Indiana Uses Different Approach to Pick Up Quality Win

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 20th, 2015

Things were looking bleak for Indiana at the Crossroads Classic, similar to how they looked in the Hoosiers’ three previous losses this season. Sloppy and ill-timed turnovers coupled with uninterested, passive defense had put the Hoosiers in a 56-40 hole with 15:11 left on Saturday against Notre Dame. But then something strange happened. Tom Crean’s squad held the Fighting Irish to 8-of-26 shooting for the rest of the contest, using contributions from throughout its roster to pull off an impressive 80-73 comeback win. A loss in Indianapolis — its fourth against a top-100 opponent this season — would have been catastrophic, but instead the Hoosiers found a new and different approach to earn the victory. Balanced scoring, crashing the boards, and — believe it or not — solid defense carried the day, showing that it’s far to early to give up on the Hoosiers making a deep run in March.

Indiana's Comeback Win Was Cause for Celebration in Indy (USA Today Images)

Indiana’s Comeback Win Was Cause for Celebration in Indy (USA Today Images)

One of the most important things to come from yesterday’s win was that Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. only combined for 19 of Indiana’s 80 points. All nine members of the rotation played at least seven minutes, and four players scored in double-figures. Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, and Thomas Bryant all had their moments on the offensive end, scoring several key buckets in crunch time. Meanwhile, Troy Williams got to the rim at will. This type of offensive balance is important for the role players’ confidence as Big Ten play approaches. A nine-man rotation where each player is capable of making a difference is a great deal more formidable than an attack consisting primarily of Ferrell and Blackmon taking a high volume of shots.

Indiana’s offensive rebounding also contributed to yesterday’s win, as the Hoosiers snagged 20 of their own misses. Williams (five) is a pogo stick and Bryant (three) has shown a willingness to mix it up as well. Even little-used OG Anunoby contributed three offensive boards in his seven minutes. Indiana’s 40.4 percent offensive rebounding rate is the best in the Big Ten, and pairing this demonstrated skill with their lethal outside touch (44.2 percent from three) will pay huge dividends if they can maintain those edges.

In their last three wins against Morehead State, IPFW and McNeese State, the Hoosiers gave up an average of 0.82 points per possession. This is obviously much better than when they got blitzed by Duke three weeks ago, but the level of competition also has to be considered. Against a Notre Dame team with one of the best offenses in college basketball, though, Indiana gave up 1.11 points per possession but was also able to make a series of crucial stops to finish the comeback and close out the game.

The Hoosiers’ clear next step is to make a concerted effort to defend well against good competition for a full 40 minutes. If they can somehow get their defense to stay consistent, Indiana will be in the mix for a top four spot in conference play — yesterday’s second half, if nothing else, at least shows that it’s a possibility. Continued offensive balance, a strong advantage on the offensive boards that leads to second chances, and defensive consistency will go a long way with righting the Hoosiers’s ship and providing more quality wins in the new year.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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