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Instant Takeaways: Stagnant offense and 3-point defense end Indiana’s season against Saint Mary’s

The Indiana men’s basketball season came to an end on Thursday night in Portland, as the No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s Gaels defeated the No. 12 seed Hoosiers 82-53.

Here are three takeaways from Indiana’s final game of the 2021-22 season.

THERE WAS NO DIVERSITY IN INDIANA’S OFFENSE

IU’s offense has been all over the place this season and on Thursday night, it was abysmal. Indiana was only able to produce 53 points in its first-round loss to Saint Mary’s.

At the beginning of this season, the Hoosiers lived and died by post-ups from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson. While they ran other actions, none of those actions were run with the same purpose and volume as post ups were.

But those post-ups, especially when there wasn’t a simultaneous action to complement them, became stale very quickly. Every defense found out how to play the post, pass and repeat strategy that Indiana relied on too heavily. That was when IU’s offense began to truly break down and become the reason Indiana lost games.

A few weeks ago, IU’s pick and roll game began to work efficiently for the Hoosiers. Indiana ran pick and rolls all year but once again, they weren’t run with the same purpose and preciseness. Xavier Johnson became phenomenal at making reads out of ball screens and Jackson-Davis’ athleticism was tough for defenses to contain.

Slowly but surely, Indiana overutilized pick and rolls and the offense was predictable once again. And the Saint Mary’s defense, which is one of the best in the country, figured out IU’s stagnant, repetitive offense after the Hoosiers scored 18 points in the first nine minutes of play. 

There was never enough player movement or enough simultaneous actions occurring to throw off great defenses. You mix the lack of creativity with the disappointing 3-point shooting and you get a team that went 9:35 without a field goal in an NCAA Tournament game.

Indiana’s offense will need some serious revamping in the offseason. That means both the players and the sets must go through drastic changes. The perimeter players need to be more efficient and the sets need to create more flow and rhythm for Indiana. Whatever the offense was this year has to change.

OVERHELPING WAS DETRIMENTAL TO INDIANA’S DEFENSE

Saint Mary’s was 10-for-23 on 3s in Thursday’s game. An offense that plays at one of the slowest paces in the country and averages 69.8 points per game hung 82 on Indiana, and 3s were a big reason why.

Indiana’s defense was great this season, but if you look at its worst defensive performances, poor 3-point defense was the common denominator. Why did good shooting teams expose the Hoosiers throughout the season? Because IU would often play too aggressively in the gaps and overhelp, leading to wide-open jumpers. 

The strategy of being ready to help worked against teams that weren’t great at shooting. But against teams like Saint Mary’s, Illinois and Iowa, that strategy gets exposed. Shooters cannot continually be left open in hopes to deter a driving ball handler (especially when they’re already contained).

There is an extremely tiny list of complaints one could have about Indiana’s defense, but consistently helping one pass away against shooters is one of them.

INDIANA’S MENTAL FATIGUE WAS WORSE THAN ITS PHYSICAL FATIGUE

We all know the story of the past week for IU. The Hoosiers had to play three games in three days in Indianapolis, then play Tuesday night in Dayton and then they experienced flight delays (and initially had to leave some items behind) when flying three time zones away to Portland on Wednesday morning.

Many will say that the players’ bodies were too tired to put together a quality performance against a veteran Saint Mary’s team. I’d argue that Indiana wasn’t mentally fresh enough to deal with facing and preparing for a wide variety of teams in such a short span. 

Indiana basically played five consecutive must-win games in an eight-day span, and the Hoosiers faced a lot of different styles in that period. Against Saint Mary’s, it just didn’t look like IU knew the Gaels’ personnel very well. IU would close out too hard on bad shooters, help too much off good shooters, dribble into traps and do a lot of other things that seemed unwise to do against the Gaels.

Everyone on the roster has played a lot of basketball before and has played a lot of ball in a short period of time. But having these players prepare for five different teams was too much. It was clear that the Hoosiers didn’t know their opponent or the gameplan very clearly, and Indiana was too worn-out mentally to beat a team as disciplined as Saint Mary’s.

There’s no doubt that their bodies had been through a lot in this stretch, but the brains of Indiana’s players were also exhausted by this point of the season.

One Comment

  • craig toensing says:

    All the articles are about how IU lost the game. I understand that writers want continued access to the team, but how about writing about how St Mary kicked butt and won the game big time. IU’s time will come but not now.

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