With the season hanging in the balance, Tom Crean stalked the court earlier than usual. It was an indicative sign of the moment: Indiana needed this one in the worst way, and there was no time for messing around. No time for slow starts or not playing to potential.
And the Hoosiers responded.
Yes, Penn State gave Indiana a hell of a finish and nearly stole this one back after being down seven with 1:07 to play. Indiana had trouble inbounding the ball and Thomas Bryant fumbled down the stretch once more. After Lamar Stevens hit two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play, this one seemed destined for overtime. Did you really expect Indiana to get something drawn up and put together after this epic collapse and the way this season has been trending?
But it happened. James Blackmon Jr. took the inbounds pass from Zach McRoberts and dribbled down the court as the seconds ticked away. As he approached the right wing, the length of Julian Moore was there to meet him on his buzzer-beating shot.
Didn’t matter. Jimmy Buckets delivered for Indiana, dropping in the 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Hoosiers to escape University Park with the victory.
Despite the late-game heroics from Indiana’s best scorer, this win was a team effort. In the first half, Indiana’s freshmen delivered off the bench. Devonte Green continued to prove he deserves minutes. He had another ridiculous pass in transition, this time to Thomas Bryant, who finished a dunk through contact. Less than a minute later, Green hit a 3-pointer to put the Hoosiers back in the lead.
Curtis Jones added four points and a steal in eight first half minutes. De’Ron Davis worked his game in the post and drew fouls. He hit 5-of-6 from the line in the first half and had three rebounds in six minutes of play.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over on just 14.3 percent of their possession and hit 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from distance to carry a seven-point lead into the break (44-37).
But tragedy struck, as OG Anunoby picked up a non-contact knee injury at the close of the half, screaming as his body hit the floor. He’d need help to walk off the floor. His night was done.
Could the Hoosiers keep it going without both Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby? They could.
Indiana kept the momentum in the second half. Zach McRoberts got the start in place of Anunoby in the second half and his hustle and defense was tremendous. Freddie McSwain had a putback dunk. Everyone was contributing and Indiana had a 13-point lead with 5:36 to go.
Could Indiana close this one out easily on the road? They couldn’t.
Who knows where it goes from here, but for a night, Indiana played with heart and guts and pulled one out on the road. Adversity struck, and the Hoosiers persevered.
Can they keep it going?
At the Buzzer: Indiana 78, Penn State 75
Quick thoughts on a 78-75 win over the Nittany Lions:
How it happened: This one didn’t come easy for Indiana. The Hoosiers had to overcome a knee injury to OG Anunoby late in the first half. And with 4.6 seconds to go, it appeared that Indiana was headed for overtime after blowing a 14-point lead with under 10 minutes to go. But the Hoosiers weren’t going to be denied. On the game’s final possession, James Blackmon Jr. took the ball the length of the floor and nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Hoosiers to their 13th win of the season. Indiana is now back to .500 in conference play at 3-3.
Standout performer(s): Three different Hoosiers finished in double figures as Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Thomas Bryant each finished with 17 points in the crucial road win. Blackmon Jr. and Johnson combined to shoot 8-of-17 on 3-pointers. Bryant finished with nine rebounds.
Statistic that stands out: Indiana scored 1.09 points per possession against Penn State, which was giving up just .90 points per trip coming in. The effective field goal percentage for Indiana was 56.6. Coming into Wednesday, Big Ten opponents were shooting just 44.2 percent against the Nittany Lions.
Final IU player stats:
Final tempo-free stats:
(Photo credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports)
What to Expect: Penn State
Indiana travels to State College on Wednesday night for a critical matchup with Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions are 11-7 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.
The game will be broadcast at 7 p.m. ET on BTN with Jeff Levering and Stephen Bardo on the call:
Indiana is running out of time to break through in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have played five of their 18 conference games and are sitting at just 2-3.
Yes, it’s technically still early in league play, but the problem is that eight of Indiana’s remaining 13 conference games are on the road. The path to 9-9 or better means Indiana has to win at least two road games and that assumes no more slip ups at home, which is no guarantee.
How big is Wednesday’s game at Penn State? If you put any stock into KenPom’s win probabilities, it’s enormous. Here’s a look at Indiana’s remaining Big Ten road games with Pomeroy’s chances of an Indiana win (as of Tuesday, Jan. 17):
Pomeroy is projecting just three road wins for Indiana and Wednesday’s game is one of them. And of the three, it’s Indiana’s second best chance at a win away from Bloomington remaining on the schedule. As John Gasaway correctly pointed out today over at ESPN Insider ($), Indiana can’t take anything for granted the rest of the way.
MEET THE NITTANY LIONS
Two of Indiana’s next five games are against the Nittany Lions, who have won three of their last four. That stretch included a nine-point win over Michigan State at the Palestra and a 2-point win over Minnesota in State College.
Penn State has come a long way since a home loss to Albany to begin the season and a 19-point blowout loss at home to George Mason on Dec. 7. The Nittany Lions play as hard as any team in the league and are beginning to see positive results.
The scouting report begins with 6-foot-2 junior guard Shep Garner, the team’s leading scorer. Garner loves the ball screen – something that Indiana has struggled to defend – but has really struggled with his efficiency in Big Ten play. Garner’s effective field goal percentage in five conference games is just 34.7. His 12.4 points per game lead Penn State.
The arrival of freshman point guard Tony Carr, a former Indiana recruiting target, has allowed Garner to play more off of the ball. He leads Penn State in assists (3.7 per game), but is also struggling with his shooting in league play. Carr is shooting just 35.5 percent on 2s and 29.4 percent on 3s in Big Ten games.
A third guard, 6-foot-4 sophomore Josh Reaves, also starts and is a valuable contributor. Reaves is long and can defend as his steal percentage is eleventh in the country. He’s probably a good bet to spend significant time on James Blackmon Jr. While he’s limited offensively, Reaves does a nice job using his athleticism to draw fouls and get to the foul line. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in league play is 43.9 percent.
Payton Banks, a 6-foot-6 junior, comes off the bench and is Penn State’s third leading scorer. He’s shooting a team-best 39.7 percent on 3s. The Nittany Lions have only made 85 catch-and-shoot jump shots this season and Banks has 33 of them.
Another former Indiana recruiting target, Lamar Stevens, is one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen on the wing for Penn State. Stevens visited Bloomington and was a high school (Roman Catholic) and AAU teammate (Team Final) of Carr. His 12.2 points per game are second on the team and he’s also second in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Stevens is an energy player who loves to play physical. He’s finishing close to 48 percent of his 2s.
In the post, junior Julian Moore is the starter but redshirt freshman Mike Watkins is a force. In Big Ten play, the 6-foot-9, 246 pound Watkins is third in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage and ninth in block percentage. He’s averaging 9.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in league games.
Pat Chambers has Penn State defending at a high level, but the Nittany Lions are struggling offensively. Penn State is great at getting to the foul line, but their offense really struggles overall in the half court.
Penn State is playing the second fastest tempo in league play and it’s clear they are a much better offensive team in transition. The Nittany Lions rank in just the 16th percentile nationally in half court offense, but in the 71st percentile in transition. Indiana has never shied away from pushing the pace, but it might be a strong consideration in this contest.
It’ll be surprising if Indiana’s offense comes anywhere close to its average output (1.16 PPP), so if the Hoosiers hope to win one away from home, the defense must travel. Indiana was able to hold Rutgers down on Sunday, but this will be a better litmus test to gauge where Indiana stands defensively. Penn State hasn’t scored more than 1.06 points per trip in a Big Ten game. Indiana has only given up less than 1.14 once. Something has to give on Wednesday.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
KenPom likes Indiana by four with a 65 percent chance for victory. Sagarin likes Indiana by 5.5. Based on recent evidence, that seems high. Penn State is trending upward while Indiana, outside of Sunday, is really hard to gauge.
The Hoosiers are 3-1 in their last four trips to State College with the lone defeat in that stretch coming during last season’s 15-3 run to the league crown.
This is a crucial week for Indiana with Michigan State looming on Saturday in Bloomington. At 2-3, Indiana’s margin for error is basically gone. Can the Hoosiers start building some momentum with a much needed win on the road?
Juwan Morgan a “game time decision” for Wednesday at Penn State
The status of Indiana sophomore forward Juwan Morgan, who injured his left foot in Sunday’s 76-57 win over Rutgers, remains up in the air for Wednesday’s game at Penn State.
Tom Crean said yesterday on his radio show that Morgan wouldn’t have been able to go if the Hoosiers had practiced on Monday.
On Tuesday afternoon prior to the team’s departure for State College, associate head coach Tim Buckley said he was unsure of Morgan’s availability for Wednesday night.
“I don’t have any sense yet,” Buckley told reporters. “It’ll probably be a game time decision.”
The 6-foot-8 Morgan has been banged up for much of his career in Bloomington. As a freshman, Morgan played through multiple shoulder injuries that required offseason surgery.
This season, he’s appeared in all 18 games, but has battled through multiple setbacks.
Morgan played just eight minutes in Indiana’s 97-62 win over Austin Peay on Dec. 22 because of an ankle injury suffered near the end of the first half. Six days later, he suffered a shoulder injury after being pulled to the floor by Nebraska’s Jordy Tshimanga in a game that Indiana lost 87-83 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
And most recently, Morgan collided with an official in Sunday’s win over Rutgers. He was checked out by trainer Tim Garl on the bench and briefly returned to the game before sitting at the end of the bench with ice on his left foot.
Morgan is averaging 7.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a block in 20.5 minutes per game.
“There’s a lot of pain there,” Crean said Monday. I talked to Tim (Garl) a couple times. (Juwan is) certainly going through his rehab and we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s really no timeline on it right now.”
Video: Tim Buckley, Robert Johnson preview Penn State
Robert Johnson and associate head coach Tim Buckley met with the media on Tuesday afternoon in advance of Indiana’s trip to State College to take on Penn State.
Watch both press conferences below:
What’s behind the dip in Thomas Bryant’s efficiency?
Our hypothesis prior to the season was that Bryant would be able maintain his efficiency and overcome the losses of Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft and Troy Williams. Why? Because the Hoosiers would again have a talented stable of players to surround him with.
Here’s what we wrote in late July:
As Bryant enters his sophomore season, the challenge for Crean and his staff will be to figure out a way to utilize him more without experiencing too much of a dip in efficiency.
The Hoosiers lost plenty in terms of perimeter firepower with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt all moving on, but the remaining mix of talent should allow Bryant to continue operating with space in the post.
One of the keys in both Zeller’s 2012-2013 season and Bryant’s 2015-2016 was Indiana’s ability to surround each player with an efficient four-man. In Zeller’s case, it was Christian Watford, who splashed in 48.4 percent of his 3s as a senior.
And with Bryant last season, it was often Troy Williams, a great slasher and finisher who could also knock down the occasional 3 despite some erratic decision making. And even when the Hoosiers went to the bench, there was Collin Hartman, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, all of whom could keep opposing defenses honest.
This year’s Indiana team returns Hartman, Anunoby and Morgan and also adds De’Ron Davis, who has a reliable mid-range game that makes him less likely to clog the paint if he plays alongside Bryant.
Provided the Hoosiers don’t fall off too much with their perimeter shooting, a more mature Bryant should take another step forward and solidify himself as the Big Ten’s best post player as a sophomore.
Eighteen games into the season, Bryant’s efficiency numbers have taken a dip from his exceptional freshman campaign. After shooting 70.7 percent on 2s last season, he’s down to 54.1 percent this season.
Unlike the Cody Zeller-Christian Watford tandem in 2012-2013 and last season’s stable at the four which included a mix of Williams, Bielfeldt, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, Indiana is getting poor perimeter shooting from the four position.
Anunoby is hitting just 31.8 percent of his 3s and Morgan is hitting just 23.5 percent. De’Ron Davis, who has played alongside Bryant at times, hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer. And Hartman is out indefinitely (and likely for the season) with a knee injury.
But this doesn’t tell the entire story.
According to Synergy Sports, Bryant is actually handling double teams in the post more effectively this season than he did as a freshman. Last season, Bryant scored just .84 points per possession (25 possessions all season) on hard double teams in the post. This season, he’s at 1.04 points per possession (23 possessions). So the pressure is coming more often and Bryant is handling it fine.
And when the pressure comes and Bryant is forced to look out of the post, there hasn’t been a huge dip in efficiency, either. Indiana is scoring 1.19 points per possession when Bryant catches the ball in the post and is then forced to get it back out to a teammate. That’s down from 1.41 last season, but still ranks in the 62nd percentile nationally.
So what’s the issue?
Bryant’s overall post-up numbers have taken a major dip, which says he’s finishing far less effectively. The charts below, via Synergy, show Bryant’s numbers by possession type (six most common) for 2015-16 and 2016-17:
There are a few notable takeaways here: Bryant is posting up less and is less efficient scoring in those situations. He’s getting less action off of cuts and is less efficient in those situations (the lack of a playmaking point guard is surely a factor here). And his usage in spot up situations is up with some solid results.
But the post up drop off is the story here.
A deeper dive into the numbers shows that Bryant is posting up more often on the left block this season than he did a season ago. And the results haven’t been good:
Bryant’s efficiency on the right block is nearly identical to last season. The large drop off is on the left block, where he’s scoring 20 percent less of the time on his opportunities. He’s also flashing to the middle far less and when he does, has been less efficient.
Indiana’s potential in 2016-17 was largely predicated on Bryant maintaining his efficiency and finding a suitable replacement for Ferrell. Neither has happened consistently and, combined with a suspect defense, the Hoosiers are 12-6 and facing an uphill battle the rest of the way.
Film Session: Rutgers
In Indiana’s win over Rutgers on Sunday afternoon, the Hoosiers racked up a season-high 14 steals.
While they came in a variety of ways, there was a consistent theme of jumping Rutgers’ wing handoffs with strength to steal the ball.
We’ll take a look at how Indiana was playing these handoffs — as well as another steal from Devonte Green — in the latest edition of Film Session:
In the first half after Indiana had erased Rutgers’ lead, a handoff is coming on the right wing. OG Anunoby starts to pursue:
On the delivery, Anunoby punches through to knock the ball loose:
He’s off to the races:
And dunks it home as he’s fouled:
News and notes from Tom Crean’s radio show
Inside IU basketball with Tom Crean was live on Monday evening from the Holiday Inn in Bloomington.
Tom Crean, who was out recruiting, called into the show for the first two segments. Chuck Martin was in attendance and spoke for the following two segments. James Blackmon Jr. was the player guest.
The show was marred with technical difficulties, from static going out over the speakers to Crean struggling to connect with Fischer on the phone. When Crean hung up, a loud dial tone played over the speakers for 2-3 seconds.
“I assume that there are gremlins out there,” host Don Fischer said. “Because we have experienced many (technical difficulties) in our broadcast this evening.”
Later in the show, when the static noise increased while Fischer was talking to Martin, Fischer improvised.
“You don’t want people shooting at you while you do the show, right?” Fischer said. “You can hear the popping in the headsets.”
Below are other news, notes and quotes from Crean, Martin and Blackmon Jr:
· When asked by Fischer if he had an update regarding Juwan Morgan’s health, “No. Not really. He wouldn’t have been able to go today (IU didn’t practice on Monday)…It’s tough. There’s a lot of pain there….I talked to Tim (Garl) a couple times. (Juwan is) certainly going through his rehab and we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s really no timeline on it right now.”
· Crean when asked about Wednesday’s matchup with Penn State, “They’re very, very quick. You could probably put the guards’ downhill ability, shooting ability, the multi-dimensions that they have, and the versatility and the numbers that they have with anybody in the league.”
· Crean when asked about the inconsistent play of Thomas Bryant, “(He needs to) focus more and more defensively and how important that is, and get back to rebounding at a better rate. Even when he doesn’t get the rebound, being more active on the glass…In the last five games, he’s averaging 4.5 rebounds per game. That isn’t cutting it.”
· But Crean also noted that Bryant should be getting more foul calls when he drives to the rim,”I’m going to stick up for him, without question, on some things. There’s very little doubt in my mind, watching the game from an objective view, not just as his coach, that he should be shooting more free throws in the game. I don’t ask for a lot of opinions, but the opinions that I do ask for, the people that know the game, I think that they would agree.”
· Chuck Martin, when asked about Collin Hartman, “He wants to be out there. You can see it in his face, through the timeouts…He wants to give as much as he can to the team. He’s tremendous in practice … His knowledge of the game … you can’t put a price tag on that.”
· Martin, when asked if De’Ron Davis and Thomas Bryant will share the court more, “I think so. The answer is yes.” Martin went on to note that having two bigs on the floor in the Big Ten can be advantageous, especially on the offensive glass.
· Blackmon Jr., on becoming the 50th Indiana basketball player to eclipse the 1,000 point mark, “I really never thought about it. It kind of caught me by surprise. After that game, I just wish we could’ve got that win (over Maryland), because it would have been so much more special to me.”
· Blackmon Jr., on the need to communicate better, “the games that we do talk and communicate are the best games we’ve had, like North Carolina and Kansas. So every game I just go out there with the mindset of helping my teammates – the younger guys, getting the other veterans going.”
· Blackmon Jr., when asked about his siblings, “A lot of people are saying Jalen (Blackmon’s youngest brother, who is in eighth grade) will be the best out of all of us,” prompting many fans in the audience to chuckle. When Fischer asked if he agrees with the assessment, “I want him to be … I think he’s on that path.”
· Blackmon Jr., on his future plans, “I’m trying to do my best to finish up and graduate and get a degree (this year).”
Like most week’s, today’s episode of Inside IU Basketball conflicted with the show ‘The Tall Trio’ on WIUX. The show had special guests Zander Diamont and Chronic Hoosier, and was the buzz of the Holiday Inn. Fans were constantly checking Twitter for updates, and one person, who said he listened to the show on the way in, said he hoped that it would be replayed.
Fortunately, the entire two-hour show is now available online. Diamont even chimes in with his thoughts on Tom Crean.
POTB 159: Reader questions and expectations moving forward
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich are joined by Josh Margolis of Inside the Hall and The Assembly Call to discuss a variety of topics. Among them:
· What’s behind the struggles of Thomas Bryant
· The playing time of De’Ron Davis and whether he should take some of Bryant’s minutes
· Indiana’s starting lineup moving forward
· The role of Josh Newkirk
· Will minutes increase for Curtis Jones?
· Juwan Morgan’s play early in the second half against Rutgers
· The craziness of the Big Ten standings
· Expectations the rest of the way for Indiana
The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back following the third week of conference play, and parity continues to reign. Ten teams in the conference have either two or three losses, and only Rutgers remains winless.
After averaging 1.42 PPP in a 16-point win over Michigan early in the week, the Illini saw a double-digit lead over the Terrapins evaporate Saturday. While Maryland penetrated the Illinois defense, the Illini settled for jump shots. When those shots stopped falling in the second half, the lack of quality looks caught up with Illinois.
What got the Buckeyes out of the funk that they had been suffering through for weeks? It might have been that after a 23-point blowout loss in Madison on Thursday. The young Buckeyes’ finally got the message Thad Matta had been trying to send them for weeks. Or maybe it was the fact Matta wore a tie on the bench for the first time in years on Sunday. It probably wasn’t the tie, but Matta would be wise to stick with it again when his Buckeyes head to Lincoln Wednesday.
The Wolverines are a team of wild extremes – with both the best offense and worst defense in the conference. Beilein’s team may have avoided an 0-2 week by holding off the Cornhuskers in Ann Arbor, but serious questions about Michigan continue to linger.
The Cornhuskers fell to 0-7 all-time against Michigan despite a career-high 28 points from Tai Webster. Even though Nebraska shot 56 percent from the floor, the Cornhuskers couldn’t overcome the liability that is their defense, allowing Michigan to score 51 second half points.
As Peter Jok goes, so do the Hawkeyes. Just three days after eeking out a win over Purdue on Thursday behind 29 points from Jok, the Hawkeyes laid an egg in Evanston, allowing the Wildcats to average 1.33 PPP in a 35-point loss. One major difference (besides the defense) – Northwestern held Jok in check the entire game. The senior scored a season-low four points on 2-of-9 shooting, and as a result, Iowa could never find any rhythm offensively.
Not much has changed in the past week regarding the Hoosiers’ predicament in the conference race. After failing to capitalize on a late lead in College Park, the path to another regular season crown remains narrow. With eight road games still remaining, Indiana is going to have to find ways to win outside of Assembly Hall if they want to get above .500 in Big Ten play.
Although the offense is far from a thing of beauty, Penn State’s stellar defense has consistently put them in a position to win games late. This was the case on Saturday, when neither Penn State or Minnesota managed to shoot over 40 percent from the field, combining for 38 turnovers in a 52-50 nailbiting victory for the Nittany Lions.
The Gophers suffered their first pair consecutive defeats of the season this past week, falling to both Michigan State and Penn State on the road. Although the defense has remained stout, the offense has suddenly plummeted back to earth. Minnesota ended both losses with a 0.72 PPP, a far cry from the 1.05 PPP they were averaging a week ago.
Miles Bridges is back to full health and playing phenomenal basketball, but the Spartans are still going through the same growing pains they experienced early in the season. The next two games for Michigan State (at Indiana, vs. Purdue) should go a long way in figuring out where the Spartans stand in the Big Ten picture.
The Wildcats have been one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten this season, and people are starting to take notice. Before yesterday, Northwestern hadn’t started a conference season 4-2 or better since 1967-68. On Sunday, Northwestern poured it on the Hawkeyes, scoring 89 points in their largest victory over Iowa in program history.
The Terrapins survived a challenge from Indiana and are a legit contender in the race for the Big Ten title. That’s in large part because they were blessed by the schedule makers – with just one game each against Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana.
Purdue allowed the Hawkeyes to shoot 67 percent in the second half, while at the other end, the Boilermakers failed to score in the last 2:47 of the game. The road loss doesn’t detract much from the Boilers’ resume, but it means they no longer control their own destiny when it comes to the Big Ten title picture.
The Badgers handled their business this week, trouncing Ohio State in their lone game. The next true test for Wisconsin will come Saturday when they head to Minnesota to face an improved Gophers team in a rivalry game.