Five takeaways from Indiana’s loss to Northwestern

  • 02/18/2024 7:25 pm in

Indiana dropped its fourth home game of the season, falling 76-72 to Northwestern Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are now 14-11 overall and 6-8 in Big Ten play.

Here are five takeaways from the loss to the Wildcats:

Indiana had a week off and looked unprepared to start the game

The Hoosiers had a full week off to prepare for Sunday’s matinee against Northwestern.

But there was no noticeable improvement from the time off, particularly at the start. Indiana scored a dismal .8 points per possession in the first half against one of the Big Ten’s worst defensive teams.

Mike Woodson said the offensive issues were “simple” in his postgame press conference.

“You watched the same game I did,” Woodson said. “You got to make shots. We had some good looks and we just didn’t knock them down. Nothing scientific about it. We moved the ball well enough to get open shots. You got to step up and make them. It’s that simple.”

Simple or not, Indiana’s offensive woes in Big Ten play are Woodson’s job to fix. And he hasn’t.

Through 14 league games, the Hoosiers rank 11th out of 14 teams in offensive efficiency at 1.018 points per possession. Indiana is eighth in the league in 3-point shooting percentage, 7th in 2-point field goal percentage and last in free throw percentage.

The only thing Indiana does well consistently offensively is get to the free throw line. And it isn’t much of a strength because the Hoosiers can’t make free throws.

The Hoosiers are no longer protecting home court

Winning home games is necessary to stay relevant in the Big Ten standings. Indiana is no longer doing that.

With Sunday’s loss to Northwestern, the Hoosiers are now 4-3 at Assembly Hall in league play and have lost three of their last four.

After losing their previous two Big Ten home games by double figures to Purdue and Penn State, Indiana trailed by as many as 16 on Sunday against the Wildcats before falling by four points.

Woodson has repeatedly emphasized the importance of protecting Indiana’s home floor, but with four losses in Bloomington this season, that objective is not being met.

“We just got to keep working, man,” Woodson said. “It’s frustrating because I thought we played well enough once we got back into it.”

Indiana’s rebounding issues remain a significant problem

Northwestern attempted 12 more field goals than Indiana on Sunday afternoon.

A big reason for the discrepancy in shot attempts? Indiana’s porous defensive rebounding has been a problem all season.

Northwestern grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which turned into 12 second-chance points.

The Hoosiers rank 10th in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage and its Big Ten opponents are grabbing 31.5 percent of their missed shots. Despite starting the 4th tallest lineup in the country – according to KenPom – Indiana can keep opponents off the glass.

The season is now 25 games old and Indiana’s players are still being asked about their poor defensive rebounding routinely after games.

“You got to box out more and crack down on the big when I go to like block a shot,” Kel’el Ware said on Sunday. “Just got to work on rebounding more.”

At this point, whatever rebounding work is being done isn’t yielding results.

Malik Reneau’s foul issues have resurfaced over the last six games

Malik Reneau’s minutes were limited last season because of his inability to defend without fouling.

Reneau appeared to have turned a corner as a sophomore, but the issues have resurfaced recently. The Miami, Florida native has fouled out in four of IU’s last six games.

The two games where he didn’t foul out? The win at Ohio State – he had four fouls – and the win against Iowa when he played only three minutes due to an injury.

On Sunday, Reneau logged 24 minutes before fouling out with 6:23 left. His last two fouls came within nine seconds of each other.

“Well, I wasn’t happy with him after the game,” Woodson said. “I mean, after he had the two… I thought the third foul was — it came so fast. I mean, he reached over the guy and he didn’t, at the time, didn’t think he fouled, but I thought it was a foul.

“The fifth foul came so fast I couldn’t get him out, from the bump up top in the pick and roll.”

Northwestern’s role players dominated Indiana

Ryan Langborg, a fifth-year senior for Northwestern who transferred from Princeton, led all scorers with 26 points on Sunday afternoon.

Langborg, ranked the 48th best prospect in California as a senior in the 2019 class according to 247Sports, was an excellent transfer portal find by Chris Collins.

The 6-foot-4 guard knows his role and plays it to perfection. On Sunday, Langborg shot 7-for-15 from the field, 8-for-8 from the free throw line and had six assists and no turnovers in 40 minutes.

He’s the type of player Indiana has failed to recruit in recent seasons.

But it wasn’t just Langborg who stood out. Matthew Nicholson – 14 points and 16 rebounds – and Nick Martinelli – 13 points and 13 rebounds – also had big afternoons.

Rather than focusing on solid role players to round out the roster who can fill a niche with fundamentally sound basketball, Indiana has just tried to collect talent and then piece it all together.

There’s no question the Hoosiers had more talent than Northwestern on Sunday, but the Wildcats were the more cohesive and better-assembled team.

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