Notebook: Defense again struggles in 92-78 loss to Badgers

  • 02/04/2015 7:46 am in

MADISON, Wis. — The matchup screamed trouble.

The nation’s No. 1 offense, Wisconsin — the most efficient offense ever tracked by — hosting an Indiana defense ranked in the bottom half of the country.

And on a snowy Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, the Badgers took advantage of that matchup. The Hoosiers’ defense was scorched to a 1.42 points per possession pace in a 92-78 loss to the Badgers.

“Letting them get the looks that they got, that was the problem,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “Certainly that’s where the game was and we let it snowball on us a little bit and they continued to battle and fight.

“No question the start of the second half is what did us in.”

In the first half, although the Badgers (20-2, 8-1) shot 68 percent from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc to the tune of 44 points, the Hoosiers (16-7, 6-4) nearly kept pace. Behind eight 3-pointers, they went into halftime down just eight points.

It went downhill from there, however.

Wisconsin opened the second half on a 16-1 run, with points coming in the paint, at the free throw line and even behind the arc. Everything was working for the Badgers.

In fact, at the Badgers’ largest leading point — a 76-44 game with 10:40 left — they were shooting at a 73.0 percent rate from the field (an 81.1% eFG rate, too) and a whopping 1.60 points per possession. The game had already been decided, by then.

“It all starts on the defensive end,” freshman Robert Johnson said. “When we give up easy buckets and things like that, that sparks the other teams’ runs. And we just can’t have that, especially coming into the second half.”

In the final 10:40, Indiana would go on a 34-12 run to put the final scoreline within 15 points.

But it’s yet another Hoosiers loss that came down to defense.

As Crean diagnosed the reasons for the Badgers’ success, he mentioned the Badgers’ size advantage that allowed them to work inside — mainly from 7-foot national Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky, 6-foot-8 Nigel Hayes and 6-foot-9 Sam Dekker, who combined scored 53 points, went 19-of-24 from the floor, 13-of-16 at the free throw line and just 2-of-3 on 3s. The work in the paint also led to four Bronson Koenig 3-pointers.

Size wasn’t the only issue, though. Crean mentioned that the Hoosiers’ man, zone and combination defenses simply weren’t effective against the Badgers. Crean said IU needs to do a better job of pressuring the ball on the perimeter and making it tougher for opponents to get the ball inside — just like the Badgers did on Tuesday.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

The Hoosiers have learned that lesson the hard way.

“Tonight wasn’t enough,” junior Nick Zeisloft said. “We needed more on the defensive end and we just didn’t get that done.”

James Blackmon Jr. sidelined with ankle injury

Indiana was without one of its leading scorer on Tuesday as freshman James Blackmon Jr. was sidelined with an ankle injury suffered late in Saturday’s win against Rutgers.

Blackmon did not practice with the team on Sunday or Monday but made the trip to Madison with his teammates and even participated in the Hoosiers’ walkthrough and pregame activities before the coaching staff made the decision to sideline him against the Badgers.

“He really wanted to play,” Crean said. “There’s no doubt about that. Just couldn’t do it. He just wasn’t able to put that pressure down. Long season, and we would have liked to had him. But the bottom line is he wasn’t available. So we’ve just moved on. But hopefully he’ll be able to rehab and heal at a good rate so he’s ready for our next one.”

In the 22 games he has played in this season, the 6-foot-3 Blackmon has started every one — leading the Hoosiers with 16.5 points and adding 5.2 rebounds in more than 30 minutes per game.

He was able to finish Saturday’s game against the Scarlet Knights, which led to the Badgers not even being aware before Tuesday’s game he was injured. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan actually asked the media what Blackmon’s injury even was. Kaminsky said he had hoped to face the Hoosiers at full strength. That would have to come in the Big Ten tournament in March, however.

Blackmon’s rehabilitation will continue leading up to Sunday’s game against Michigan. For now, the Hoosiers are just hoping the freshman guard will be available for that game.

“He’s just got to continue to rehab it,” Crean said. “And we don’t play until Sunday, so I hope he’s back. We’ve done nothing with him the last couple days before today. He was able to finish the game on Saturday but it just got a little worse.”

(Photo: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

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  • Kyl470

    I hope in the off season every player takes it upon himself to improve his individual defense. All the players on this team are eligible to return next year. If they don’t improve as individuals on defense we will be saying the same thing next year. All offense and no defense. Sort of like our football program.

  • SCHoosier

    After a game like that against a team like that..if I were coach I’d probably just say:

    WIS is truly an elite team this year. I was proud of the way our guys came back from an 11-2 start and we were competitive first half. Second half, WIS kicked it up a couple of notches, defended like they wanted too win and we had no answers..especially on defense. They just kicked our a–..and having two Blackmons in there would not have changed things. Yea we cut a 30 pt lead to 12 but the Badgers slept thru the final 10 minutes of the game. Right now..I’m only concerned about UM and Jame’s ankle. Have a good night.”

  • INUnivHoosier

    Agreed. These guys have the talent; they just need to put in the work and have the time to improve.

  • Eastwood88_2

    Well said but one added point, Amazing they shot that many free throws isn’t it????

  • Real American

    The only way the defense gets fixed is through offseason work and some new recruits that can play inside. I really hope Thomas Bryant is still looking at IU and sees a great opportunity for playing time and instant impact. He would fit great with our current team and would have a lot of freedom to play inside. He could be the missing piece like what Cody was for our team.
    On to Michigan. Coach Beilein has done a great job with that team, but our styles seem to match up pretty well.

  • pcantidote

    Watching Bo Ryan’s teams is always a harsh reminder that we are not going to be an elite program under our current coach.

  • Eastwood88_2

    This defensive issue comes from a couple of different angles IMO. First, Last years team was a good defensive team. Why? NV was the difference. A true rim protector that can help we you get beat off the dribble. Everyone in college basketball gets beat off the dribble. So I ask myself how did we get here? NV left for the NBA earlier than Crean ever thought was possible. Fischer Transferred. I lay blame for this one on Coach. Not fully understand the recruiting process, should Crean have hit the road last January to find his replacement? I still believe he thought NV would be here. Plus you have HMP and DD on the team. So October of 2013, This team had 4 guys to play in the paint!!! Now we have one and that is EH. The disadvantage is beyond anything we can deal with. Nobody in this world can teach size and we just don’t have it. HMP needs to get healthy now! Still makes us razor thin, but at least we don’t look like a mid-major playing Kentucky every damn game.
    Second, The ZONE. This team should be so much better at it. Pack the it please!!! Let them shoot 40 threes and make 20 of them. I don’t care. The constant 3 foot shoots are maddening. Crean want’s better pressure on the ball, I don’t agree at all. There is too much pressure and without fouling they get by you, then you play 4 little guys against 5 trees.
    Lastly, We as hoosier fans need to accept the nature of our defensive issues. There is very little that can be done. Can’t teach size. The rebounding has gotten better…mostly cause nobody misses against us! If you want to complain about IU not having enough bigs as being unacceptable, nobody here will argue with you. That is 100% correct. It is a complete joke the Indiana f-n Hoosiers do not have enough bigs to protect the rim. Think of all the past JuCo transfers Knight got to play down low. Tom Pritchard would be an NBA allstar on this team. I can’t for one second be ok with our size issues. It is embarrassing. Today will be another day I have answer 30 questions as to why this team can’t play defense. I ask for it since I only own IU clothing out of work. Seriously, I have two white sox t-shirts and the rest are IU. IU sweats, IU shorts, IU hoody’s, The wat shot hanging in my office. Where ever I go, the IU size issue follows me. Not mention I am 5’7″. The candy strip pants look really silly on me. I have to tuck them into my shoes. Ok, enough ranting….Win Sunday please

  • Eastwood88_2

    Watching Bo Ryan’s team is always a harsh reminder to badger fans that they will NEVER win a national title.

  • inLinE6

    Thomas Bryant is looking to jump after 1 year. I always think if someone has that mindset coming into college, he won’t be a great fit for IU. He may worry about his own stats line more than anything else. He has to have that Cody’s attitude, that he wants to be student first, athlete second, then he would be successful at IU. I wouldn’t blame Vonleh for leaving after 1 year either, because he unpacked his bag and was a good student while he was here. Thomas Bryant’s been talking about Kentucky’s system that sends players out after 1 year. In my opinion, he better not come here.

  • Kyl470

    IU needs an instant impact big for next year. I don’t care if it’s a one and done player because an elite one and done big could make next years team a Final Four team.

  • dssnyder1

    is there any reason to think that next year’s squad will suddenly learn how to play defense?
    let’s say that the April/priller combo actually see some floor time, DD comes back and the incoming freshman can contribute, does that change anything? are the Hoosiers destined to be a team that wins purely by their stellar offense?

  • dssnyder1

    its frustrating that they went to the line so much, then they wouldn’t freaking miss

  • pcantidote

    Quite possibly true (although I wouldn’t count them out this year), but I am not sure how that helps us.

  • oldiugymnast

    I agree with you about the size thing – but how is it on Crean that Noah moved up and Fisher transferred. I wasn’t there, don’t know what happened, but I know of nobody close to the program that is claiming that Fisher was mistreated or that there was widespread awareness with the coaches that Fisher wanted to leave. Noah was a lottery pick because of potential. I didn’t see a lot of analysts saying in January that Noah was going to be a lottery pick – in fact, many said he would go late 2nd round.

    I am not sure I agree on the zone. I think they have played it very well for stretches and very poorly for stretches. I think you have to always pressure the ball in the NCAA though. Just my take and as a 5’7 former gymnast – I I bet I look sillier in those candy stripes than you! Also – take my basketball analysis for what its worth. I watch a lot and play pickup games a few times a week and make a living by knowing how to cut and play D – but that is pretty much the ceiling of my knowledge.

  • SCHoosier

    Maybe but they will at least get to the Elite 8 (and probably further)..trying to reach that goal.

  • SCHoosier

    If Bryant is a one and doner….V. Putin is actually a nice guy.