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Indiana continues to find defensive identity in early-season victories

Early non-conference matchups have given Indiana a chance to find its identity under Mike Woodson. Through five games, the Hoosiers have shown us their defense is what will give them a chance to win every game.

Even without Rob Phinisee for the second straight game, their perimeter defense was staggering. Hoosier guards have been excellent at making decisions when defending in the half-court, whether it’s contesting perimeter jump shots or feeding opposing guards into the paint to be at the mercy of Trayce Jackson-Davis or Race Thompson.

Indiana blocked eight more shots Tuesday night, which is right around its average of seven per game. Opponents have had nowhere to turn for clean looks at the basket and more often then not, they are finding Hoosier hands contesting.

Now in back-to-back games, IU has held opponents to the lowest shooting percentages allowed since 2009. Louisiana shot 19.2 percent and Jackson State did not fare much better at 20.7 percent. Jackson State’s 35 points are the fewest IU has allowed in a game since 1971.

IU now ranks first nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed at 28.4 percent.

There is no question Woodson wants to lead a team that takes pride on the defensive end. Five games in, his players have brought their hard hats to work each and every game. Woodson would not ask that of his team if he knew the personnel was not capable.

This group for Indiana defends by committee. When you watch IU, the players’ ability to switch defensive assignments is key when defending the pick and roll. Effective switching on the perimeter is not possible without constant communication and versatile defenders. Whenever screens are set, players such as Jordan Geronimo and Race Thompson are able to stay in front of ball handlers long enough to where another switch can take place.

Newcomers such as Tamar Bates, Xavier Johnson and Michael Durr complement the defensive energy that the core group of players have brought throughout their years with the program. Bates and Johnson continue to add elements of aggressive defense and offense that teams in recent history have not had.

The size and length IU can show teams on the perimeter, will only increase opportunities in transition from live-ball turnovers. Indiana is averaging over five steals per contest while forcing 15 turnovers.

Nothing is more fun than a team that likes to run up and down the floor. This team has the ability to do so, scoring 18 of their 70 total points in transition Tuesday night.

The level of depth at guard and forward have made this possible. Not enough can be said about the job Woodson has done as a recruiter. It’s an early sample size of how the team can play together but so far the pieces seem to fit.

Woodson came to IU envisioning a team that could get back to the promised land led by its defense. While we are only five games in, he seems to have found it.

After Thanksgiving, Indiana will face Marshall and Syracuse before opening up Big Ten play against Nebraska on Dec. 4.

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