Win proves again that it’s all about defense

  • 01/15/2011 11:40 pm in

BLOOMINGTON — Execution is the common theme that runs through all of basketball. Everything a team wants to do, every goal it wants to achieve, however small or large, specific or grandiose, will be determined by its ability to execute.

Throughout the build-up to this season, defense was the word on the lips of everyone inside the Indiana program. It was, they said, the primary focus of the Hoosiers’ offseason work, and the peg upon which they would hang their basketballing hat this winter, a prediction that played out favorably until tougher opponents started appearing on the schedule.

Over their recent four-game losing streak, the Hoosiers were allowing a rather putrid 76.5 points per contest. And to skirt the border of an awful cliche, their worst was last — a 93-81 loss at Northwestern, during which the Wildcats tortured Indiana in transition and in the halfcourt in almost equal measure.

Saturday night could not have been more different.

From Michigan’s very first possession, Indiana’s gameplan against Michigan was laid clear — take away Darius Morris’ ability to drive his right and close down his options on the kickout, primarily Zack Novak. That plan was executed (buzz word) precisely.

Verdell Jones, playing straight up for much of the game on Morris, played him hard to the Michigan guard’s right, practically inviting him to drive to the left. It was an invitation Morris rarely accepted. When he did, he looked uncomfortable, and on the drives that made it to the basket, he still switched to his right hand to try a layup, costing him at least one bucket.

Novak was so far removed from the game it was hard to tell when he was on the floor. The sharpshooter hit a barren 2-of-6 from the field, and 1-of-5 from behind the arc. Jeremiah Rivers in particular shadowed the junior from Chesterton to fine effect, closing him out of a first half that ended with Michigan having scored just 15 points, the lowest halftime total for an Big Ten opponent since 2002.

So visibly frustrated was Novak that even when he got a handful of open looks in the second half, he missed them badly, and at one point was so flustered by what he thought was an uncalled foul that he appeared to kick out at Maurice Creek as Creek retreated back down the floor.

To its credit, Michigan made a bevy of small runs in the second half, cutting the lead to 11 at one point. But Indiana’s offense also found its groove early and never let up, and the Wolverines simply had no answer for the rotating combination of Watford, Jones and Jordan Hulls, whose late threes Michigan coach John Beilein called “daggers.”

By game’s end, the Hoosiers’ offensive numbers were impressive — 67.4 percent shooting, 6-of-14 from 3-point range, 16-of-20 from the line. But the game started with excellent defensive execution, completely removing a young Michigan team from anything resembling its comfort zone.

The offense was strong, and several individual performances impressive. But Indiana’s ability to rediscover its long-absent defensive prowess and, more importantly, execute its defensive gameplan were paramount in the Hoosiers’ first Big Ten win in 2011.

(Photo credit: Jamie Owens)

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  • Anonymous

    One thing I noticed throughout the game was that not only was our defensive intensity high in our man sets, but our communication was good when we got beat. And that didn’t become an excuse not to recover quickly.

    Rivers noted that they had worked on being more vocal on the defensive side and that was one of the keys to the victory tonight. Hopefully our guys learned an important lesson and are enjoying this because they’re really going to need to talk to each other on the road in Wisconsin and then Iowa on Sunday.

  • Anonymous

    I dvr’d the game and the recording ended with Mo Creek grimacing on the floor holding his knee. What came of that? Is he ok?

  • haha that sucks Arsdale…he walked off the court without a visible limp and checked back in the game a couple minutes later…hopefully there won’t be any lingering effects!!

  • Anonymous

    I know there’s been a lot of discussion about the offense IU runs this year but for me, the play on the defensive end has been far more frustrating. Rivers is almost always able to play a team’s best guard tight but it was nice to see the guys play more team defense tonight. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather see them go on a short stint without a score then watch our guys be blown or give up wide open threes play after play.

  • Anonymous

    Worst time for the DVR to end! I swear, our guys go down in the most dramatic of fashions. When both Roth and Rivers went down earlier this year I thought by the way they were carrying on they were both going to be done for the season. They apparently just like to keep us on our toes (much like your DVR).

  • Anonymous

    Cool. I just watched CTC’s presser after the game and he said he wasn’t concerned when he saw Creek on the floor, so I figured he was ok.

  • SeattleHoosier

    I love the fact that we won, and agree we executed better on defense, but we have to give some of the credit to Michigan. They played poorly…terribly in fact…and not all due to our defense.

  • SeattleHoosier

    He walked off under his own power…even smiling. Haven’t heard anything official regarding his status, but I do know that the knee he hurt tonight is different than the knee he hurt last year.

  • Anonymous

    Should there be about a hundred and one different stories about Novak trying to trip Mo like there was on DE’s incident. It’s like I said on that particular thread, this kind of thing goes on a lot more than what most people realize. Doesn’t make it right but then again it also doesn’t keep it from happening. Should Novak get a pass just because he wasn’t able to completely able to trip Mo or should he be suspended for the next game ? The only difference between DE’s incident and what Novak done was that DE was successful and got caught and Novak was not successful and didn’t get caught.

    Crean saying that he had no fear what so ever go through him when Mo went down for a little bit was some positive PR spin in my mind. How could there possibly be no fear what so ever go through any coach’s mind when a player of Mo’s magnitude goes down like he did after what he has been through. I know there sure as hell was some fear went through me until I seen him get up and walk back to the bench. Seeing him come back into the game very shortly thereafter was good move on Crean’s part and was big for Mo to see that he could shake it off and go back in and play.

    Thought our defense was much improved tonight in more than one aspect but it was also helped to look much better due to UM being really off tonight in shooting the ball. Yes that was due in part to our better defense but they still had some looks that they should not have gotten but fortunately weren’t able to convert on.

  • Anonymous

    I completely disagree. The team gave a huge amount of effort throughout the entire game, and that was everybody, including Watford (Nice swat in the 2nd half, 10 rebounds). Clearly they had a talking-to before this game, and a lot of their shots were altered, and even when Michigan made good passes, IU challenged almost every shot. They were ready to be physical for once this season, and it paid off. Hell, Morris was shut down for the entire game until the last few minutes.

    Michigan didn’t play well, but IU deserves more credit than Michigan does for the low scoring output.

  • Q95

    so true…i never get excited about flashy play or the monster dunks posted on this site. it all boils down to one thing…can he defend.

  • Anonymous

    Great defensive effort by the Hoosiers tonite. They really did a nice job of staying out on the shooters- Novak, Douglass, etc.

    Novak really became frustrated and definitely kicked at Watford hoping to trip him after going to the floor. He also routinely grabbed fistfuls of jerseys to slow down Hoosiers on defense- thankfully some of these were called.

    To see Mo Creek go down in a similar manner and place to his original injury last year was frightening for fans, teammates and I am sure Mo. It was a relief to see him walk on his own power to the bench and then to be put back in the game to help him mentally recover from last year’s knee injury.

  • Diesel

    All the talk about transition defense regardless of the other team comes down to this: you find your man early and you play defense. And it really did work for these guys. The mindset right away was focus and intensity on the defensive end as soon as possession changed. Well done CTC.

  • Luke72

    Looking at the enthusiasm being displayed by both the players on and off the court this was what I had on my wish list for how this team would play! Having a fired up crowd was a big help as well! Verdell played his best game of his career at the best time that it could happen!! Great team win! Best X-O job by Coach Crean this year as well! All in all this looked like Hoosier basketball again!!!

  • Bleeding Crimson

    It happen right in front of the bench. You could tell that when he went up he pulled something, not related to the knee and he didn’t have an ACL tear of lateral movement. I don’t recall seeing coach even get up and check him out or speak to him on the bench, therefore putting him back in the game. I know I was thinking oh know until I seen the reply and him coming back in the line up. Don’t know if I would give him a pass.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    So much for coach not being able to coach. It didn’t look as if anything had change but execution of the plan. We are a growing team slow to learn.

  • MillaRed

    I would argue Novak’s move was dirtier than what Elston did. Not sure Elston was actually trying to hurt anyone and Novak’s little ninja kick looked pretty bad. How would he have felt the next day if he re-injured Mo’s knee? That turd.

    Personally I wasn’t thrilled to see Mo back in the game. I understand they wanted everyone to see Mo was OK. But he wasn’t effective last night in the first place. And the thought of him hurt made me cringe.

  • MillaRed

    The big lead we had was too much to overcome fortunately. We definitely need to play with more poise when we have a lead. Shooting too early in the shot clock, making bad passes etc.

    I have been hard on Coach and his timeouts. When I coach I will take a timout even when things are going well. Just to remind them of the possibilities when you have a lead.

    “Keep the pressure on and put it away. Keep running the offense. Play smart. Use the shot clock.”

    I’m sure all of these things are being said. I’m just sayin’ these guys are young and seem to need constant reminders to keep it real.

  • MillaRed

    Really impressed with Jordy’s post-game interview. When asked about his lack of scoring, “We were up by 15 points. I don’t care if I score 2 or 20 if we win the game.”

    Jordy says all of the right things and he believes in the program. He’s everything you want in a player and I can’t wait to see him get more shots the next few years. I think Cody’s inside presence and a healthy Mo will really open things up for him next season.

    I think right now in the right system he could score 17 ppg. Every time this kid shoots I’m thinking, “That’s in.” Wow.

  • I’m amazed that the refs didn’t catch it. I think about 10,000 people shouted “hey!” and pointed at the attempted trip.

  • Anonymous

    That’s why you always have to DVR the following show as well!

  • Anonymous

    The one early assist TP had was a beautiful pass.

  • Anonymous

    I know Michigan is still down, but one thing that’s still impressive about this defensive performance is the fact that Beilein plays a fairly obscure offense and our guys were able to adjust pretty well to it.

  • Zach Osterman

    Creek walked off and then actually came back on the floor. Given his history, it’s presumable he never would have been allowed back on the floor had the knee been anything serious. Also, it was not the same knee he injured last season.

  • So last year IU finished 183 in the pomeroy rankings. This year we currently rank 68. I think thats marked improvement.

  • Anonymous

    Even though Michigan is in somewhat of a “rebuilding” phase still, it should be noted they only lost to Syracuse by 3, took Kansas to overtime, and lost to OSU by 4. Granted it’s looking like they are shaping up to be a pedestrian road team, but I still think this was a good win over what will end up being a lower-middle to middle Big Ten team. I was impressed by the overall effort and if they can manage to bring that type of game every night from here on out there is no reason they can’t win the games they should win at home, grab a couple road wins, along with an upset or two, and finish 16-15 heading into the B10 tourney. And to be honest, there really isn’t any reason this team shouldn’t be able to at least get to 14 or 15 wins, minimum. It may not be the progress you’d hoped for at the beginning of the season, but it is visible progress, and right now I’m okay with that.

  • Just a tip, when I DVR sports I always extend the recording an extra hour, that way it won’t cutoff if there’s an overtime or the game goes long for some reason.

  • Anonymous

    don’t get to watch the games down here, but yay!

  • Diesel

    I think just guys already committed. I saw Trey Lyles on TV, and then some tweets that Devin Davis and I believe Yogi made it.

  • Diesel

    That gets us in the NCAA tournament, no?

    Seriously though, we did meet the 10 win mark last night and I’d be curious to know what people believe the resonable over under on wins this season should be. Alex, are you still doing any polls? Don’t think I’ve seen one in a while.

  • Anonymous

    A better effort by the Hoosiers last night. Certainly not a great effort but a better one. They still made a lot of the same mistakes that they’ve made throughout this season but the lack of talent on Michigan allowed IU to get away with it. In my opinion IU would be one of the better mid-major teams in the land.

    Nice game by VJIII and Hulls…Rivers was solid again. Watford did was he’s supposed to do when there is a mouse in the house and it was nice to see TP get some PT and make some nice plays.

    There were times when the offense was run in a crisp fashion but they still fell into their bad habits a lot of times. Same thing on the defensive end. A win is a win is a win but by no means do I think IU has made great progress since they lost to Minnesota.

    I suppose that we’ll know for sure on Thursday @ Wisconsin.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I’ve said from the beginning that I would be satisfied with 15 wins.

  • Anonymous

    I want to revisit my comments from earlier this week, left on the power rankings post. These were the five things I mentioned I was tired of seeing:
    1. Poor coaching decisions in terms of the defense played; if Crean insists on playing zone, it’s time to teach the principles and objectives
    2. An incredible lack of movement on offense – this team has mastered four corners, it’s time to move on
    3. Watford shooting 3-pointers on a regular basis
    4. Verdell not playing with confidence, something for which Crean and staff must take responsibility
    5. Lack of playing time for Sheehey, who has become the Derek Elston of the 2010-11 season

    Crean and staff clearly worked on fixing the first four problems in the week since the Northwestern game. Aggressive man-to-man kept Michigan from doing anything but settling for bad jump shots for the first 30 minutes. IU’s offense was crisp until Michigan went back to 1-3-1, about the time they made their run that Jordy shut down with back-to-back 3s.

    Watford and VJIII need to watch this tape and absorb it for how they need to play from this point forward. Watford didn’t camp at the top of the key and wait for his teammates to expect the bailout jumper – he moved, he posted, he competed, and he succeeded. VJIII returned to form, period.

    I’ll settle for Sheehey only playing nine minutes as long as the first four factors are addressed. This is how successful this team COULD be. They are not going to the tournament, but they COULD be respectable in the Big Ten and take six to eight games.

  • Anonymous

    Big win. For most of the game they moved with more effort and quicker than the previous games. They need to continue to work hard during all their games – sweat a lot – play so hard that you have to come out of the game because of exhaustion. I think they have been lacking this previously. They need to be a team that never stops moving. VJ improved in this category for parts of the game and I didn’t mind seeing him on the court when he wasn’t starting the offense and having the ball in his hands for most of the possession. There are some teams in the big ten that IU can beat and with additional efforts they will beat them.

  • Overall a great defensive effort. I also think the players are fitting into their roles.

    Jordy protects the ball and spaces the floor – and is lethal with the 3. His shots were daggers. More importantly –

    CWat wasn’t afraid to drive the lane and grab rebounds. He is more of a 3 than 4 but for this team to win he needs to play like this. Granted the Mich guys were not the strongest but hopefully this mindset will flourish.

    I totally agree that JR is terrific on D and is evolving into an effective leader on this team – being vocal will be part of it and Pritch played with passion and was effective and more confident.

  • JerryCT

    Late to posting and who cares anyway .

    It appeared to me that the team finally discovered we can pass out of the post position especially TP who has tremendous court vision.

    When we do that TP, DE and Capo need to be defended and not ignored and this opens the floor ……… and this is just what the doctor needs for our slow-mo version of the drive offense.

    Except for some sloppiness at times the game was satisfying .

    My favorite player most games has been JR and he plus CW were the best on the floor overall IMHO. JR for defense and CW looked as close to “DJ White automatic” as we have seen.

    I am trying not to slight VJ3 at all here and should acknowledge his considerable effort

    Wisky will be very curious game:

    + Can JR defend Taylor ?, if so , we are in the game
    + Who can defend Leurs all over the floor ? ….. I vote for TP
    + If the above work this makes the other players beat us
    + Can CW compete with this team ? …….. or will they beat him up
    + I think SHeehey, VO, Creek are quicker on cuts than Wisc can defend
    + I would not mind pressing these guys to make Taylor work his butt off or have the bigs handle the ball

  • I started the season with fingers crossed for 16-17 wins, then lowered it to 12 after PSU/OSU/Minn, but now I’m back up to 14.

  • Now that was a game I could watch more than once…

  • marcusgresham

    I said the line was 15 with an over/under of 2 depending on breaks. Given the Guy-less entry that break puts it on the low end of 15 which is disappointing because that means no post-season.

  • WALT

    It was a pleasure seeing IU get down to business; a bit of aggressiveness, lots of effort. Especially appreciated the play of Hulls and VJ. Am out of state, so wondered about Mo Creek’s knee. Nothing in our papers about his condition. Also wonder if Wisc. basketball players will have the same smirks and grins on their mugs as the football players had when they played IU. Come IU make them a bit somber.

  • JerryCT

    Finally , no more proctology anal – ogies during the replay

  • JerryCT

    HHmmmm !

    You think small can beat big vs Wisky ?

    You make me think however that we do seem more predictable and have fewer dimensions than I would like.

    Also I think Coach is not a risk taker and would not take this risk . He senses no margin for error .

    Me? I like changing things up to keep players motivated and the other team guessing. When we have gone small in come from behind we looked pretty good so …………. I don’t know …. why not ?

    Another loss at Kohl is all we risk ………….

  • Last time we beat a Big Ten team by 19 or more was Feb 16th, 2008 against 10th ranked Michigan State. It’s interesting to revisit the state of Indiana basketball with this article below.

  • stonaroni

    I want to thank CTC for having a team on Sat that was hungry, determined, motivated and prepared.

    I think we all agree that CTC works hard, but some, like myself have questioned the transfer from practice to the game as well as the in-game coaching.

    Here are some major positives I found as I watched the game.

    + Ball movement. there was still dribbling but much more of it was directional and had a purpose.

    + The wings looked to receive the ball and ready to attack catching the ball facing the basket.

    + Rebounding/Box Out was consistent throughout the game

    + Defensive intensity

    + TP was not out roaming hedging screens and picking up fouls 19 feet from the basket; CTC had him calling out the screen playing behind his man and allowing the guard to fight over or thru the screen. I liked this much better as it cut down on the drive to the basket.

    + CW got his point inside first and established a presence

    + VJ found more seams in the D and the floor spacing was better, sick cross overs all night long

    + The offense sets had more structure and movement away from the ball

    + I liked CTC’s timeout when the Michigan zone caused a few issues

    + Hulls just continues to prove he is our best shooter and can be clutch if he gets the look

    +TP played with a charisma that hasn’t been seen in awhile

    + I liked the balanced shot attempts from 3 range and mid range jumpers, we didn’t fall in love with the 3 all night and we looked to the post.

    I think the full week to prep was huge. Now I want to see consistency. Glad to see the players wake up. CTC cannot play the game but he controls who plays the game. I hope CW is back, VJ continue to improve his control, and the defense keeps hustling.

    If this is the case and we lose, so be it. But, I think I speak for many, the effort we saw against Mich is to be expected at this level every night. Consistent effort like that would have resulted in wins against UNI, Colorado, PSU and Minn. I hope the team now sees what hard work can do in the W/L column.

  • base

    Coach aced Michigan and might be on to something. When we play a 4 – high post motion, two things occur. First we can transition quickly on defense and that was Coach’s mantra last week. Second, we let the offense just play. Play like in Y-ball, pick-up ball and AAU ball. There isn’t much thinking and insticts take over. There is nothing more priceless in coaching than saying something significant with as few as words as possible. Coach is a wise man for his age and if you viewed his presser, you will see how well his mind works and I’ve never seen him shaken by any questions. Listen to his chosen word in that presser, he is good.

  • JerryCT

    Base – If you recorded the game check out the offense at about 12:48 of the 2nd half. Almost your 5 out with TP handling the ball at the top.

    We had an open looks available almost everywhere . The pass went to VJ3 near the basket but he passed it up to an open Roth ( who missed ) . I could see this offense killing teams with 3pt shots and backdoor cuts.

  • stonaroni

    I felt with GMM, we could get to 18, without him 15 is solid. If we improve next year to 20+ that is good. Hopefully by the time jordy, mo, cw and elston are SR’s we will be 24+ victories from that point on.

    15 would be good. That would be 2 or 3 we should win against Mich, PSU, NW at home and 2 or 3 we steal against Purdue, Ill, Wisc, etc.

  • JerryCT

    As noted earlier check out the offense at 12:48 -ish in the 2nd half against their zone. Roth missed the shot but we had open looks just about everywhere

  • SeattleHoosier

    Taskmaster – Perhaps you can tell me specifically where we “completely disagree”? Seems to me we agree that 1) Michigan played poorly/not so well and 2) our success was due in part to IU’s improved play (my comment that Michigan’s poor play was “NOT ALL due to our defense” (emphasis mine) can only be construed as some of their poor play could be attributed to our defense).

    I may not have been explicit regarding the relative contribution of “Michigan’s Poor Play” and “IU’s improved play”, but it’s hard to understand why you COMLETELY disagree.