014 8:06 am in

It stands as Indiana’s worst offensive performance of the year: Fewest points scored, worst offensive efficiency rate and worst 2-point shooting percentage.

Just over one month ago, the Hoosiers’ 54-47 home loss to Northwestern was their first black eye in what was once a hopeful NCAA tournament-bound season. It set the wheels in motion, as since that game, the Hoosiers have won just two of seven.

Today, though, in Evanston, Ill., Indiana (14-11, 4-8) will have a chance to avenge that loss to Northwestern (12-15, 5-9), as two of the bottom four teams in the Big Ten battle at 8:15 p.m. ET.

“You can’t settle, there were far too many times in our first game here that we settled,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said during a teleconference on Friday. “We tried to force things that weren’t there rather than attacking what was there. What we have to do a much better job of, and some teams have done a better job than others against them, is look for those opportunities.”

The numbers from Indiana’s first bout with the Wildcats are sobering: a .73 points per possession rate, a 22.2 3-point shooting percentage, a 26.2 2-point shooting percentage and a 28.3 effective field goal percentage is all the Hoosiers mustered against the then 8-10 (1-4 Big Ten) Wildcats. Indiana turned the ball over only nine times, but missed shots did the Hoosiers in, anyway.

Since that game, Northwestern continued its success in low-scoring, poor-shooting affairs. It beat Purdue, in double overtime, by a 63-60 score. It beat Wisconsin and Minnesota — each on the road — by holding each opponent to 56 and 54 points, respectively.

But in their past four games, the Wildcats have faltered. They have lost four straight and have allowed at least 75 points in two of those games. And with Northwestern’s recent struggles, it has perhaps allowed Indiana an opportunity to find a way to solve the riddle of the Wildcats’ defense. One that has, at times, simply dumbfounded opponents into shooting their worst performances of the season.

Just like how the Wildcats did just that against the Hoosiers on January 18.

“We need to make sure that we get good post touches and get a lot of movement off the ball,” senior Will Sheehey said. “We are going to try to set some screens off the ball and things like that to get more movement.”

Hoosiers prepare for six games in 15-day stretch

Crean wasn’t afraid to admit it during Friday’s teleconference: Tuesday’s postponement of Indiana’s scheduled tilt against Iowa threw a wrench in the Hoosiers’ plans.

He had gotten his team mentally prepared for the challenge of facing the surging Hawkeyes’ offense. After the drama of the prior week, with the two devastating losses to Penn State and Purdue and the arrest of Hanner-Mosquera-Perea, he felt his team was ready to play well.

“There was no doubt with this team,” Crean said. “We didn’t practice for very long (on Tuesday), but there was such an edge with them. They were ‘game ready.'”

But with Tuesday afternoon’s fall of the metal beam in the northwest corner of Assembly Hall, the game they prepared for never happened.

Crean gave his team an off day on Wednesday and started preparations for Northwestern on Thursday. Except, in addition to preparing for the Wildcats, he also is readying the Hoosiers for an action-packed end to the season and finding the balance between keeping his team fresh and making sure it continues to improve.

On Friday, it was announced the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes will play on Feb. 27, which means the Hoosiers will play Northwestern (Feb. 22), Wisconsin (Feb. 25), Iowa, Ohio State (March 2), Nebraska (March 5) and Michigan (March 8) in just over a two week span.

All the while, Sheehey said, the Hoosiers will try to focus on “each game as they come.” And they will come quickly as the regular season winds down.

“Bottom line is there is nothing we can do about it,” Crean said. “The preparation is what it is. We prepared hard for Iowa and we continued to prepare for Iowa on Tuesday night and then we just have to rekindle that next Wednesday.

“We have to get ready for Northwestern and then Wisconsin but we also have to get better.”

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  • SCHoosier

    Let’s hope the players can make the offensive adjustments needed in this game. NW probably won’t change a thing defensively..packing it down like they did in A-Hall. Of course IU missed a bucket of open shots..if.that happens again along with TO’s… the “adjustments” won’t matter. IU needs to start the stretch drive with a road win.

  • pcantidote

    You solve their defense by changing the tempo of the game. Play an attacking full court game and never let them get comfortable.

  • Alford Bailey

    I agree. Loved the lobs to Troy in the Penn. St. game when IU was attacking.

  • Michael McColly

    Precisely. Mix it up. Frustrate that slow down rhythm when you can. They’re going to get tired with their thin, two man, bench.

  • Court Storming Hoosier

    1. Full court press for significant minutes. This a great game to try this out since we are more athletic than NW (on paper at least)

    2. Play Jurkin for a little bit. Again, this a great game to try this out with HMP suspended.
    3. Be able to inbound the ball.
    4. Noah should get a touch every possession in this type of game.
    5. Attack the basket early in the shot clock as opposed to waiting 20 seconds before running a play and taking a bad jump shot.

    I really hope we don’t phone in the rest of the season. I think how we play today will indicate if we are.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Full court press, don’t settle for bad shots and expect to win!

  • JerryCT

    For those who like to love or hate CTC this is a good game to see if we learned anything from the first game. I say this because we got beat by a clear defensive strategy we could not adjust to.
    If the game looks the same then the haters will be out in force. If not then lets give the guy some credit

  • Alford Bailey

    Great point

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    CTC adjustments don’t mean diddly squat if the Wildcats pack the lane again and IU keeps missing shot after shot after shot.

  • Alford Bailey

    I agree with all points but doubt any happen consistently.

  • I was just sittin’ here thinking that. It would be so nice to start that string of games with a ‘w’ tonight. Wow that is almost a game every other dy Those poor guys are going to be worn out for the B1G Tourney.

  • Ole Man

    I’ll agree, Jerry, IF everyone can stop calling those who disagree “haters”.

  • HoosierHysteria5

    Well…we did it! Great game, Hoosiers! Very fun first half with the dunk fest, and Sheehey’s 3-pointer was a life saver close to the end of the 2nd half! Way to go boys!