Thoughts on an 83-67 loss to the Boilermakers:
Mackey Arena cheered loudly. The Paint Crew jumped up and down. Here came the opening tip between A.J. Hammons and Troy Williams. As Hammons gained possession for the Boilermakers, Williams never made it off his feet and fell to the ground.
It was symbolic of things to come.
The Boilermakers established themselves immediately behind a raucous crowd tonight. Indiana went down for the count early, never to recover. Like the Buckeyes on Sunday, Purdue ramped up its defensive pressure on the perimeter, playing IU’s dribble handoffs tighter and getting into its air space. With Hammons behind the first line of defense to challenge any Hoosier who broke through, it was an intimidating, tough defense that gave Indiana trouble.
After going down by as many as 13, it seemed like the Hoosiers were settling into the game as the first half neared completion. Williams hit a layup with 1:45 left to close the gap to eight points. After an Emmitt Holt block and steal, Indiana had the opportunity to close the gap even further with just over a minute to play. But James Blackmon Jr. made an ill-advised pass to Williams — during a game Indiana was a bit too careless with the ball — on IU’s ensuing possession and Basil Smotherman stole it and scored in transition.
It was as close as Indiana would get the rest of the evening.
Thoughts on an 82-70 loss to the Buckeyes:
When Indiana takes care of the ball and shoots it well, its suspect defense fades into the background. This is a team that entered today’s contest ranked 11th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play and No. 198 in the country, per KenPom. But on afternoons like Sunday, where the opponent disrupts Indiana’s offensive flow and the Hoosiers get less shots due to a bevy of turnovers — both forced and unforced — it’s hard to have the game’s balance fall on their side.
The dynamic offense has less chances to keep pace — or in many cases so far this year, surpass — what Indiana’s underwhelming defense is giving up. So despite scoring 1.12 points per possession and shooting a 64 eFG% at Value City Arena today, Indiana still ended up with a 12-point loss in a game it only had control of during the opening minutes. Ohio State’s defense tightened things up after the Hoosiers started 8-of-8. It made it hard for Indiana to get into the paint, so its offensive possessions sometimes looked like last year’s, as the Weave of Death around the perimeter ended with someone having to fling up a less-than-ideal look late in the shot clock. The Buckeyes also tossed a full-court press at Indiana, which it struggled against.
Ohio State sagged off Troy Williams. It made it harder for him to create off the bounce and his jump shot still isn’t there yet where he can keep defenses honest. It threw him off and he ended the game with five turnovers. Indiana also did itself in too often. The passing and decision-making wasn’t quite up to its standards at times. By contest’s end, the Hoosiers turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions (24.1 TO%). That’s simply not going to get it done on the road in the Big Ten.
Thoughts on an 89-70 win over the Terrapins:
Tom Crean trimmed the roster fat this summer. He studied Euroball. He knew his team lacked size and experience. But there was no question they’d be able to shoot. No question they’d have better ballhandlers and playmakers. He wanted his offense to space the floor and drive to the hole. Find those shooters and knock down shots if the defense collapsed. He wanted to keep the tempo up in transition, making plays and hitting 3-pointers. The parts could interchange and the results would still wind up the same.
His summer dreams became winter reality tonight inside Assembly Hall.
This was not just a win over No. 13 Maryland, a team entering the contest as the Big Ten’s best defense and tied for the conference lead. This was a blowout of epic offensive proportions. It was a game Indiana controlled for a full 40 minutes. Maryland had no answer for Indiana, as it essentially played a five-guard lineup for most of the contest. Oh, the Terrapins tried disrupting the flow. They went 1-3-1 in the second half. Indiana stayed patient, moved the ball, found Troy Williams in the short corner. He passed to Robert Johnson for a 3-pointer. Splash.
Maryland tried full-court pressure on Indiana’s next possession. The Hoosiers stayed patient, moved the ball, found James Blackmon Jr. for a 3-pointer. Splash. Indiana hit 15-of-22 (68.2%) from distance for the contest. Max Hoetzel (1-of-1), Johnson (1-of-3), Blackmon Jr. (3-of-5), Collin Hartman (3-of-3) and Yogi Ferrell (7-of-8) all got in the mix. It helped the Hoosiers shoot an effective field goal percentage of 75.0 percent. They also scored 1.39 points per possession against a Maryland squad coming in allowing just .90 in conference play.
Thoughts on an 80-74 win against the Illini:
Ranked No. 1, they couldn’t do it. Last season in overtime, they didn’t come through. 11 out of their last 12 tries, it didn’t happen.
But on this Sunday afternoon inside the State Farm Center in front of a record crowd of 17,085, the Hoosiers got it done and head back to Bloomington with the W. That’s two road wins in three tries to start the Big Ten season. It’s their third conference win coming into the game as the underdog. Size be damned, these Hoosiers show no panic or fear. They are a confident bunch of kids.
There were wild swings in this one. Indiana fell behind 14-3 as the Illini started hot from the perimeter. But the Hoosiers would bounce back. Illinois allowed dribbled penetration. IU’s guards took it into the paint for scores and kickouts to its 3-point shooters. Some of it came so easy it felt like a non-conference affair. What was once an 11-point deficit became an 11-point lead at 34-23 after a Collin Hartman score. At one point during this run, the Hoosiers stopped the Illini on seven straight possessions. But there came 11 straight points from Illinois toward the end of the half and they tied the ballgame at 34-all. Four points from the Hoosiers to close out the half had them up 38-34 at the break.
Thoughts on a 76-73 win against the Nittany Lions:
Assembly Hall was in a deep slumber.
Despite the pace Penn State’s defense let Indiana get out and run at, the Hoosiers lacked energy and sharpness. The crowd, even with the students back, wasn’t bringing much. It felt more like a preseason game with little consequence than Indiana’s fourth Big Ten game of the season.
On a night Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Devin Davis sat on the bench in IU warmup gear, Emmitt Holt had no rebounds in 13 minutes. It wasn’t until Ryan Burton entered the game at the 12:03 mark in the second half that Assembly Hall came to life. Burton, unlike some of his teammates up to that point, starting getting after it with hustle, energy and effort. The Assembly Hall faithful rose from its seats in admiration. When Burton subbed out at the 6:43 mark, he’d picked up three offensive boards, two of which led to second-chance scores for the Hoosiers — a Troy Williams bucket and a James Blackmon Jr. 3-pointer. Those three offensive boards were half of Indiana’s total for the entire contest on a night it only rebounded 20 percent of its misses.
Burton entered the game with it knotted up at 51 apiece. When he departed, the Hoosiers found themselves up 10 points at 69-59. Despite limping to the finish line and Penn State nearly tying it at the buzzer, it was the turning point of the contest and aided the Hoosiers to their victory.
Thoughts on a 69-66 win over the Buckeyes:
The Buckeyes switched IU’s dribble handoffs, containing the Hoosiers’ offense on the perimeter. Indiana turned the ball over a few times. The Hoosiers couldn’t find the hole. It was a shaky start for them back inside Assembly Hall.
But things changed. The Hoosiers started bringing energy and intensity and the crowd fed off it. A 9-2 deficit became as much as an 11-point lead (26-15) before they settled for a six-point advantage heading into break (32-26). Indiana, not known as a prolific rebounding team, was extraordinary on the boards in the first half, rebounding 48.8 percent of its misses to Ohio State’s paltry 13.6 percent. It led to 12 second-chance points and was the difference in a half they turned it over far too much (27.7%) and couldn’t hit from distance (3-of-12). At one point, the Hoosiers were able to get three offensive rebounds in a row, the last of which ended the possession with a Yogi Ferrell triple from the top of the key.
Troy Williams, after a forgettable performance against Michigan State, also was a big reason Indiana was able to win the lead in the first half and keep it to the final buzzer. Williams had eight points and eight boards (three offensive) at the break. He finished with a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with 15 points. Williams also had a pair of dunks — one in the halfcourt over Amir Williams and a double-clutch on the break — that brought the Assembly Hall faithful to a fever pitch. That latter dunk on the break was followed by a big time block from the sophomore on the other end. Williams also found James Blackmon Jr. for a 3-pointer early in the second half which started to really get him going.
The freshman was just 1-of-5 heading into halftime, but he got to the hoop for a score early in the second half and it seemed to ignite him. He hit the aforementioned 3-ball. He hit a floater. He also hit some key free throws down the stretch (5-of-5) — as did his backcourt mate Yogi Ferrell (7-of-8) — to keep Ohio State just a touch behind the Hoosiers as D’Angelo Russell’s 3-ball try to tie the game at the buzzer didn’t find the net.
The freshman finished the game 6-of-13 (18 points) after a strong second half. As Dan Dakich said on the call: “Water finds its level and James Blackmon’s is really high.”
Thoughts on a 70-50 loss to the Spartans:
An abysmal offensive start for the Hoosiers only compounded itself as the first half went along.
Yes, Michigan State did a nice job with its perimeter defense early, not letting the Hoosiers get into the lane for kickouts to 3-point shooters or dumpoffs to the short corners. A good 3-point defending team, the Spartans stopped the attack and also kept Indiana’s shooters close.
Still, when the Hoosiers have had to take even semi-contested 3-pointers this season, they’ve found a way to drop them in the bucket. It’s the luxury of having multiple guys shooting at a high clip from distance. Keep hunting and somebody’s going to hit.
But not tonight. No, this was Brick City at the Breslin Center. There was an airball from Robert Johnson. There were 3-balls that hit only the backboard. There were some that barely kissed the rim. So many ugly misses. By game’s end, the Hoosiers hit just 5-of-24 from distance (20.8 percent). James Blackmon Jr. missed all five of his attempts from distance, was blown by for a score out of an MSU out of bounds play and missed an open Collin Hartman in the corner in the second half, as his attempt to score over the trees in the paint didn’t work out. The freshman started the game 0-of-10 and finished just 1-of-14 from the floor.