Indiana knew it would get severely challenged on Tuesday night against No. 4 Louisville in Madison Square Garden.
It knew the Cardinals attack the boards and force turnovers. The Hoosiers were going to do all they could to combat it.
It was not enough as Louisville (8-0) defeated Indiana (7-2) by a 94-74 score. The Cardinals rebounded 52.0 percent of their misses. They also forced 19 Hoosiers turnovers and an Indiana season-high 24.6 turnover percentage.
“They deserved to win, they did a great job and I’m sure we’ll find some bright things on it from the tape,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “Right now I don’t see it that way, but we’ve got to be much more competitive on the glass and we have to play with a higher level of intelligence and a higher level of toughness in other areas to improve and get better and to be able to challenge teams like that and be able to play in our league the way we need to play.”
For the first half and opening five minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers actually proved to be competitive against the Cardinals — a team that came into the game ranked No. 2 in defense in the country.
From the start, the Hoosiers struggled with turnovers and allowing offensive rebounds. But their shooting kept them in it.
In the first half alone, Indiana shot 7-of-10 on three-pointers and posted a 67.2 effective field goal percentage. The Cardinals led at one point, 44-31, but the lead quickly evaporated via two straight three-pointers from Nick Zeisloft and a layup from James Blackmon Jr.
By halftime, the Cardinals led by only a 46-41 score.
“We can be really good,” Blackmon said. “I think we showed that. But the turnovers and the rebounding, that hurt us.”
Through the first few minutes of the second half, Indiana even gained a four-point lead, at its maximum besting Louisville by a 52-48 margin. But a 21-4 run quickly evaporated that lead.
The Cardinals continued to dominate the paint — rebounding more than half their misses, scoring 48 points overall in the paint, another 16 from the free throw line and 25 points from second-chance opportunities — and they continued to capitalize on Hoosiers turnovers, finishing with 19 points off turnovers. All the while, the Hoosiers’ offensive performance deteriorated.
After its first-half explosion, the Hoosiers’ second half consisted of a 1-of-10 rate on three-pointers and a 42.2 effective field goal percentage. The Cardinals put the game out of reach.
“We had some very youthful mistakes going to the basket,” Crean said. “At times we drove to the rim like it was 5-on-0 at practice, forgetting their one of the nation’s leaders in blocked shots and that was not the game plan. The game plan was to keep the dribble alive underneath the basket, keep the game moving, look for cutters and not try to attack and challenge their shot blockers. That’s not the objective for a team like Louisville. The objective is to get good open shots.
“I wouldn’t say we settled, I would say we pre-determined our shot, rather than making the next play. We played young.”
There were positives to take away from the Hoosiers’ performance. The offense forced Louisville into its highest points per possession rate allowed this season (0.96). The Hoosiers shot the best of any team against the Cardinals this season. They also held the Cardinals to below a 50 percent effective field goal rate.
Following the game, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he did not have any doubts the Hoosiers will be an NCAA tournament team this season. But when Zeisloft was asked whether the Hoosiers believe the same thing, he shrugged the assumption off. He said there is plenty of room to still improve — especially after Tuesday’s game.
“Every day we have a lot of things to do to get to the level we want to be at,” Zeisloft said. “We need to take care of the rebounding, need to take care of every pass, take care of shooting, and especially defense. We’re going to look to get better at that, and that will be our focus is on the defensive end.”
Filed to: Louisville Cardinals