Tom Crean, Thomas Bryant and De’Ron Davis addressed the media on Friday to preview Indiana’s matchup with Louisville on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Watch both press conferences below (video provided by IU athletics):
What to Expect: Louisville
Indiana will attempt to rebound from a disappointing 87-83 home loss to Nebraska by traveling north to Indianapolis to face Louisville on Saturday. The matchup, which is being billed as the “Countdown Classic,” is the 18th all-time meeting between the two programs. Indiana leads 10-7.
CBS will have the broadcast at 12:30 p.m. ET with Spero Dedes and Bill Raftery on the call:
At its best, Indiana has beaten Kansas and North Carolina. And at its worst, Indiana has losses to Fort Wayne and Nebraska. Figuring out which version of Indiana will show up on a game-to-game basis is a difficult task.
The Hoosiers will get a mental and physical test on Saturday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Louisville, which owns a win over Kentucky and the nation’s best defense, is a program that thrives on pressure, physicality and wearing opponents down over the course of 40 minutes. It’s an approach that Rick Pitino has built a Hall of Fame career with.
Indiana responded to its loss to Fort Wayne with a brilliant performance a couple of games later against North Carolina. How will the Hoosiers respond to the Nebraska loss?
MEET THE CARDINALS
Louisville isn’t an explosive offensive team, but with the nation’s best defense, they don’t need to be. The Cardinals are driven by a trio of perimeter players who are each averaging in double figures: Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell (pictured) and Deng Adel.
Snider is the team’s leading scorer at 11.6 points per game and he also leads the Cardinals with 3.7 assists per game (3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio). He’s a below average 3-point shooter (33.8 percent), but has three performances where he’s shot 50 percent or higher on 3s. According to Synergy Sports, Snider is most effective as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. He’s scored 49 points in 56 of those possessions, which ranks in the 71st percentile nationally.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, is second on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game. He’s shooting just 28.8 percent on 3s and 42.9 percent on 2s. Of the regulars in Louisville’s rotation, Mitchell has the second lowest offensive rating according to Ken Pomeroy’s stats. Where he can be effective offensively is off the dribble going to the rim. Mitchell is shooting 54.3 percent at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Adel, a 6-foot-7 wing, was viewed nationally as a breakout candidate entering his sophomore season, but has also struggled offensively. Adel is shooting just 28.9 on 3s and 40.7 on 2s. In spot-up situations, he’s scored 43 points on 50 possessions according to Synergy Sports.
The rest of Louisville’s backcourt and wing rotation changes on a game-to-game basis and based on matchups. Freshman V.J. King, a McDonald’s All-American, is effective offensively when he plays. King is shooting 50 percent on 3s in limited attempts and can get to the line. King’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 50 and he’s knocking down 84.4 percent from the stripe.
Penn transfer Tony Hicks, a 6-foot-1 senior, played 19 minutes against Virginia, but just three minutes against Kentucky. Hicks is a high usage offensive player who has been inefficient in limited minutes. He’s turnover prone (28.4 TO%) and is just 3-of-13 on 3s. Redshirt freshman Ryan McMahon is a undersized shooter (36.8 percent on 3s) while senior David Levitch, who is 6-foot-3, can also knock down the perimeter shot (5-of-11 from deep).
Louisville’s frontcourt is deep with size, but doesn’t really have a standout piece offensively. Junior Jaylen Johnson and senior Mangok Mathiang are the starters, but both played less minutes than their backups (Raymond Spalding and Anas Mahmoud) against Virginia.
Johnson is an aggressive rebounder who currently ranks third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage according to KenPom. Johnson has scored 40 points off of 30 offensive rebounding possessions, according to Synergy. Based on what Nebraska’s Ed Morrow did to the Hoosiers on the glass, Johnson is a key matchup. Given his free throw shooting (51.5 percent), Indiana needs to give fouls if Johnson has a clear path to the basket.
Mathiang is a low efficiency offensive player (41.9 percent) who is also a suspect free throw shooter (62.2 percent). In 33 post-up possessions, Mathiang has scored just 23 points. Like Johnson, he’a also a very good offensive rebounder (13.6 OR%) and is the team’s second best shot blocker (6.6 block percentage).
Spalding, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, has been a great finisher at the rim, but is suspect if you let him take the 2-point jumper. Spalding is 80.5 percent at the rim, but just 21.5 percent on 2-point jumpers. Mahmoud has a team-high block percentage (14) and is making 64.7 percent of his 2s.
Two teams have scored more than a point per possession against Louisville: Baylor in the Bahamas and Grand Canyon in Phoenix. And one team – Purdue – has made double digits 3s. That doesn’t bode well for an offensive explosion for Indiana.
It’s a theme on repeat, but turnovers and rebounding loom large for Indiana. Louisville forces turnovers and Indiana doesn’t. If the Cardinals get a huge spread in points off of turnovers, it could be a long afternoon in Indianapolis.
Indiana will have to shoot it somewhat well to win, but offensive rebounding and not getting carved up defensively are just as important. The Hoosiers have held an elite offensive team down before (North Carolina), but are coming off a dreadful performance against Nebraska. Louisville isn’t as good offensively as North Carolina, but they’re far superior to Nebraska. Will the mindset to get stops and challenge plays in the paint and at the rim travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse? To win, it will have to.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
Louisville is a 3-point KenPom favorite and a 3.5-point favorite in Sagarin. The Vegas spread, expected out later today, should be similar.
Both teams are coming off of losses, but how those losses are viewed is a stark contrast. Louisville lost to a Virginia program that has beaten the Cardinals four of the last five. The Cavaliers are a legitimate ACC title contender. Indiana, meanwhile, stubbed its toe in a major way by losing at home to Nebraska.
That loss, coupled with this game and Tuesday’s showdown with Wisconsin, has put some pressure on Indiana. It’s conceivable that the Hoosiers could play really well on Saturday and Tuesday and still lose both games. This is a game that could go a long way for Indiana in terms of restoring confidence and eliminating the bad taste from Wednesday. But the Hoosiers must be locked in from the opening tip, which is something that hasn’t been a constant this season.
Indiana’s defensive performance against Nebraska in its Big Ten opener on Wednesday night left much to be desired.
The Hoosiers couldn’t stop Tai Webster’s dribble penetration at all in the first five minutes, so Tom Crean chose to zone up against the Cornhuskers. It was much quicker than he decided to do against Fort Wayne when Indiana had similar dribble penetration issues.
While the zone helped slow down the Cornhuskers, especially the last five minutes of the first half, they adjusted at halftime and absolutely carved up the Hoosiers at the onset of the second half. Indiana had no third option on defense and it meant Nebraska had its best offensive performance of the season and Indiana had its worst defensive performance (1.21 points per possession).
We’ll take a look at plays from the start of both halfs in the latest edition of Film Session:
Webster gets a ball screen on the right wing:
He makes a move left. Thomas Bryant doesn’t hedge over. Robert Johnson can’t stay with him. Webster has a lot of space in the lane:
OG Anunoby does come over for some help side defense:
But he never gets in front of Webster. Instead he just slides to the side of him. It allows Webster to get the ball to the rim and he scores for two points:
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich discuss Indiana’s loss to Nebraska and are joined by Eric Crawford of WDRB to preview Indiana-Louisville. Among the topics discussed:
· IU’s loss to Nebraska and what stood out
· How the game was similar to the Fort Wayne and Butler losses
· Indiana giving up 54 points in a half to Nebraska
· How this loss impacts IU’s chances in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament resume
· Whether the IU-Louisville matchup has lost some luster
· What Louisville will try to take away from Indiana
· How important turnovers are for Indiana
· What Indiana must do well in order to knock off the Cardinals
Indiana’s 26-game home winning streak came to a stunning end on Wednesday night in an 87-83 loss to Nebraska at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The loss dropped the Hoosiers to 10-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the loss to the Huskers:
· Indiana was outplayed from the opening tip: There’s no way to look at this loss any differently: The Hoosiers got beat by Nebraska. The Huskers came into Bloomington and as Nebraska radio play-by-play man Kent Pavelka (who was sitting right next to me) said, “out-scrapped” Indiana.
Indiana is the more talented team and had plenty more to play for than Nebraska, yet the Hoosiers came out with a lackadaisical start. Once Nebraska gained confidence early and attacked the paint relentlessly, it was clear they weren’t going away.
“We didn’t come out with the right mindset, definitely” Robert Johnson said postgame. “We thought that maybe it was going to be a little easier than what it was going to be. We can’t come out like that, especially in the Big Ten.”
Nebraska led for more than 25 minutes and while Indiana led by seven early in the second half, the Hoosiers were never able to take control.
· Besides Johnson, starters underwhelm: Robert Johnson was once again very good offensively with 19 points in 21 minutes. But with Johnson on the bench with four fouls in the second half, Nebraska scored 30 points in 17 possessions, according to Andy Bottoms of the Assembly Call.
Comb through the numbers for the rest of IU’s starters, who all scored in double figures, and there are positives but far too many negatives.
Thomas Bryant had a double-double, but had a head scratching turnover in the second half where he attempted to dribble the length of the floor. OG Anunoby had five turnovers. Josh Newkirk was 5-of-10 from the field, but again struggled at times with decision making and finishing at the rim. And James Blackmon Jr. was just 4-of-14 from the floor.
Add it all up and it was the perfect storm for Nebraska to take advantage for the upset win.
· Indiana’s worst defensive effort of the season: Nebraska scored 54 points in the second half and 1.21 points per possession for the game. It was the best offensive performance of the season for the Huskers and Indiana’s worst defensive effort.
In the game’s opening minutes, it didn’t matter who was guarding Tai Webster. He took all of Indiana’s guards off the dribble and to the rim. The Hoosiers were so shaky defensively that Tom Crean moved to a 2-3 zone to stop the penetration.
The defense stabilized at the end of the first half as Indiana took a 3-point lead, but quickly went downhill in the second half. Allowing 54 points in 20 minutes to the Big Ten’s worst offensive team is a recipe for a loss. That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday night.
· Time to tighten the rotation? There have been times when Indiana’s bench has been a strength. Last night wasn’t one of them.
De’Ron Davis was really the only notable contributor off the bench and he finished with four points, three rebounds and two blocks in 11 minutes. Devonte Green hit a 3-pointer, but also made a costly turnover late in the second half on a crucial play. And Juwan Morgan, who went down in the second half with an apparent bruise, hasn’t been great on defense this year. All of these guys obviously figure into the rotation going forward, but the case of Zach McRoberts isn’t so clear cut.
McRoberts logged 14 minutes against Nebraska, didn’t score and once again passed up several open looks. Unless McRoberts begins to defend or rebound at a higher level, it’s tough to justify having him out there when he doesn’t look to score.
· This is a damaging loss from a Big Ten title, NCAA seeding perspective: Indiana already faced an uphill battle to repeat as Big Ten champion with Wisconsin and Purdue having more favorable schedules in conference play. Losing at home to one of the league’s worst team makes the road even tougher.
And from an NCAA tournament point of view, Indiana’s lackluster non-conference strength of schedule (currently No. 348 in KenPom) was already going to hurt its resume.
This loss, combined with the Fort Wayne loss and several wins over bottom 100 teams is likely going to hurt the Hoosiers with the selection committee come March.
No room for excuses tonight because the reality is this: Nebraska outplayed Indiana. The Cornhuskers deserved the victory. This is a Nebraska team that entered the contest with the worst offense in the Big Ten, one with just the 313th ranked eFG% in the country. One that lost to Gardner Webb at home a mere 10 days ago and entered the contest just 6-6. One that KenPom gave just a nine percent chance of emerging victorious.
During its 26-game home winning streak, the Hoosiers beat some of the nation’s very best teams. But tonight the streak ends against a middling Cornhusker squad it had no business losing to.
Instead of a comfortable win and a 1-0 start to conference, this is a bad, frustrating loss and Saturday brings no relief. Louisville, currently the top defensive squad in the country, looms. Happy New Year, Hoosier Nation.
So what the heck happened? There’s the glaringly obvious in the turnover department. Indiana turned the ball over on 26.2 percent of its possessions (19 turnovers). Many came from poor passes, bad decisions and silly mistakes. Self infliction was the Hoosiers’ M.O. tonight. Nebraska had 13 freaking steals in this game. Against a team like the Cornhuskers, Indiana, though not ideal, can survive giving the ball away on over a quarter of its possessions. Especially in a home contest.
But when you couple Indiana wasting away that many possessions with a lackluster defensive performance? It’s how you end up losing to a team of this caliber. Early on, Indiana couldn’t stop Tai Webster. He dribbled penetrated with ease. Indiana ended up having to resort to a zone in both the first and second half to try and slow it down. Nebraska came into the contest as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country at 29 percent. The Cornhuskers left Assembly Hall hitting 50 percent (9-of-18) from downtown. Did they hit a few tough ones? Sure. But Indiana also had trouble sticking with shooters and Nebraska got a lot of wide open looks that it converted. The Hoosiers also played poor transition defense off their turnovers at times and Nebraska turned their miscues into 21 points. The Cornhuskers also had 40 points in the paint and scored a season-high 1.2 points per possession.
Still, despite the above disasters, Indiana had plenty of chances to win this one.
But it seemed like whenever the Hoosiers opened up a road to victory in the second half, somebody grabbed the wheel and drove the team into a ditch. Thomas Bryant tried dribbling the ball up the court on the break and the ball was promptly stolen. OG Anunoby took a seriously horrific deep 3 with plenty of time on the shot clock left. The Hoosiers were lucky to retain possession, one where Devonte Green promptly threw a bad pass to Anunoby for a turnover. Robert Johnson was one of the few bright spots tonight, but he picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and what was left on the court was a team that couldn’t right itself on either end of the court.
Perhaps most upsetting for fans in this one is that Indiana didn’t come out with a killer instinct and let the Cornhuskers dictate the terms from the opening tip. It was the final nail in the coffin for tonight’s contest.
“We didn’t come out with the right mindset,” Robert Johnson said after the game.
Now, lest we forget: This is but one game. A bad, horrible game, yes. But just one game. This is still a team with wins against Kansas and North Carolina and one that can go a long way towards sowing up wounds of this loss with a win over Louisville on Saturday.
But tonight’s loss perhaps solidifies Indiana’s reality even stronger. The Hoosiers can play with any team in the country, but can get upset just as easily.
Video: IU players react to loss to Nebraska
Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson met with the media following Indiana’s 87-83 loss to Nebraska on Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Watch the press conference below:
At the Buzzer: Nebraska 87, Indiana 83
Quick thoughts on an 87-83 loss to the Huskers:
How it happened: This was no fluke. Nebraska came into Bloomington and outplayed Indiana for nearly the entire 40 minutes inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Huskers were the aggressors early on and raced out to a 12-point lead in the first half. The Hoosiers had their best stretch of the game late in the first half and went ahead 36-33 at halftime. For a brief moment, it appeared the 26-game home winning streak would be preserved. But it was short lived as Nebraska didn’t lay down in the second half and ultimately pulled away in the closing minutes for the upset win.
Standout performance: Robert Johnson scored a team-high 21 points for the Hoosiers on 7-of-11 shooting, but played just 21 minutes due to foul trouble. The Richmond (Va.) native was the only IU player to post a positive in the plus/minus statistic.
Statistic that stands out: Indiana allowed Nebraska to score 1.2 points per possession. The Huskers came in averaging 1.01 points per possession and hadn’t scored more than 1.16 in a game this season.