Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Kansas

  • 11/12/2016 8:20 am in

Indiana won a thriller on Friday night. The Hoosiers beat Kansas, 103-99 in overtime, in a back-and-forth classic to tip off the 2016-17 season in Honolulu. It was a win that should serve as a springboard and confidence builder for a team that is still integrating a host of new players.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the victory over the Jayhawks:

· Blackmon Jr. makes a statement in his return: It didn’t take long for Indiana sophomore James Blackmon Jr. to let the college basketball world know he’s back.

After missing Indiana’s final 22 games last season with a knee injury, it was fair to expect some rust from Blackmon Jr. in his first test against elite competition. And in the first half, Blackmon Jr. struggled some defensively and scored just four points.

The second half and overtime, however, were a different story. Blackmon Jr. scored 22 of his team-high 26 points in the game’s final 25 minutes and hit some very difficult 3-pointers at crucial times. Coming into the game, it was fair to wonder if Indiana’s guards would be able to keep up with Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. Thanks in large part to Blackmon Jr., the Hoosiers more than held their own.

“It felt so good. I’ve been out for so long,” Blackmon Jr. told reporters postgame. “I’ve missed the game. I missed being out there with my teammates. A couple plays I showed my emotion, but that’s how much I love it.”

· Big first half for Bryant: Indiana came out shaky offensively as the Hoosiers settled for 3-pointers to start the game. Fortunately several splashed in, including two from an unlikely source: Thomas Bryant.

Overall, it was a solid effort from Indiana’s big man, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in 28 minutes. But he played his best basketball before halftime with 16 points.

In addition to the hot start offensively, Bryant was a major reason Indiana controlled the glass for a good part of the evening. He grabbed six of Indiana’s 18 offensive rebounds. And while those 18 offensive boards turned into just 12 second chance points in total, it was an encouraging sign that the Hoosiers were able to grab 40 percent of their missed shots against one of the nation’s elite defensive teams.

· Newcomers show no fear: Every newcomer that Indiana put on the floor made a positive contribution of some kind. Freddie McSwain grabbed a couple of rebounds in limited minutes. Devonte Green splashed in a 3. De’Ron Davis had some key rebounds and two very big free throws. Josh Newkirk dished out four assists in 35 minutes and showed some flashes of why the Indiana coaching staff is so high on his potential.

And there was also Curtis Jones, who Bill Self simply called “number zero” in his postgame comments. It’s unlikely that Jones stood out on the scouting report going into the game for Kansas. By the end of the game, Jones was one of the most important players on the floor for the Hoosiers.

With Robert Johnson on the bench with five fouls, Jones scored seven of his 15 points in overtime. He had a very difficult stepback 3 that he splashed in and then put a punctuation mark on the win. After Kansas lost him after a made basket, Jones broke free the other way for an uncontested dunk. The freshman finished his debut with a 5-of-10 shooting performance from the field. He never hesitated nor showed any signs that he was fazed by the moment.

“I think what that says is that the stage doesn’t matter to him,” Tom Crean said postgame. “I think that’s what is really important. At one point, we had three freshmen in there in overtime and they all contributed.”

· It’s only November, but this is a win that should matter for Indiana: With a non-conference schedule that is heavy on elite teams, but also has plenty of bottom feeders, it’s important for Indiana to win some of the marquee contests.

The Hoosiers checked off one of those opportunities against a team that is likely to be ranked in the top 15 all season and is once again the favorite to win its league. This is a win that will be prominent on Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume.

More important, however, is the fact that Indiana was able to pull out a win in a game where it made many mistakes and showed its youth over and over. This team is young, talented and its potential to improve is extremely high.

Indiana’s departed point guard, Yogi Ferrell, may have summed it up best postgame on Twitter.

· Plenty to work on going forward: For all of the good things Indiana did in this game, there’s plenty to work on moving forward. And with two home games and some practice time before a game in Fort Wayne in 10 days, the Hoosiers will have the opportunity to get back to work.

Indiana had more turnovers (18) than it did assists (15), which didn’t happen very often last season. Kansas turned the 18 turnovers into 31 points.

Indiana also struggled to keep the Kansas guards out of the paint. The Jayhawks scored 46 points in the paint with no post presence and most of it was due to Mason driving and finishing (and also getting fouled) all evening.

The Hoosiers also didn’t shoot it well on 2-point attempts, which was a major strength of last year’s offense. Indiana made 48.4 percent of its 3s last night, but just 40 percent of its 2s. That obviously has to improve in the long run as relying on making close to 50 percent from the perimeter isn’t sustainable.

(Photo credit: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images North America)

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  • chris

    I guess he and Cal are having a “Biggest Gut” contest this year.

  • HardRockHoosier

    Agree w/ you 1000% IUMike.. There’s a quality called ‘class’, that is very unfamiliar to Mr. Self.

  • HardRockHoosier

    I really don’t know about that. I am also a huge fan of the ’75 team. I also thought they were better than the ’76 team. But it is so hard to compare those teams with the teams of today, not only because of the 3 point line, which can be a real game changer, but also because of the extreme athleticism of today’s teams. I just don’t know, ‘game in’ and ‘game out’, hard for me to say they’d be better than these teams of today. This year’s IU team may really give them a run for their money.. I do think it’s not 15 to 20 points difference between them.

  • HardRockHoosier

    No.. it was the ‘new’ floor, and a moisture problem that accompanied it. I would think guys who are very athletic, i.e., OG, with a quicker, stronger first step would likely exacerbate the problem.

  • Bill Graham

    Great win:

    1. JBJ was the best player on the floor. Not Mason not Jackson. James can do things with the ball that no one else can do. The way he creates space between him and his defender is amazing.

    2. The biggest noticeable drop off with subs was when DD replaces TB or when McFly goes in. Love Freddies tenacity and I think with some off season work he’s got a real shot but he is definitely the least polished out of our guys. As for DD, I like that he’s embracing a traditional 5 role (it’d be weird to have him step out when O.G. and Juwan are already out there. He can’t replace Thomas’s leadership presence on the court.

    3. We are going to be really dang hard to prepare for. Seriously with most teams if you focus on containing one or two guys you’re ok. Kansas is an example of that…keep Mason and Graham in check and you’ll win….We aren’t like that though. If a team focuses on containing TB and JBJ….O.G. could easily go off for 20+ or Cujo or Juwan or RJ or Devonte. Furthermore, we can give a team so many different looks. Three or four guard lineups (we can play small). Dualing point guards, Or Juwan at the point. Double posts with TB and DD. Or a transition squad with our lanky speedsters in. I’m pretty sure Izzo’s scouting report looks more like a novel than a gameplan.

    4. Identity. Identity. Identity. Yes its great that we can switch up our lineups, pace, and our gameplan. but at the same time this team needs to find its core identity. We seem to be good at mostly everything….but we really need to hone in on what we are great at (at least by mid-season). I have a feeling that this teams identity is built on offensive rebounding, the transition game, and an inside-out game-plan that leads to a ton of threes and floaters.

    Lastly – the schedule….with some teams its good to play a few cupcake games and work on different schemes offensively and defensively….but not with this team…this team could be good…really really good….But I’m not sure that playing Northwest Upper Boondock State is going to get our guys ready for the tournament. Kentucky consistently has this problem. They play cupcakes in the pre-conf to showcase their employees dunking skills. And then they play in a crap conference…so by tourney time they aren’t used to close games. We have the benefit of playing in a grueling conference….but still… going from playing Kansas to playing Umass Lowell (who just committed 28 t.o’ s in a loss to Umass) isn’t exactly ideal.

    ~sidepoint – its too early to get really excited. We need to make that call after the Butler, Nebraska, Louisville stretch.

  • Ole Man

    You make good points. It is kinda apples to oranges.
    Just think that those teams were “teams”. Today’s group is definitely tending that way; and what’s not to like about that.

  • bleeding crimson

    DG & CuJO are up to the task. i’ve seen them play prior and they are studs. I usually agree with you but not on this one.

  • bleeding crimson

    Wow, you agreed to that…..I think this is a first for you Ole Man.

  • bleeding crimson

    There is a list and at the top would be slim ball in PukE.

  • bleeding crimson

    Never thought about a troll he surely knows him from his days in the B1G and hasn’t change. Baby Cakes could be young but still should know that he was going to strike a never with the faithful ITH’ers.

  • bleeding crimson

    You best have replied that way, he is capt of the ship.

  • bleeding crimson

    Most importantly his BB IQ.

  • Ole Man

    Then you need to pay more attention. LOL!

  • Outoftheloop

    WOW!! That was the best basketball game I have seen since IU beat KY in March of 2016! Indiana is elite once again! Great job Coach Crean, his staff, and his players! This could be a special year! Just Do It!

  • Outoftheloop

    Go back to Thomas’ early games last year. DeRon is better right now!

  • Outoftheloop

    My thoughts exactly! Robert played tenacious defense and scored 10 points all in limited minutes! Our 5 guards are really good! Our 3 Bigs are great! DeRon is a very solid Big and Freddie will be a fine asset after some time in the program! Grant has deep potential! This could be a special season! A Banner Year!

  • Outoftheloop

    He missed 2 big FT’s in game one of a long season. But he guarded Mason better than anyone else!

  • Outoftheloop

    Solid point!

  • Outoftheloop

    No! He missed 2 big FT’s, but contributed to a great win!

  • Outoftheloop

    MSU away, WI away, Purdue away! That is why no one has repeated the record of Indiana 1976!

  • Outoftheloop

    Only 10 players, but all made good contributions!

  • Outoftheloop

    The whole team came apart for a brief spell in the middle of the first half, rushed shots with no passes! CuJo, OG among them. But the whole team fought through it!

  • Ole Man

    Yep. Wasn’t that great to see!

  • I am Baby Cakes

    Yea… because we defended him so well. Like being the tallest midget.

  • KelvinSampson87

    time*

  • vicbert caladipo

    Shudd it