Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over UMass Lowell

  • 11/17/2016 9:05 am in

Indiana moved to 2-0 on Wednesday night with a comfortable 100-78 win over UMass Lowell at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the River Hawks:

· Blackmon Jr. continues hot start offensively, but defense still a work in progress: After dropping 26 points on Kansas in the season opener, junior James Blackmon Jr. had another great offensive game on Wednesday against UMass Lowell.

Blackmon Jr. scored 18 of his 23 points in the the first half and hit five of his nine 3-point attempts. Through two games, the Marion product is 9 of 17 on 3s and has an effective field goal percentage of 70.7.

However, there’s plenty of work to be done for Blackmon Jr. defensively. He still gets lost or caught out of position, which can’t happen regularly against better competition. Blackmon Jr. is an elite shooter and can score in a variety of ways, but Indiana needs him to be more of a two-way player.

· This game was perfect for De’Ron Davis: It’s totally fair to criticize the volume and quality of Indiana’s guarantee games this season, but Wednesday served as a learning experience for freshman De’Ron Davis.

Davis has plenty of ground to make up after missing the summer in Bloomington. His conditioning isn’t where it needs to be to play major minutes. Indiana may not need him to play more than 15 or 20 minutes in a game this season, but they do need him to build confidence and get acclimated to the speed of the college game.

Against Lowell, Davis played 12 minutes and was productive. He finished with eight points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. When you look at individuals on the roster who have a chance to make major progress as the season goes on, Davis is right near the top of the list.

· Bryant showing patience: Just as he did last season, Thomas Bryant showed on Wednesday why he’s such an efficient offensive player. He’s patient and doesn’t force the issue.

Against Kansas, Bryant hoisted a few early 3-pointers that were a bit surprising, but he connected on two of them to help Indiana generate some offense. On Wednesday, Bryant made the most of the limited offensive opportunities that were available to him.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore took just five shots and finished with nine points in 22 minutes. Moving forward, Indiana needs to do a better job of playing inside-out and establishing Bryant to open things up even more on the perimeter.

“I think at one point in the first half, once we figured it out, we had 15 straight scores going through the paint,” Tom Crean said. “And with the uniqueness of guys that can drive it, handle it, pass it, post it, you know we can get there different ways. And that’s what we have to be, especially when we’re playing the sagging defenses that we see.”

· Green shows off his athleticism: Through two scrimmages, two exhibition games and two regular season games, we’ve seen a little bit of everything from freshman Devonte Green.

Green is a capable 3-point shooter, a fearless driver and can dig in defensively. On Wednesday, he showed what kind of athlete he is. On a breakaway play in transition, Green did this:

· McSwain appears to be pressing offensively: Through two games, junior Freddie McSwain has the highest usage rate on Indiana’s roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward is using 31.8 percent of possessions while on the floor and is just 1-of-10 from the field. Several of his shot attempts have been long 2s, which are not a part of Indiana’s typical offense. It’s also important to note that many of McSwain’s shots last night were after the game was already decided.

Like Davis, McSwain missed the summer and is getting his legs underneath him following minor surgery. His long term value to this Indiana team will be as a rebounder, defender and finisher at the rim. The fact that McSwain kept shooting on Wednesday shows that confidence isn’t an issue, but look for his role to become more defined in the coming weeks.

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  • NC Hoosier

    Spot-on on McSwain. In limited minutes he has proven that he has never seen a shot he didn’t like. Needs to be more disciplined.

  • iubase

    Depth. We have a deep deep team. I love our depth and this is the reason why we are really good this yr

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    totally agree on D’RD and FMcS. excited about what D’RD is going to bring to this team and not worried about FMcS. he’ll get it figured out. it’s not that he looks intimidated or scared (with guns like his, who would), he just needs more time to settle in. i don’t even care about the ill advised shots he took toward the end of the game, though generating offense is not how he’s going to provide value. i would prefer to see the majority of his scoring opportunities coming from offensive rebounds andor breakaways.

  • ForeverIU

    I see these cupcake games as opportunities to get our players to gel and play better as a team. And also for the new players to gain confidence and playing time.

    I love this team. Just love it. Period.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    At this point of the season, I’m always intrigued by the “Who will be in the Rotation in January” question. It’s hard to say with any certainty after two games what we KNOW, but I keep finding that I am impressed with Green’s game. I didn’t figure him for too many minutes this year, but I think I may have been mistaken on that. He’s tough, and I think he will make it tough on Crean to keep him out of the top 8 or 9 by B1G season.

  • iugradmark

    I hope the coaches can make the right call when it comes to Blackmon. Seems like a great kid but we are now watching the identical bad defense he showed last year. There were a lot of comments on whether his absence last year is why the defense improved or if it was the rest of the team just playing better but watching the team and him this year, I believe it is him. I am struggling to see the improvement we were hoping to see. HIs offense is important and stellar but his defense impacts the entire team causing out of position switches, fouls, and easy opportunities for the opponent. Last night IU had the firepower to overcome but in the Big that will not always be the case.

  • On JBJ’s defense: I think I’ve figured out the mystery. It seems that his worst defensive lapses come after he scores. After he hits a 3 or has a good drive to the rim, his defense immediately slacks off for the next possession. If I were an opponent, I’d go right at him after he scores. The fact that he scores so often helps explain his defensive lapses. Good news is this can probably be fixed by simply focusing on it, having the team get on him during the games to make sure he gets back and buckles down. I think this pattern of play can really explain this weakness. Thoughts?

  • I’m still surprised he’s played this much already. I thought he’d be brought along slowly. He needs to start finishing those put-backs and forget about taking outside shots. At least for the next few months. Make your layups and then we’ll talk about shooting threes.

  • I agree. I thought after seeing him at Hoosier Hysteria, that he’d crack the starting five eventually. I believe he will.

  • sarge

    I watched the Kansas game again and I thought JBJ was actually very improved on the defensive end. Kansas wanted to test him, and they went after him relentlessly in the first half. They stopped pressing him so much in the second half because he wasn’t a liability. Rewatch the second half and pay attention to him on defense, I thought he played pretty well. I assume most of the team came out flat last night because of the opponent, and it wasn’t just James last night playing poor defense. They put up 78 points on us, and that isn’t all on JBJ. Let them play some more teams before we label someone as being a liability.

  • kaponya44

    I don’t know,since I missed a lot of the game ,but it makes sense having saw many players with that tendency..I’m glad I have it on the DVR

  • I agree with the part on the rest of the team. If you rewatch the part where Bryant got on James for his defense, you’ll see that both OG and RJ failed to help out around the key. Bryant said nothing to them and put it all on James. He was partly responsible, but the others also should have helped more and were really weak. Just one example. See my other comments here on this and let me know what you think.

  • sarge

    I imagine he got the minutes because of the opponent, and it’s cool with me to let him show what he is capable of against these easy teams early. He will have to learn more discipline as we enter conference play.

  • I see players have success every time they attack JBJ. I have not seen him have the ability to guard any opponent 1 on 1. Other players help, and this sometimes leads to the whole team being out of position for easy baskets. If I were the opposing coach, I would have my players attack JBJ on every possession and run my offense through that.

    JBJ lacks lateral quickness to stay with his man. I don’t think it has anything to do with his desire or intelligence. His 3 knee surgeries probably contributed in part to this.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    I really didn’t pay attention over the summer and fall to the team like I normally do, because I’m a diehard Cubs fan, and I was a little preoccupied! So, based off of my ignorance, I really wasn’t all that excited for Green this year. I was looking for contributions out of Davis and Jones this year, but I thought Green was more of a project. So far, he looks really good to me.

  • ForeverIU

    Freddie is a very high IQ player. His court vision and knowing to find the right spot in the right open space is excellent, including a nose for the ball. I wonder how many of his misses we rebounded. I know this might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes you take the high risk shot knowing that you are in a good position to rebound (as a team, not just Freddie). It’s sort of like a pass that has a chance to go through the basket. LOL.

  • HuntinHoosier86

    That’s what I’m afraid of too. D*mn.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I doubt Green starts this year; but I agree he will be a key contributor this year and may jump into the starting lineup as a Sophomore.

  • ForeverIU

    Here’s what I have resigned myself to when it comes to the epic ITH narrative on JBJ’s defense. I don’t care anymore, not because I don’t love our team, but because I can’t do a dang thing about it, and there is no question at this point that we are better with him in the lineup than with him not in the lineup. I just hope his knees hold up. And if trying to play better defense means moving more laterally and increasing the risk of knee injury, then just don’t do it.

  • ForeverIU

    Only if JBJ is injured, Heaven forbid.

  • Kyl470

    Agreed. Only shots he should be taking are lay ups and put backs.

  • BL4IU

    Quit playing 3-guard with JBJ on the floor. Starting unit s/b RJ/JBJ/OG/JM/DD. Better rim protection, rebounding and ability to switch. Should have learned from last year.

  • Arch Puddington

    McSwain has lots to offer, but shooting isn’t on the list. And at least in the short term, that isn’t going to change. His mechanics are stiff, especially his arms, and he relies pretty heavily on his wrists to propel the ball. I doubt he will ever be more than a competent jump shooter, but then again Victor Oladipo couldn’t hit anything when he got here, either, and that turned out pretty well.

    In the meantime, he does seem to have a nice nose for the ball, and he is so big and strong that he can contribute in other ways. He will have his moments this year, for sure.

  • I actually disagree with this. He had several stops against Kansas and plays just fine most of the time. If opposing teams try to go right at him every time, I don’t think it is going to be as successful as you think. Maybe there is a specific weakness, like reading screens or something, that could be exploited. He’s probably not vocal enough, too, which may be a big part of the problem. But other than that, I remain skeptical that he should be singled out personally at this stage. I think his real problem (my theory) is that he is mildly celebratory after scoring and doesn’t get back and ready for defense fast enough and lacks intensity. Consider how often he scores, and that should support this idea. Should be a quick fix.

  • sarge

    Right now, every perimeter player on the opposing team can drive on any of our guards. It’s not just JBJ. We need to practice on ball defense and containing drives into the lane. Some of our guys are more committed than others, but it appears that just like in previous seasons, this needs to be a defensive focus for the season.

  • I don’t think RJ fits into that category, personally. He’s gonna be a stud.

  • Kyl470

    I strongly disagree with this comment. Is JBJ the best defender on the team? No. But he is easily the teams best scorer. People are making way too big of a deal on his defense. I’m just amazed by this because Jordan Hulls was a terrible defender and I never head a lot of chatter about his play and Hulls didn’t bring anywhere near the total offensive package that JBJ brings.

    The simple fact is that JBJ is never going to be assigned to guard the other teams best player. You can hide guys on defense by assigning them to guard the weakest scorer. If teams want to attack Blackmon by feeding the ball to their 3rd or 4th scoring option then I say go ahead.

    If you go back and watch the Kansas game again you didn’t see them exploit JBJ on defense. They kept giving the ball to Mason who was guarded by RJ, JN, and even OG at times.

  • Kyl470

    Thank you for this comment. I’m glad to see that there are other people that can see what I am seeing.

  • IdahoHoosier

    You know I typically agree with you (haha), but no. Of course JBJ’s health and long term durability is important. But for this team’s success, and his future NBA aspirations, the dude has to play adequate defense at some point! At times he is ok, but not consistently. I bet ITH will stop talking about it when JBJ’s lack of defense is no longer a glaring issue. The sad fact is that if you do something 100 times, you get a reputation. The spotlight is on him. I hope he can keep working on it! And if you don’t care about the issue any more, no need to say anything more about it right?

  • sarge

    Ok, RJ is the exception! That guy is arguably the best two way player on the squad. I guess that is why he repeatedly posts the best +/- every game.

  • Kyl470

    Had Hartman not got injured I think we would be seeing a starting line up of RJ, JBJ, OG, CH, and TB. No way though that DD starts over TB.

  • Yup. Once a narrative (or “meme”) gets momentum, it’s hard to dispell and overturn, and becomes a “zombie idea.” See for example: “trickle down economics.” People are going to continue saying such things long after they’ve been definitively debunked. JBJ could turn out to be a decent defender in a little while, and there will still always be a few people that complain about his defense after one single mistake. I think it’s some sort of cognitive issue with some people, who are more prone to holding on to old ideas, no matter what.

  • Thomas Bryant doesn’t start? Ok, sure.

  • wasn’t an issue against Kansas. Let’s keep that in mind.

  • EarlGreyTeaBag

    I think what happened is that JBJ was on the UMass player that scored, but didn’t call for help when he was beat. It looked like the other guys didn’t even realize the UMass player was in the lane, and I think the lack of communication is what TB was upset about.

  • ForeverIU

    I’m trying to get others not to care, because you’r exactly right the spotlight is on him and it shouldn’t be. I will keep saying this as long as there are people constantly focusing on his defense. I’m sure he and his coach are aware of the issue, and that’s all that should matter. Capiche? LOL.

  • should be an easy fix then. this is what a series of cupcake games is for. I really hope they figure it out. My main concern isn’t any single player’s defense, but rather that the team cohesion and chemistry remain very high. I expect it not to be a big problem going forward. Hopefully they iron it out and be done with it.

  • John D Murphy

    I disagree. JBJ is in a defensive stance and he is not getting beat on the first step. He will never be a good defender but in fact he may be the most improved defender on the team.

  • iugradmark

    I am not comparing Jordan with JBJ. We had few options when Jordan was on the team and we have a stronger bench now. Read the first bullet in this article and other stories about the game that reference JBJ’s need to improve on defense. While some comments point to the drive where he had a discussion afterwards, there were other times where he just was beat off the dribble out front. I am not saying he isn’t valuable or shouldn’t play but also believe we should use these early games to get our team ready for the wars that come during league play. With all the preparation by league teams, hostile environments, home refereeing these open shots that we get now will be tougher to come by and we will be back to lower scoring games where turnovers, defense, and fouls play a bigger role. I want him to succeed, but am just commenting on what I saw and that was confirmed by reporters at the game. He certainly wasn’t the only player that did not play well on defense last night and I hope that we focus a lot more on that part of our development in the upcoming games.

  • Darrell Allen

    Spot on!

  • ForeverIU

    Perhaps we will linger in the 50-60 range on D, but we are good enough to be able to make the defensive stops when we need them, and to deliver efficiently in transition.

  • IdahoHoosier

    We all hope it is an easy fix. But people are still going to call him out of on stuff until it is actually, consistently fixed. I said it elsewhere, but if you do something enough times you get a reputation. Those can be hard to kick. I think JBJ is improving but still needs to get better before people get off his back.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I watched JBJ against Kansas. Pretty consistently didn’t block out, didn’t go after the ball, let guys jog right around him. Why did I notice that? Because he has a reputation and the spotlight is on him, haha. He wasn’t the only one, but to say it wasn’t an issue is not accurate.

  • ForeverIU

    But how about your theory that JBJ’s defensive lapses happen after he makes the shot? He made many shots during the Kansas game.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Ironically, you are feeding into the discussion about the issue you want people to stop discussing. Whether or not it should be, the spotlight is on JBJ and his defense, due to his reputation. That is all that matters until minds are changed.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    I thought I heard them say something about McSwain’s family being in town for the game. I think he was just trying to make some big plays for them at the end. Probably putting too much pressure on himself.

  • I think the JN/RJ/JBJ/OG/TB lineup works for some teams, particularly any like KU that have really good guard play. RJ/JBJ/OG/JM/DD works for balanced teams. And then I could even eventually see JM/JBJ/OG/DD/TB for teams with a lot of height (call me crazy, I’m sure some folks will).

    I think by the time the B1G rolls around, we’ll have a number of good combinations that fit the situation. That’s a strength of this team, and it needs to be leveraged.

  • Right. I think RJ/JBJ/JM/OG/TB is the equivalent without CH able to play.

  • I think JBJ’s biggest issues are positioning–get in front of his guy with some spacing–and communication. He just needs to be in the right place more often, or communicate when he’s not. I’m really hoping that he’ll just develop as well as NZ did last year, and then overall team defense will make up for his deficiencies.

    Seriously, he can play defense as well as NZ, can’t he?

  • I don’t think he’s that far from playing “adequate” defense. And his offense makes up for every bit of less-than-really-good defense that he brings to the floor.