With four talented freshmen joining the Indiana men’s basketball team this season, there are lots of questions about lineups, positions and the overall minutes distribution of the team.
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Many consider Jordan Geronimo a candidate to be the most improved returner for Indiana this season. The junior has a 7-foot wingspan and is the bounciest player the Hoosiers have.
It came down to the last pitch of the weekend, as Indiana lost two out of three games in its series at Purdue. After taking a 17-0 thrashing from the Boilermakers to begin the series on Saturday, the Hoosiers rebounded with a 10-3 victory in the first half of Sunday’s doubleheader. In a rubber match that was nearly four hours long, Purdue outlasted Indiana 16-15 for a series-deciding victory. A two-RBI single from Purdue outfielder Curtis Washington put the Boilermakers ahead 16-14 in the bottom of the sixth inning. In the ninth inning, Phillip Glasser tripled to begin a two-out rally for the Hoosiers. In the ensuing at-bat, Matthew Ellis singled to bring Glasser home. Ethan Vecrumba pinch ran for Ellis, as a single from Brock Tibbits advanced Vecrumba to second base. A wild pitch sent Vecrumba to third and Tibbits to second. Josh Pyne then walked, leaving the bases loaded. Carter Mathison stepped to the plate with a chance to tie or take the lead for IU, but Griffin Lohman froze Mathison with a third strike to log the save and finish the series for Purdue. The Hoosiers have now lost the Sunday rubber match in both of their Big Ten series to this point. IU is 12-18 on the year and 2-4 in Big Ten play. Samuel Murrison was a standout for IU on Sunday, as he went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs to begin the doubleheader and went yard again with a three-run blast in the second game of the day. “I just felt good at the plate all day,” Murrison said following his fantastic Sunday at the plate. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said that Murrison was “incredible” for the Hoosiers in the doubleheader. “He was able to get pitches in the areas that he likes on the plate and when he got them, he didn’t miss them," Mercer said. Indiana’s pitching struggles continued throughout the weekend as the Hoosiers now have a conference-worst 7.34 ERA. The Hoosiers are still searching for a reliable third-day starter to finish their weekend series. IU has used a plethora of pitchers to end series, but none of them have been able to remain a starter. “The big thing is just helping those guys learn how to pitch, learn how to control their emotions and just execute pitches,” Mercer said. Nathan Stahl started and was pulled early for the third Sunday in a row after allowing six earned runs in two innings of work in the second game of the doubleheader. This was Stahl’s third start in eight days, with none of those starts lasting over two innings. Despite losing a second consecutive series, Mercer came away from Sunday's games optimistic. “We competed like absolute warriors the entire day, all 18 innings of the entire day,” Mercer said. “There’s a lot of teams that would not have shown up and competed like that (after Saturday’s loss).” Indiana will head on the road this week, where its pitching will again be in question. Mercer said the team plans to “staff” (use multiple pitchers in short increments) Tuesday’s bout at Indiana State. Jack Perkins and Bradley Brehmer are expected to start the first two games of the weekend series at Rutgers before the Hoosiers attempt to staff the final game of that series next Sunday. The level of competition isn’t getting any easier for IU, as Indiana State (19-8) and Rutgers (25-6, 8-1 in the Big Ten) are both top-60 RPI squads. The Hoosiers will look to reverse their luck on the mound as another tough week away from home looms.
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. https://twitter.com/jdembo28/status/1504640866631094272?s=20&t=o2C1ngCa3WDgpzF9H3gelA 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.
After winning two Big Ten Tournament games last weekend, the Indiana men’s basketball team received a No. 12 seed and will play Wyoming in a First Four game in Dayton on Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know about the Wyoming Cowboys ahead of Tuesday's NCAA Tournament game — IU’s first in six years. AN OLD-SCHOOL APPROACH (KINDA) Wyoming’s offense reminds me of a late-1990s/early-2000s NBA offense. The Cowboys have a guard and a big man who eat off isolation and post up possessions. That would be 6-foot-7 point guard Hunter Maldonado and center Graham Ike. Ike is a traditional big man. He backs down with a lot of force (weighing 252 pounds) and finishes inside. While Ike isn’t a shooter, he has a nice touch in the short mid-range. Wyoming draws up an abundance of post ups for Ike every game. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Ike-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] Watch Ike’s post ups again. You’ll see that there are three (sometimes four) Wyoming players standing on the other side of the court, just letting Ike go to work. This is the part that makes the Cowboys’ offense look so old-fashioned. The spacing makes it look like you’re watching the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. There are isolations and there are flat-out clearouts, which is what Wyoming does. Notice how Ike doesn’t get very high on his finishes. Per basketball statistician Bart Torvik, Ike has only dunked the basketball 11 times this season. Ike is a great post player, but he doesn’t play with the verticality of guys like Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson. Despite his lack of vertical athleticism, Ike is pretty solid at making quick dribble moves to get in his spot. Ideally, this is still the type of great big man Indiana would prefer to face. Ike isn’t a 7-footer and he isn’t an amazing screener. It won’t be easy for the Hoosiers, but they should have the post defenders to put up a fight. It’s 2022, and Wyoming has a top-notch scoring point guard. He must be a phenomenal shooter, right? Wrong. Well, he probably has dazzling athleticism that shines on fast breaks, right? Nope. Hunter Maldonado’s points often come in the same fashion as his 250-pound center. As a point guard, Maldonado uses his 6-foot-7 build to bully smaller guards in the mid-post. Maldonado only shoots 23.8 percent on 3s, so his identity is also to back down in isolation. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Maldonado-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] Maldonado’s post ups also come with multiple Wyoming teammates being spaced to the other side of the court. That’s just how the Cowboys play. They try to clear out and give Ike and Maldonado as much space as possible to operate. This may sound crazy, but I’d suggest Mike Woodson at least tries to station Race Thompson on Maldonado to begin the game. Maldonado is four inches taller than IU’s point guard, Xavier Johnson. Thompson has shown the ability to guard perimeter defenders who aren’t too shifty (which Maldonado isn’t), and Thompson might be the best post defender the Hoosiers have. If it doesn’t work early, Indiana can adjust, but I’d like to see Thompson draw the assignment of containing Maldonado. While Ike and Maldonado are the best shot creators for the Cowboys, Wyoming’s most efficient player is actually Drake Jeffries. Jeffries takes 6.8 3s per game and 93.7 percent of his field goal attempts are from downtown. Jeffries is shooting 42 percent on these 3s. When Wyoming initiates post ups and sends three players to the other side of the court, the one player that usually stays on the same side of Ike and Maldonado is Jeffries. The Cowboys do this so that when defenses double from the strong side, they end up leaving Wyoming’s best shooter with a good look. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Jeffries-Post-3s-Comp.mp4"][/video] Wyoming has a couple of other wrinkles to get Jeffries open looks as well. To throw defenses off, Jeffries sets ball screens for Maldonado and then pops for a 3-point shot. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Jeffries-PNP-Comp.mp4"][/video] This simple play is so effective because if defenses send too much attention to Maldonado, Jeffries is wide open for the 3. If defenses worry too much about Jeffries, Maldonado has an easier path to get downhill and score. The Cowboys also have a veer set to get Jeffries going. On these veer plays, Ike sets a screen (or acts like he’s setting a screen) for Maldonado and then sprints to the corner that Jeffries is in to set up an above-the-break look for Jeffries. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Wyoming-Veer-Comp.mp4"][/video] This works because the center guarding Ike is usually focused on stopping the ball screen, and he has no idea that Ike is about to set another screen. When Ike freezes Jeffries’ defender on the veer screen, nobody is ready to give a contest on Jeffries’ shot. In total, 41.8 percent of Wyoming’s shots are 3-pointers. This is well above the national average of 37.7 percent. While Wyoming’s top two players utilize the post, the rest of the squad fires from beyond. The Cowboys only shoot 33 percent on 3s, but they have to take these shots because their best players clog the lane. Maldonado creates a lot of these perimeter shots with his passing. He uses his scoring gravity to spray the ball out to the team’s shooters. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Maldonado-Passing-Comp.mp4"][/video] Maldonado averages 6.3 assists per game, and he has a good understanding of positioning and spacing. His understanding of spacing and positioning generates high-quality looks for the Cowboys. Overall, Wyoming’s offense consists of a lot of backdowns from two players. The rest of the Cowboys spend time getting ready to shoot (even if they don’t make a lot of jumpers). Wyoming plays a style that is just so unorthodox for 2022, and Indiana will have its hand full trying to guard this fashion of basketball. TIME TO FEAST? Wyoming’s defense is the lackluster side of the ball for the Cowboys. The main reason for this is the lack of a true rim protector. Ike’s subpar leaping ability gets exposed on the defensive end. When Ike’s in position, he’s capable of making plays with his size, but he’s often in the wrong spot and his shoddy athletic ability doesn’t give him grace when recovering. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Wyoming-Inside-Defense-Comp.mp4"][/video] Players usually finish at the rim with ease against Wyoming because there’s nobody there to protect the basket. This is where Xavier Johnson’s downhill ability should come in handy for the Hoosiers on Tuesday night. As for how Wyoming guards the post, a definitive answer was hard to find. Interestingly, Wyoming didn’t play very many great post players this season. I’d expect the Cowboys to send double teams at Jackson-Davis and maybe Thompson too. The one notable post player Wyoming faced was Cal State Fullerton’s E.J. Anosike, who saw two defenders against the Cowboys most of the time. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Anosike-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] While finishers have success at the rim against Wyoming, it’s not always easy to get deep inside the paint. Wyoming’s perimeter defenders are relentless on the outside. In pick-and-roll situations, the Cowboys’ guards do a wonderful job at fighting through screens to stay in a ball handler’s air space. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Wyoming-Screen-Navigation-Comp.mp4"][/video] As for overall ball screen coverage, Wyoming usually puts its big men in drop coverage. Drop coverage just keeps the defending big man in front of the ball handler while allowing the defensive guard to recover to his man. [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Wyoming-Drop-Comp.mp4"][/video] Johnson has been a wizard for Indiana in the pick and roll recently. Drop coverage attempts to negate any quick hitters on ball screens, but it can sometimes allow for pull-up jump shots. We’ll see if Wyoming continues to play drop coverage on Tuesday and if Johnson can continue his excellence off of ball screens. The post presence of Jackson-Davis and Thompson should give the Cowboys a challenge they’re not used to facing. I expect IU to throw the ball into the post early and often to test how Wyoming defends post ups and if Indiana can score through the post. If Wyoming struggles guarding post ups, the Hoosiers could be in for a nice offensive night. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS Wyoming’s offense is so unique that it may be hard to prepare for in just over 48 hours. For the most part, this style of offense works for Wyoming. Ike and Maldonado are efficient players, and those two are pretty much the entire offense. Against Division I competition, Ike has a usage rate of 35.3 percent (fifth in the country) and Maldonado has a usage rate of 30.5 percent (45th in the country). The only duo in the nation that uses a higher percentage of possessions is Purdue’s Trevion Williams and Zach Edey, who don’t log minutes at the same time. The downfall of this philosophy is that when an offense relies on two players at that rate, the team is in danger when just one of those players has a bad game. When Ike and Maldonado are rolling, it’s hard to slow down what the Cowboys do. But when half of the duo has a poor offensive night, Wyoming tends to struggle. If the Hoosiers can find a way to stop just half of the Cowboy’s dynamic duo from going off, then IU should be in good shape. It’s also notable that Indiana’s defense struggles most against great 3-point shooting teams, and Wyoming isn’t that. Wyoming’s lack of consistent shooting should play in the Hoosiers’ favor. IU will also need to do its best to speed Wyoming up on Tuesday. The Cowboys are one of the slowest offensive teams in the country, averaging 18.7 seconds per offensive possession. No play shows Wyoming’s drawn-out tempo better than this one. Wyoming had gone on a spurt and retaken the lead against Boise State. After a miss, and with momentum and a hyped-up crowd, Maldonado was looking to push. But Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder walked up to him and called out a set, and the play took 22 seconds. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Wyoming-22-Second-Play.mp4"][/video] The Hoosiers are at their best when they’re running and they just can’t allow the Cowboys to make this a complete half-court game. Indiana is rightfully favored to win this game to advance to the Round of 64. If they can control the pace, punish the Cowboys inside and not allow Wyoming’s weird offense to throw them off, the Hoosiers should find a way to pull at a victory in Dayton.
'We’ve got a lot of ball left': Despite devastating loss to Iowa, a promising NCAA Tournament looms for Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS — Connor McCaffery dribbles up the court and holds the ball. Then Iowa sets an exit screen in the left corner for Jordan Bohannon, but Indiana shuts it down. Iowa’s Tony Perkins flares to the right wing, but Xavier Johnson denies him the ball. Then McCaffery tosses the ball to Bohannon, who dribbles a few feet in front of the Big Ten logo and fires. Bohannon banks it home. A perfectly-defended possession ended with a 30-foot bank shot that sent Iowa to the Big Ten Championship game and Indiana back to Bloomington. But this week was a success for Indiana. The Hoosiers arrived in Indianapolis not knowing if they’d make the NCAA Tournament. They leave with two Quad 1 victories and high confidence in what they will do in the NCAA Tournament. The story of this week was the superb play of Trayce Jackson-Davis. His Big Ten Tournament ended with him averaging 25.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. His 76 total points and 25 total rebounds are the most in a Big Ten Tournament in Indiana history. Jackson-Davis was excellent against a pair of 7-footers to start the week and on Saturday, he tortured Iowa’s undersized lineups. It’s been well-documented that Xavier Johnson has been playing his best basketball of the year for the Hoosiers. Johnson averaged 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game for IU this week. His two-way play has been crucial for Indiana recently. Johnson has harassed other point guards at the point of attack and controlled the tempo of the game offensively. Indiana is not a team that anyone is going to want to face in the NCAA Tournament. The main reason for that is IU’s defense. The Hoosiers guard extremely well (even though sometimes the ball goes in). IU will be challenging to navigate for an offense that hasn’t faced the point-of-attack defense of Johnson and Rob Phinisee, the rim protection of Jackson-Davis or the overall defensive versatility of Race Thompson. The Hoosiers gave Michigan and Illinois fits early in the week. On Saturday, 32 of Iowa’s 61 field goal attempts were 3s. When they make 14 3s (43.8 percent), it’s nearly impossible to beat them. Yet had the Hawkeyes made one less 3, there would have been an extra five minutes of basketball, with Indiana having the momentum. Indiana has played five straight competitive games with at least three NCAA Tournament teams and two teams (Rutgers and Michigan) who will either be in the NCAA Tournament or host NIT games. You won’t find many teams who head into the NCAA Tournament having played this many tight games against quality opponents in the past few weeks. After the game, Jackson-Davis showed a high amount of confidence in what Indiana can do going forward. “I don’t think anyone wants to see us right now,” Jackson-Davis claimed. “It took a last-second 3 to beat us to the hottest team in the Big Ten right now. It stings but at the same time, I feel like we’ve got a lot of ball left.” Of course, the matchup that Indiana draws will matter. IU probably doesn’t want to draw a team that has a great defensive big man. As well as Jackson-Davis has played recently, the Hoosiers would much rather have him face a team like Iowa that doesn’t have an interior defensive force. A team that plays at a slow pace is also not ideal for Indiana. The Hoosiers are best when they can play in transition and run. Going against a team that averages 18 to 19 seconds per offensive possession could knock Indiana out of its rhythm. Once again, IU’s defense won’t be easy to score on for some random opponent and the Hoosiers are very battle-tested, for better or for worse. Not to mention that when Phinisee and Trey Galloway both play, Indiana is 10-3 with wins over Ohio State, Purdue and Illinois. This season has been all over the place for Indiana and the program is still nowhere near being great. This week shows that IU can be competitive with a lot of tournament teams and that a lot of tournament teams probably don’t want to face the Hoosiers. Sunday night's Selection Show will reveal who Indiana has to face — or who has to face Indiana.
INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since 2003, the Indiana men’s basketball team has won multiple games in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers defeated Illinois 65-63 on Friday to advance to the Big Ten semifinals. Here are some takeaways from IU’s upset win over the Illini. THE HOOSIERS ARE GOING DANCING This is an obvious takeaway but it can’t be stated enough. This Quad 1 victory over Illinois locks Indiana into the field of 68. For the first time since 2016, IU will be in the bracket. When the Hoosiers trailed Michigan 60-43 at the under-12 timeout on Thursday, this didn’t seem possible. But Indiana rallied in that game and followed it up by going toe-to-toe with the Big Ten’s regular-season co-champions. It felt like the Indiana men’s basketball team was cursed before winning these two games. Year after year, this program collapses after January. Fans have said, “we’ll be in the tournament” too early in the season and have experienced meltdowns that didn’t seem possible. This season felt identical to the seasons before this, but IU has come into Gainbridge Fieldhouse and given its fans a show this week. In typical coach fashion after the game, Mike Woodson asked, “Are you sure we’re in the tournament?” The answer is yes, and after years of heartbreak, the Hoosiers deserve it. TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS UNDERSTANDS THE MOMENT At its core, basketball is not a one-on-one sport. But matchups matter and it’s hard for players to ignore the battles they have against peers at their position. Trayce Jackson-Davis has struggled on both ends against 7-footers throughout his career, but he’s shown out against two of them in back-to-back battles this week. Jackson-Davis had 21 points Friday against Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn, with 15 coming in the second half. This comes after a 24-point effort against Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson on Thursday. Was it perfect? No, Cockburn and Dickinson both had nice offensive outings against IU. But Jackson-Davis’ ability to play at or above their level has been crucial for Indiana in these games. Jackson-Davis also played the last 30 minutes of Friday's game without a rest. When he had to knock down a pair of foul shots with 26 seconds left, Jackson-Davis stepped to the line and delivered. There’s a lot more to this sport than a matchup between two players, but it sure helps when your best player wins those matchups. INDIANA’S OFFENSE JUST HAS TO BE AVERAGE We’ve all heard the cliché: “Defense wins championships.” Indiana has the best defense in the Big Ten, and the team still finished ninth in the conference. That shows how atrocious the offense has been at times. Against Illinois, IU’s offense wasn’t great, but it wasn’t atrocious. The national average for points per possession is nearly 1.02 points per possession. Indiana scored 0.98 points per possession (65 points) against Illinois. During the team’s five-game losing streak in February, the Hoosiers averaged 0.88 points per possession. Illinois shot 35.7 percent from the field on Friday due to Indiana's outstanding defense. Only two Illinois players, Cockburn and Coleman Hawkins, were really able to get anything going offensively. The rotations, closeouts and screen navigation were all excellent for Indiana against Illinois. IU’s defense is so special that it doesn’t need to score like an Iowa or Purdue needs to. But it can’t be atrocious. Against the Illini, Indiana’s offense was a little bit worse than average, and that’s good enough to win games. THIS TEAM CAN WIN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT Think about the remaining teams in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers controlled most of the game against Iowa before a meltdown, they beat Purdue once and lost by just two at Mackey Arena last Saturday, they lost two close games to Wisconsin and they split the season series with Penn State and dominated the Nittany Lions on Jan. 26. The only team remaining that Indiana didn’t compete with is Michigan State. The Spartans beat IU 76-61 in East Lansing on Feb. 12. And while IU got blown out by Michigan State, the Spartans haven’t exactly looked like world-beaters (just 21-11) this season. Beating Illinois was the most improbable part of the week for this team, and they managed to do it. There’s no reason to believe Indiana can’t win another two games this weekend. The Hoosiers might end up losing due to fatigue rather than being outplayed. The players and coaching staff sure believe that IU can get the job done. As Trayce Jackson-Davis said, “We didn’t pack for two days, we didn’t pack for three days. We packed to win the Big Ten.” This might be the most confidence an Indiana team has had in years, and they’ll take that confidence into Saturday's bout with Iowa.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With 11:50 left in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, it looked like Michigan was in control and ready to knock Indiana out of this tournament again. The Wolverines led 60-43 heading into the under-12 media timeout. But in front of a disgruntled Indiana-heavy crowd, the Hoosiers rallied and closed the game with a 28-4 run, winning 74-69. Here are three takeaways from IU’s thrilling victory over Michigan. XAVIER JOHNSON IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER ON THIS TEAM Xavier Johnson finished the game with a +13 +/-. Jordan Geronimo was the only player in the game with a higher +/-, as he was +21 in just 20 minutes in this one. Johnson picked up his second foul and was taken out of the game with 11:16 left in the first half. Indiana trailed 15-10 at that point. The rest of the half was a layup line for Michigan, as the Wolverines had 22 points in the paint in the half and shot 13 free throws due to their penetration. None of the Hoosiers’ other perimeter defenders could stay in front of Michigan, making Johnson’s absence huge. Johnson’s impact goes beyond the box score, which looked pretty good for him anyway. He had 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and shot 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-4 on 3s. But Johnson’s intensity and leadership were just as important as his numbers. There were multiple instances in the second half–even when IU trailed by double digits–where Johnson was seen trying to get the fans and his teammates to bring more spirit to the game. Trayce Jackson-Davis noted this effort, saying, “on offense, having [Xavier Johnson] right next to me coming off the screens, getting easy lobs, I think that got me going." That effort ultimately mattered as Johnson was the driving force to the comeback. THE HOOSIERS ARE MONEY IN TRANSITION I’ve been saying it all season, but this game truly changed when Indiana got stops and turned those stops into quick and easy buckets. There were eight instances during IU’s run where the Hoosiers attacked in under 15 seconds and either scored or got to the foul line. This team doesn’t have enough offensive talent to consistently score in the halfcourt, but they have the potential to make magic in transition. With guards as explosive as Johnson and Trey Galloway, and forwards that can gallop down the floor like Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo, fastbreak offense should come rather easily. The Hoosiers were humming in the open court and it gave the team enough life to come back against the Wolverines. SMALL BALL LINEUPS WORK For most of the season, Mike Woodson has played his two slightly-undersized bigs, Race Thompson and Tracye Jackson-Davis together. Woodson usually plays Jordan Geronimo (who is really undersized at just 6-foot-6) at power forward with the 7-foot Michael Durr at center. This was so Durr’s abundance of size and strength could negate what Geronimo lacks in that category. However, Indiana went small and had a frontline of Geronimo and Jackson-Davis during the huge run. Michigan could no longer get to the basket as easily and the Wolverines struggled to chase around IU’s smaller lineup. The Wolverines also play two large bigs, as Moussa Diabate is 6-foot-1 and Hunter Dickinson is 7-foot-1. Michigan could not keep pace with IU’s small ball. This was one of the biggest in-game changes that Woodson has made this season. To see him stick with Geronimo and Jackson-Davis for an extended period was unexpected but it yielded good results. The Hoosiers play a bruising Illinois squad at 11:30 a.m. EST Friday, and we’ll see if they try some smaller lineups yet again.
After a 16-5 start and being considered as safely in the NCAA Tournament, the Indiana men’s basketball team has dropped four straight contests. The Hoosiers will now have a rematch with Ohio State on Monday. IU defeated Ohio State 67-51 at Assembly Hall on Jan. 6. Can the Hoosiers do it again? Here’s a look back at how IU beat the Buckeyes in January and where each team is currently heading. THE LIDDELL STOPPERS? Indiana’s defense limited Ohio State to just 51 points and 0.75 points per possession in the Jan. 6 showdown. That’s the Buckeyes’ worst offensive performance by far this season. But were Ohio State’s scoring struggles due to good defense and unlucky shooting, or did Indiana’s defense do that well to shut the Buckeyes down? It’s been well-documented that Ohio State’s offense runs through forward E.J. Liddell. Liddell is averaging 19.7 points per game this season, as he’s emerged as a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. But against Indiana, Liddell logged 11 points and was 3-for-12 from the field. While it is unlikely that Liddell shoots that poorly at home against the Hoosiers, IU’s defense deserves the credit for his struggles in the first matchup. Liddell’s ability to shoot, post up and handle make him a mismatch nightmare for most opponents. But Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis are the rare defenders that contain the strength and athleticism to stick with Liddell. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-Defense-vs-Liddell-Comp.mp4"][/video] Even when Liddell drew mismatches against smaller players, Thompson and Jackson-Davis were on the backline to prevent easy buckets. “It really just comes to playing hard and playing team defense,” Thompson said about guarding Liddell. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-Help-vs-Liddell-Comp.mp4"][/video] The one part of Liddell’s game that has changed since the first game is his 3-point shooting. Liddell came into the Jan. 6 game shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc, and he shot 1-of-5 against the Hoosiers. Since then, Liddell is making 50 percent of his 3s (20-for-40). Liddell’s improved 3-point shooting brings another aspect for the Hoosiers to worry about on Monday night. On a team level, Ohio State’s offense is dangerous due to their ball screens and their 3-point shooting. Neither of those showed up against Indiana earlier this season. The Hoosiers consistently stopped any immediate success against the Buckeyes’ ball screen actions. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-PNR-D-VS-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] The Hoosiers have been inconsistent at times guarding ball screens, but they didn’t allow Ohio State to wreck them with the action. “I thought that when we played Ohio State we handled their pick-and-rolls pretty well.” Mike Woodson said. Of course, there was the occasional breakdown in IU’s defense. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/OSU-PNR-Scores-Comp.mp4"][/video] If Indiana can defend ball screens with similar success on Monday, then they’ll be set up for success against the Buckeyes. I do believe that IU’s defense matches up well with Ohio State’s offense. The results of that first matchup were nowhere near a fluke, but Ohio State barely reaching 50 points can’t be expected in round two. Indiana should still be able to deliver a strong defensive performance. PLAYING WITH TEMPO Indiana’s offense was just mediocre on Jan. 6, as they scored 0.99 points per possession, which is exactly what they average in Big Ten play. What stood out to me about Indiana’s offense against Ohio State was the pace at which they played. The Buckeyes have an adjusted tempo of 65.5 possessions per 40 minutes. That marks the fourth-slowest pace in the Big Ten. In their last four outings, Ohio State has not had a game with over 63 possessions. But the Hoosiers did not settle for methodical basketball back in January. In that game, there were 68 possessions. IU was able to get out in transition and expose Ohio State’s lack of athleticism. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-Fasbtreak-vs-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] The Buckeyes want to play slow for a reason. They don’t have the type of open-court defenders that can deter fastbreaks. When the Hoosiers decided it was time to run on Jan. 6, there was very little that Ohio State could do about it. Indiana’s ball movement also shined at times against Ohio State. IU did a fine job at making ball reversals and timely passes, and it led to quite a few buckets. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-Ball-Movement-vs-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] Once again, IU’s offense was nowhere near being great in this game. There were still plenty of moments where the Hoosiers were at a standstill. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/IU-Bad-Offense-vs-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] IU’s offensive struggles in their first game against Ohio State resembled their offensive struggles all year. The Hoosiers hit only two 3s in this game despite generating open looks. Inside the arc, Indiana was unable to create great opportunities for anyone besides Jackson-Davis. The offense has been an issue for Indiana all season, and things have only gotten worse as of late. The Hoosiers have now gone five games straight producing under a point per possession. IU hasn’t cracked the 70-point threshold in that span either. IU is shooting just 26.1 percent from 3 in this stretch and 43.6 percent on 2s. Due to their lack of athleticism and elite rim protection, Ohio State’s defense is far from a stifling one. The Buckeyes’ defense has stumbled just as much as Indiana’s offense has. Although they are traveling to a tough road environment, the Hoosiers’ offense has the chance to bounce back if they execute on Monday. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS If the Hoosiers can defend at a level anywhere close to what they did on Jan. 6, they should be in very good shape. Ohio State has a very precise and efficient offense, and they likely remember how pedestrian IU’s defense made them look in the first game. To limit Ohio State’s offense once again, Indiana will need to contain the Buckeyes’ complex ball screens and reduce E.J. Liddell’s scoring output. Ohio State may knock down more of their outside attempts on Monday, and IU will just need to be prepared to close out on those shots. The Buckeyes shoot 37.6 percent on 3s. On offense, Indiana has to find Trayce Jackson-Davis some help. Following IU’s loss to Wisconsin, Badgers guard Johnny Davis said that Jackson-Davis “doesn’t really have too much help around him”. Someone on the IU squad had to have seen Davis’ comment, and chances are they weren’t too happy about it. The support that Jackson-Davis gets in the final five games of the regular season will either prove or disprove that statement. Indiana is desperate to end their current losing streak. Ohio State is coming off an embarrassing defensive performance at home against Iowa. The crowd will be electric in Columbus on Monday night with both teams looking for something to prove. There is a good chance that yet another game comes down to the wire for the Hoosiers.
Instant Takeaways: Trayce Jackson-Davis struggles again, Indiana loses to Michigan State for third straight loss
The Indiana men’s basketball team took a 76-61 defeat at Michigan State on Saturday. Here are some quick takeaways from the Hoosiers’ third consecutive loss. Trayce Jackson-Davis struggles again After going 7-for-22 in IU’s first two games of the losing streak, Indiana’s star Trayce Jackson-Davis continued his slump, going 5-for-13 against Michigan State. Jackson-Davis has not lived up to his hype recently and it has significantly hurt the Hoosiers. This is a team that will only go as far as Jackson-Davis goes. Every other player on this squad has had poor games which Indiana has been able to overcome. But besides the Purdue victory, IU won’t be racking up too many wins with Jackson-Davis not being special. Indiana has another two tough matchups ahead of them, and the play of Jackson-Davis will be crucial. The free-throw disparity made the difference While Indiana shot 16-for-27 (59.3 percent) at the foul line, Michigan State was 25-for-28 (89.3 percent). This shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Hoosiers came into Saturday's game shooting 68.3 percent at the line on the season. The Spartans entered Saturday shooting 76 percent at the charity stripe. This has been an issue for Indiana for years and nothing changed on Saturday. Mike Woodson expressed his frustration with free throws postgame, saying, “There’s no excuse for free throws. We've just got to be better in that area.” With 24 games down in the season, it will be quite the challenge to make those improvements at the line. The starting lineup isn't the problem, the team is Mike Woodson finally did it. He changed the starting lineup. Trey Galloway responded to becoming an official starter by scoring…one point. Parker Stewart, who was moved to the second unit, scored four and was 1-for-6 at the free-throw line. Miller Kopp, who many fans wanted to be replaced as a starter, had just three points. While the starting lineup concerns are valid, the true issue is the overall ability of the players on the current roster. Indiana has too many inconsistent players to compete at the Big Ten level. Today, Tamar Bates was the team’s best backcourt player offensively, as Bates had 13 points. But we know that won’t be the case on Tuesday against Wisconsin. Why do we know this? Because that’s just how it goes for the guards on this roster. They haven’t shown the ability to put together a string of good offensive performances, and it’s hurting the Hoosiers at the wrong time. The Khristian Lander experiment might be over With Rob Phinisee remaining inactive with plantar fasciitis, Khristian Lander was Indiana’s expected backup point guard following his suspension. However, Mike Woodson chose to give Trey Galloway point guard responsibilities for the second game in a row, with Lander playing just one garbage time minute. Lander has struggled to get consistent playing time all season and Phinisee’s injury was supposed to mean an opportunity for Lander to live up to his five-star status. Now, after being one of five suspended players on Tuesday against Northwestern, it appears that Lander has been iced out of the rotation yet again. Maybe Woodson looks at this loss and goes back to Lander on Tuesday but currently, the Khristian Lander project looks dim nearing the end of his sophomore season. This team feels defeated and disconnected There were one of two ways that Indiana’s roster could respond to the suspension of five teammates. They could band together and go on a run, or let the Northwestern fiasco hamper the remainder of the season. It’s hard to give a definitive answer of how the players responded after one game, but the response does not look like a positive one at the moment. The tight bond that it felt this team once had may be fading away. Tuesday night will give us more answers. It’s a home game against a Wisconsin team that embarrassed Indiana in the second half in a 64-59 Badgers victory on Dec. 8. If this team doesn’t come out with passion and energy against the Badgers, then that should tell you all you need to know about the state of the Hoosiers.
After back-to-back losses (and the suspension of five rotational players), the Indiana men’s basketball team finds itself in a position they weren’t in seven days ago: Questioning their tournament standing. And now, the Hoosiers have three straight games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. IU will travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State on Saturday. Here are the strengths and flaws of Tom Izzo’s Spartans ahead of their bout with the Hoosiers. FAST AND FURIOUS The main thing to note about the Spartan’s offense is the pace. Michigan State loves to play quickly on offense, and a lot of it has to do with their bigs. The Spartans use their big men to get out and run in transition quickly. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/MSU-Fastbreak-Comp.mp4"][/video] As a defense, you have to be ready to run the floor with Michigan State. IU certainly has the capable bigs with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, but it’s a matter of being prepared and conditioned to sprint down the court continually. When teams do run the floor well with Michigan State, the Spartans are prone to turning the ball over. This is the downside to playing as fast as the Spartans do. Michigan State turns the ball over on 20.4 percent of their possessions, marking the highest turnover rate in the Big Ten. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/MSU-TOs-Comp.mp4"][/video] If the Hoosiers run the floor defensively like they’re capable of, they can force the Spartans into a lot of turnovers. This will take possessions away from Michigan State and it could create fastbreak opportunities for IU. What stands out about Michigan State’s half-court offense is the ball movement. 61.9 percent of the Spartans’ baskets are assisted. That percentage ranks in the top-20 in the nation and second in the Big Ten behind Rutgers. There’s no star on this offense, but they spread the ball around and make sure everyone on the court is a scoring threat. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/MSU-Ball-Movement-Comp.mp4"][/video] It will be crucial for Indiana to make the proper rotations against Michigan State on Saturday. It will be even more important for Indiana to contain the ball so that they don’t end up behind the play and scrambling against Michigan State’s ball and player movement. Michigan’s State leading scorer Gabe Brown is often a beneficiary of this ball movement. The 6-foot-8 senior is not necessarily ball-dominant and doesn’t create for himself, but he is very efficient with his touches. Brown is averaging just 12.8 points per game in a balanced Spartan scoring attack, and 56.8 percent of his field goal attempts are 3s. Brown does a lot of his work from the corners, and more specifically the left corner. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Gabe-Brown-3-Comp.mp4"][/video] Once again, Brown is not someone who will put the ball on the ground much and initiate the Spartans’ offense. But as a 38.5 percent (41.7 percent in Big Ten play) 3-point shooter, he must be accounted for at all times on the floor. Brown can often make a living by lurking and just slightly moving to the blind spot of a ball-watching defender. Whichever Hoosier draws the Gabe Brown assignment must be alert to take away open looks. HARD IN THE PAINT Michigan State is also coming off back-to-back losses. In those losses, the Spartans’ defense has struggled. Despite having one of the best 3-point defenses in the country, Michigan State has had struggles defending inside the arc. Watch how ruthlessly Rutgers backed Michigan State down at multiple positions last Saturday: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Rutgers-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] Michigan State’s last three opponents have all shot above 50 percent on 2-pointers. The Spartans are struggling to stop teams in the paint and it’s led to them barely beating Maryland and falling to Rutgers and Wisconsin. Michigan State’s inability to stop the post could bode well for Jackson-Davis, who is 7 of 22 from the field during IU’s two-game losing skid. Don’t be surprised to see Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers test Michigan State’s defense with a bevy of post ups for Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo as well. While Michigan State plays with a high tempo on offense, their defense is set up to force opposing offenses into long possessions. Michigan State’s average defensive possession takes 18.3 seconds. Tom Izzo and the Spartans play a conservative man-to-man defense. Michigan State’s defense is built to drag possessions out instead of having offenses make quick reads that could lead to baskets. Possessions like this one happen often against Michigan State: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Long-NU-Possession.mp4"][/video] As you can see, there’s not a lot of tight pressure, on or off-ball, on Northwestern players. Instead, Michigan State’s defenders just do their best to stay in front of the basketball and force the Wildcats into a long possession. The best way for Indiana to attack Michigan State will be by finding ways to get downhill. Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway are IU’s best two rim pressure ball handlers, so expect to see those two being aggressive in the first half on Saturday. IU’s offensive performance may just come down to Jackson-Davis’ ability to break his current slump. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS The Indiana defense has struggled to guard 3s in recent weeks. While Michigan State doesn’t fire up a lot of 3s, they hit an impressive 38.8 percent of their shots from downtown. Limiting the makes (and attempts) of Gabe Brown and others will be very important for IU in this matchup. IU has to be ready to run with the Spartans when necessary. Marcus Bingham, Joey Hauser and Julius Marble can all get up the court quickly for early post seals and easy dunks. The Hoosiers need to ensure that those easy shots in transition don’t happen on Saturday. The return of five previously-suspended Indiana players should provide a boost to the squad’s offense. But the Hoosiers have now gone three consecutive games scoring under a point per possession, so it will take more than just getting those players back. As the best player on this team, now feels like the time for Trayce Jackson-Davis to get back into rhythm and lift this program from the hectic past seven days. Michigan State’s defense is susceptible to post players like Jackson-Davis. If he can take advantage of that, then Indiana should be set up nicely at the Breslin Center. Both teams come into Saturday struggling. A three-game losing streak on either side would spell trouble. I expect two desperate teams to come in and fight for every possession. If Indiana can nail the little things, this game will likely come down to the wire.
After taking their first home defeat in an 80-62 loss against Michigan on Sunday, the Indiana men’s basketball team is in a must-win situation to close out its three-game homestand. IU will face Penn State, a team they’ve already fallen to, on Wednesday. Here’s what went wrong against the Nittany Lions on Jan. 2, and here’s how the Hoosiers can fix it. PUSH THE PACE My biggest gripe with Indiana in its 61-58 loss at Penn State was how slow the game was. Penn State is a deliberately slow team. The Nittany Lions play at the slowest pace in the Big Ten, with an adjusted tempo of 62.3 possessions. In the first matchup, there were 59 total possessions per team. That’s the lowest amount of possessions that IU has had all season. This slower pace plays in Penn State’s favor because Penn State is the less talented team. Thus, the lower amount of possessions means the gap in overall skill is reduced. When the game is played that slowly, IU’s margin of error becomes much smaller. The Hoosiers need to speed it up to separate themselves on Wednesday. TIME TO SWITCH IT UP? The other large issue that occurred in the earlier game was the ball screen defense. Mike Woodson acknowledged this following the Penn State game, saying, “We just weren’t good in our pick and roll coverage. It was terrible.” [video ] The pick-and-roll defense has continued to be an issue for the Hoosiers after that game. Michigan runs a lot of the same spread ball screen concepts as Penn State, and the Wolverines also ate IU alive with those schemes. [video ] The baskets that Penn State and Michigan scored on the Hoosiers look eerily similar. IU has flat-out done a poor job containing this action this month. Concerns with defending ball screens coincided with giving up good 3-point attempts. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happened to Indiana against Michigan on Sunday. The inability to contain the initial screen action has left IU out of rotation. [video ] Another reason the Hoosiers allowed Penn State to knock down 11 3s is that they helped too aggressively. Helping one pass away appears to be a part of Indiana’s defensive scheme, but I’m not sure it should be. Watch these two possessions, as Rob Phinisee has the drive restrained yet Jordan Geronimo helps at the foul line, leading to open 3s. [video ] Indiana’s 3-point defense will be vital for its success on Wednesday. Penn State has the highest 3-point attempt rate in the Big Ten, as 43.5 percent of Penn State's field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. When the Nittany Lions shoot over 35 percent on 3s, they are 5-1 this year. When they shoot over 33 percent, they are 8-1. Penn State only has eight wins on the season, meaning most of its games are solely reliant on how well the team shoots from outside. IU needs to make sure that Penn State doesn’t go 11-for-22 on 3s again. My suggestion to fix Indiana’s issues of ball screen and 3-point defense is to switch more often. At the beginning of the season, it appeared IU wanted to switch rather frequently. IU would switch the point guard through power forward positions with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Michael Durr continuing to hedge. Watch this possession in IU’s season opener against Eastern Michigan and pay attention to the number of switches that occur both on and off-ball. [video ] In 11 seconds of action, I count at least three (maybe four) switches. Switching like this makes it harder for offenses to easily pull up or drive right to the basket. The downside of switching is the possibility of the opposing offenses hunting mismatches. I believe both Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo are versatile enough to make the switching scheme pay off. As long as Jackson-Davis and Durr can avoid being the players that have to defend on the perimeter, switching may be wiser than the current attempts of hedging and recovering. BALL REVERSALS Where Indiana occasionally struggled against Penn State offensively is moving the ball. In particular, the Hoosiers had a hard time swinging the ball around when the Nittany Lions “iced” screens. Penn State ices screens to restrict offenses from driving down the middle of the lane. [video ] The way to beat the ice is to quickly reverse the ball to the other side of the floor without trying to dribble through the strong denial. IU struggled to create legitimate ball reversals at times against Penn State. [video ] Indiana did not provide a good response to Penn State’s defense in the first matchup. Penn State has consistently gone with ice coverage against ball screens, and will continue to do so on Wednesday. The Hoosiers must reverse the ball with a purpose to keep the Nittany Lions on their toes. Other than that, Indiana just has to shoot the ball better on Wednesday. Jackson-Davis missed a few bunnies at the rim in the earlier matchup. The team shot 4-for-17 as a team in the Jan. 2 loss. If Jackson-Davis hits two more layups and IU knocks down a couple more 3s, then the Hoosiers probably win that game. Playing at Assembly Hall should help Indiana put together a more efficient effort on open looks. But Indiana will need to move the ball more to create more of those looks. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS Hoosier fans are longing for a good start to a game. They usually recover from the slow starts, but building a decent lead over Penn State early on would be preferred. Getting an early lead and playing with place could go hand in hand. Many will be looking to see if IU can make a stand early against pick and rolls. Will it be more of the same, or will the Hoosiers tighten up the defense? Overall, I think the defense will come down to limiting Penn State’s 3-point opportunities. And on offense, just hitting the good looks will go a long way. Indiana’s guards should be more equipped to handle ice coverage now that they’ve faced it multiple times throughout the year. As long as they don’t let the defense completely take them out of their sets, the Hoosiers should be fine. The goal for this homestand was for Indiana to come out 2-1. After upsetting Purdue, the Hoosiers had a letdown game against Michigan. IU has to avoid a resume-altering loss against Penn State.
The Indiana men’s basketball team got their first road win of the season in a 78-71 defeat of Nebraska on Monday. After getting that monkey off their back, the Hoosiers will look to remove another monkey on Thursday: The Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue has won nine straight games over Indiana, and this may be the best team the Boilermakers have ever had. Here’s what IU will be challenged with on Thursday night. THE OFFENSE AND ITS COUNTERS When discussing Purdue’s offense, I think it’s best to start with their most efficient player. That would be the 7-foot-4 sophomore Zach Edey. Edey is averaging 15.6 points per game and shooting 70.7 percent on field goals. Edey’s main source of production is obviously post ups. Purdue creates these post ups by overloading one side of the court and having Edey pin his defender deep inside the paint. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Zach-Edey-Overload-Comp.mp4"][/video] This overload allows Edey to post up without help being available from the weak side. Notice how there is usually no defender on the other side of the court and if there is, it’s a guard who has very little chance of affecting Edey’s shot. Also, watch the post-to-post cross screens that the Boilermakers sometimes use to trigger post ups (remember those screens for later on). For the last four or five years, zoom action has been a staple of Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s offenses. Zoom action is when a big man has the ball at the wing or elbow, another player is to his side setting a pindown and a ball-handling guard is running off the screen to receive a dribble handoff from the big man. Typically, the big man rolls, the screener pops and the guard has the option to drive, pass or shoot right away. Painter began frequently running this for Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline, and he hasn’t looked back since. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Purdue-Zoom-Comp.mp4"][/video] This is a great set to run for Purdue’s leading scorer Jaden Ivey (16.4 points per game). His speed is hard to chase off screens. It is also a wonderful action for Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic, who is a 41.7 percent 3-point shooter on 6.4 attempts per game. Speaking of Ivey, the sophomore from South Bend has made himself a complete basketball player. Ivey’s mix of speed and finishing make him extremely hard to stop. Add that to the fact that his 3-point shooting has jolted to a 43 percent clip and you have one of the best players in college basketball. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Ivey-Driving-Comp.mp4"][/video] Ivey’s job of getting to the rim is made that much easier by the fact that rim protectors are usually too occupied with Edey and Trevion Williams to give a genuine contest to Ivey’s finishes. Oh yeah, did I mention Trevion Williams? Williams was Second Team All-Big Ten last season and has now become Purdue’s sixth man due to Edey’s improvement (Williams plays more than Edey). While Williams' scoring production has taken a slight decrease, his effective field goal percentage has soared from 52.5 percent to 58.8 percent. Williams is used in a much different capacity than Edey is. Watch how Williams’ post ups occur in more spread alignments than Edey’s. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Trevion-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] Purdue is also much more comfortable with Williams handling the basketball. This is because Williams has better ball-handling and passing skills than Edey does. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Trevion-Handles-Comp.mp4"][/video] If Edey catches the ball above the foul line, it’s only to initiate zoom action. Williams can be trusted to touch the ball from anywhere on the court. The first play in that video is a zoom set, but Williams is wise enough to spot the defense overplaying it and throw the backdoor pass. What makes the Boilermakers so dangerous, outside of individual players, is the counters they have to many of their sets. Remember those cross screens I mentioned on the Edey overload play? They also use those to set up alley-oops when defenses try to jump the passing lanes. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Edey-Lob-UNC-.mp4"][/video] Purdue’s zoom plays are usually set up by a pindown being set to get Edey and Williams the ball. But when a defender reads the action early and tries to beat the big man to the spot, here comes a backdoor cut and a lob. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Purdue-Zoom-Lobs-Comp.mp4"][/video] As Indiana fans know all too well, Purdue’s offense is consistently one of the best and most complex in the country (there’s still a lot I didn’t cover). The Boilermakers now have the type of talent and experience that puts it all together. They will be a tough cover for Indiana on Thursday night. SCRAMBLE DRILL Purdue’s defense has been inconsistent, but they are coming off a 96-88 double overtime win over Illinois and the Illini only scored 1.04 points per possession (the national average is 1.01). After that performance against Illinois’ electric offense in Champagne, Purdue has to feel good about their chances against IU’s offense. One thing to watch is how the Boilermakers decide to guard ball screens. For most of the season, Purdue has been willing to switch ball screens at the one through four positions. When Edey is the center, he is asked to play drop coverage, where he just stays between the ball handler and the basket until the on-ball defender can get back in front. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Edey-Drop-Comp.mp4"][/video] When Williams is the center, he typically is tasked with hedging the screen and briefly cutting off any driving angle for the ball handler. Sometimes, Williams straight-up blitzes the ball screen action, effectively double teaming the ball handler. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Trevion-Hedge-Comp.mp4"][/video] Against Illinois, the Boilermakers decided to “ice” most ball screens rather than dropping or hedging. This forced Illinois to drive baseline and limited them from utilizing the middle of the court. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Purdue-Ice-Comp.mp4"][/video] It’s hard to tell whether Purdue has decided to completely change their ball screen coverage, or if they felt they needed to ice screens to limit Illinois’ guards from driving straight down the middle. In Purdue’s other games ice coverage was more of a wrinkle in their defense than their base coverage. I believe that Indiana’s best shot at attacking drops and hedges is to drag the screen out to the point where Purdue’s centers are forced to switch onto IU’s ball handlers. When the switch happens, the Boilermakers will send aggressive help and the Hoosiers will have the opportunity to swing the ball around and find the open man. While this following possession came against IU, it is a good example of how to attack these coverages. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Jordan-Bohannon-Bucket.mp4"][/video] Michael Durr is trying to hedge and recover against Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon. Bohannon drags the screen to the other end of the floor, forcing Durr to switch on Bohannon and Rob Phinisee to switch on Iowa’s big man. Bohannon then uses his agility to get right past Durr and score. If Purdue is icing screens on Thursday, Indiana will need to stress the importance of ball reversals. Purdue’s defense has been inconsistent because they tend to fall asleep off-ball and can be caught on their toes in scramble drills. Watch how Purdue blitzes the screen and the weak-side defense isn’t ready to combat that: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/NC-State-Ball-Movement.mp4"][/video] These ball reversals will be vital for Indiana regardless of how Purdue guards ball screens. IU’s best half-court possessions come when they make quick and accurate passes around the perimeter. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/IU-Ball-Reversal-Comp.mp4"][/video] Purdue has faced two elite big men this year: North Carolina’s Armando Bacot and Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn. Those two combined for 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting against the Boilermakers. Trayce Jackson-Davis will have to be able to navigate a defense that guards well against post ups. Even with the size that Edey and Williams provide, Purdue still opted to double Bacot and Cockburn as much as they could. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Purdue-Guarding-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] There’s a good chance that Jackson-Davis will have to be the best player on the floor for IU to win on Thursday. Purdue’s great post defense has come on limited sample size. Bacot and Cockburn both battled foul trouble against the Boilermakers. Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson will both have to stay clear of poor fouls and being too aggressive. That said, Indiana can not abandon the low-post game at any point. But being able to score with variety will make way for more post buckets down the stretch. It may ultimately just come down to how many tough shots Jackson-Davis can convert. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS There is no simple answer regarding how Indiana should guard Purdue’s offense. The most important key for the defense is to not overplay Purdue’s actions. Unless the ball is in the air, don’t try to read a play before it happens. Eye discipline is a big deal against the Boilermakers. When Edey’s in the post, I’d advise sending hard and timely doubles. IU has two great defensive bigs, but Edey is 7 inches taller than Jackson-Davis and 8 inches taller than Thompson. The Hoosiers could maybe try defending Edey one-on-one when the 7-footer Michael Durr is in the lineup, but I still wouldn’t lean on it. When Williams is in the post, I think Thompson and Jackson-Davis can both hold their own one-on-one. With Williams’ vision, it’s probably not wise to double him. Depending on how Purdue is spaced, Indiana should be ready to send a second man to contest Williams as he’s going up for shots. Other than that, I’d say let IU’s two bigs handle Williams by themselves. IU has to rebound to close out defensive possessions. Purdue’s offense is too good to surrender second chances to. Purdue currently has a 37.8 offensive rebound percentage, which is top ten in the country. Indiana is typically one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country, but the Hoosiers allowed a concerning 16 offensive rebounds to Iowa last week. All five of IU’s defensive players need to play a part in securing rebounds on Thursday. Ball movement and ball reversals will be the most vital part of Indiana’s offense on Thursday. If IU can move the ball quickly and accurately, they should have a good chance at the upset. If not, chalk up ten in a row for Purdue over IU. I also think IU has to win the 3-point differential. Whether that means defending the perimeter extremely well or catching fire from beyond the arc, the Hoosiers’ best chance to win will be by outshooting Purdue from deep. Purdue is a top-five 3-point shooting team in the country at 40.3 percent, but they’re only shooting 35.3 percent on 3s in away games. Sturdy defense combined with bad luck could lead to a poor shooting night for Purdue. This is a game that Indiana should be competitive in. Purdue is the better team, but IU’s defense combined with the Assembly Hall could make the Boilermakers uncomfortable. If the Hoosiers do what they need to do and a few bounces go their way, they could pull off the upset and get their biggest win of the season.
The Indiana men’s basketball team is coming off two exciting home wins against Ohio State and Minnesota. But on Thursday, they’ll return to a true road environment, where they are yet to win this season (0-3). Here is what Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers need to prepare for against the Iowa Hawkeyes. RUN & GUN The top point of emphasis for the Hawkeyes offenses is running the floor and playing fast. Iowa pushes the pace regardless of if its defense is coming off of a rebound, made shot or turnover. These are Iowa’s first two possessions against Wisconsin, where the Hawkeyes scored in under five seconds: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Iowa-Quick-Pace-Comp.mp4"][/video] Iowa’s average offensive possession takes 14.9 seconds, and that number is equal for both non-conference and Big Ten games. From Indiana’s side, I’m not sure the solution is trying to slow Iowa down, as the Hoosiers also play their best offense when tempo’s involved. But IU certainly has to be alert and ready to run back on defense at all times. Another Big Ten opponent, another potential All-American to go against. That’s just how it works this year in the conference, and Keegan Murray drives the bus for Iowa. Murray has gone from being Luka Garza’s backup to being one of the best players in college basketball. Murray’s prime source of production in half-court offense is in the post-up and face-up game. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Keegan-Murray-Post-Comp.mp4"][/video] Murray’s mix of strength, athleticism, and shotmaking is hard to come by. Woodson has already indicated that he plans to use Race Thompson as the primary defender against Murray. The Hoosiers should really consider playing Jordan Geronimo over 15 minutes on Thursday, even though he’s only done it once since the start of December. Geronimo’s ability to take away space with his length could be a nice counter to Murray’s size. Geronimo would probably need some help in the low post but I think he could get the job done. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Jordan-Geronimo-Defense-Comp.mp4"][/video] Murray’s worst game of the season (and Iowa’s worst offensive game overall) came against Iowa State. Iowa State was unafraid to switch when Murray was the screener. When Murray got the ball, the entire defense loaded up to negate any driving angles for Murray. This forced Murray to either make contested shots or become a facilitator (which is the weakest part of his offensive arsenal). [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Iowa-State-Defense-Comp.mp4"][/video] Murray did not score in the first half against the Cyclones and finished the game with just nine points on 4-for-17 shooting. Iowa only shoots 35.5 percent on 3s and is at just 33.7 percent in four Big Ten games. Teams can force the ball out of Murray’s hand and make Iowa settle for 3s. As long as Indiana locates Jordan Bohannon (who has made the most 3s in Big Ten history), IU can probably get away with helping off of perimeter players to wall up Murray. The other part of Iowa’s offense that makes the Hawkeyes so hard to guard is the ball handling. Seemingly every Iowa player can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Iowa-Driving-Comp.mp4"][/video] Not only do the Hawkeyes have a surplus of ball handlers, but those ball handlers are also careful with the ball. Iowa leads the country with a 12.1 percent turnover rate. Iowa has turned it over even less in conference play (9.8 percent). IU will have to be able to contain the drive against Iowa, and the backline should be ready at all times to clean up any mistakes made by wing defenders. A BEATABLE DEFENSE For the third year in a row, Iowa’s defense appears to be hindering a top-five offense. In six games against teams in basketball analyst Bart Torvik's top 100 teams, Iowa is allowing 1.139 points per possession, which ranks second-last in the Big Ten. Iowa’s defensive problems start with rebounding. Iowa’s opponents grab offensive rebounds 30.6 percent of the time. That number jolts to an abysmal 40.4 percent in conference play, which is last in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes lost their top three rebounders from a season ago and they are now experiencing the consequences. Indiana is not a team that necessarily emphasizes offensive rebounding, but IU absolutely should against Iowa. The likes of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Geronimo and Michael Durr need to be active on the offensive glass against the Hawkeyes. Other than rebounding, there’s nothing that Iowa is consistently terrible at defensively. The issue is that there is nothing that Iowa does consistently well either. Some games this team gets beat by 3s, some games they get killed inside, other games they foul too much. The reason for it changes constantly, but this is an Iowa squad that is yet to show that it can guard a top-100 team. As for how Iowa defends Jackson-Davis, you can expect double teams to come. Iowa has faced three premier big men: Illinois' Kofi Cockburn, Purdue's Zach Edey and Purdue's Trevion Williams. Everyone has to double Cockburn and Edey, who are both over 7-feet tall and 280 pounds. But Iowa also decided to send two at Williams, who stands 6-foot-10. It is clear that the Hawkeyes do not trust their post defense to go one-on-one against top players. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Trevion-Williams-Double-Comp.mp4"][/video] As per usual, IU will need to make smart passes out of double teams and swing the ball around to find the open man. If the Hoosiers do this effectively, there’s a good chance that Iowa’s defense breaks down once again. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS To have success against Iowa, Indiana will need to play team defense and protect the paint. The Hawkeyes want to get the likes of Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery and Kris Murray going towards the rim. The Hoosiers also need to emphasize running back in transition. Jackson-Davis and Thompson are two of the fastest big men in the conference and they will need to put that to use against Iowa. IU cannot get caught sleeping in transition against the Hawkeyes. Offensively, Indiana will have to avoid turning the ball over. Due to how seldom Iowa turns it over, it will be important for the Hoosiers to not lose the turnover battle by a large margin. IU’s turnover rate has stayed below 15 percent in the past three games after being over 20 percent to begin the season. If IU can keep that trend going, the team should be in good shape. This is a very winnable game for IU. Iowa has not shown the ability to guard inside, which bodes well for the Hoosiers. I expect the low post actions to be very efficient against the Hawkeyes. On the other hand, all three of IU’s losses have been winnable games. All three of the losses have been on the road. We’re at the midway point of the regular season and so far, this looks like an entirely different squad when playing outside of the state of Indiana. The Hoosiers have a chance to fix that against Iowa.
The Indiana men’s basketball team is coming off a disappointing 61-58 defeat at Penn State on Sunday. Its next test: A 9-2 Ohio State team riding a 5-game winning streak. Here is what awaits the Hoosiers on Thursday night. E.J. LIDDELL AND THE SHOOTERS When discussing Ohio State’s offense, the conversation has to start with E.J. Liddell. Liddell is on a list of early candidates for the Big 10 Player of the Year, as he is averaging 19.6 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game so far this season. The main way the Buckeyes use Liddell is in the post. At 240 pounds, Liddell’s large shoulders and strength make him hard to guard on the block. He often creates enough separation to rise for a fadeaway. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Liddelll-Post-Ups-Comp.mp4"][/video] Indiana has both Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis available to guard Liddell down low. Most teams don’t have two defensive big men of that caliber. Because the Hoosiers have bigs with the potential to guard Liddell one-on-one, it will be interesting to see if IU brings double teams. Liddell is a poised passer out of double teams. In Ohio State’s 87-79 overtime win over Nebraska on Sunday, Liddell manufactured back-to-back overtime assists to put Ohio State in control. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Liddell-Passes-Comp.mp4"][/video] Plays like that are Ohio State’s bread and butter. The Buckeyes shoot 39.7 percent on 3-pointers, which is tied for second in the Big Ten. They use their post ups with Liddell and Zed Key and turn them into inside scoring opportunities or 3-point attempts. Ohio State does an especially good job at pairing a shooting threat on the side of a post player. Watch how the Buckeyes scramble to make sure Jamari Wheeler (43.8 percent on 3s) is on the wing above Zed Key: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Key-to-Wheeler.mp4"][/video] The other part of Liddell’s game that makes him difficult to guard is his role as a screener. Liddell is one of the best screeners in the country and Ohio State takes advantage of that. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Liddell-as-Screener-Comp.mp4"][/video] This shows Liddell popping for a jump shot, driving to the basket, rolling to the basket, and flowing into a post up. Liddell’s level of versatility is hard to come by in college basketball. He is shooting 33.3 percent on 3s this season and 50.8 percent in the mid-range area (per basketball statistician Bart Torvik). What makes Ohio State’s offense special, in general, is the creativity of the ball screens. Chris Holtmann is a believer in the roll/replace and/or Spain pick and roll actions. These actions lift a player from the dunker spot to the perimeter with the goal of minimizing the weak-side defense and creating three different scoring options. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/OSU-Roll-Replace-Comp.mp4"][/video] Penn State, IU’s previous opponent, also ran a few Spain pick and rolls. This particular one did not fare well for the Hoosiers: [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/PSU-Spain.mp4"][/video] Defending this play requires recognizing it quickly and effective communication of the defensive coverage. IU’s defense has been solid, but the skill and counters of Ohio State’s offense will be the toughest challenge that IU has faced this season. Where the Ohio State offense can be slowed down is by forcing turnovers. Ohio State has a turnover rate of 20.4 percent in three conference games thus far. That ranks second-last in the conference, with only Rutgers turning the ball over at a higher rate. If the Hoosiers can play tight defense and play the passing lanes, they could hinder this highly efficient Ohio State offense. THE “NO-MIDDLE” DEFENSE Ohio State’s defense is the weaker side of the ball for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have a serviceable defense but it is not top-10 in the country like their offense. The main issue for Ohio State’s defense is staying in front of athletic ball handlers. Ohio State is susceptible to giving up a lot of blow-by drives. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Blow-Bys-vs-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] It’s clear that Ohio State’s point-of-attack defenders don’t always do a great job containing the drive. The issue for the Hoosiers is that they don’t create that sort of rim pressure outside of Xavier Johnson. Per Bart Torvik, Johnson has 40 “close 2” attempts this season. No other Indiana guard has more than 15. The main way that Ohio State combats opponents’ drives is by icing screens. By icing a screen, the Buckeyes deny drives down the middle of the court and force ball handlers to drive towards the baseline. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/OSU-Ice-Comp.mp4"][/video] IU has faced two teams -- Eastern Michigan and Penn State -- that ice screens at a high rate like Ohio State. Against Eastern Michigan, IU’s guards were patient and made sure the ball got to the weak side effectively. The overload leading to an alley-oop on the second play is one of the better IU plays this season. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/IU-vs-EMU-Ice-Comp.mp4"][/video] The Hoosiers appeared a bit less comfortable against ice coverage at Penn State. Mixed results ensued. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/IU-vs-PSU-Ice-Comp.mp4"][/video] IU probably doesn’t have crafty enough ball handlers to snake around screens in ice coverage, but the least they could do is to reverse the ball with purpose and urgency. Sometimes overcoming ice coverage is as simple as tossing the ball to the screener and turning the play into a dribble handoff instead. Thursday’s game will be the first time Ohio State has faced a dominant big man this season, so it’s hard to know how the Buckeyes will approach guarding Trayce Jackson-Davis. While Key and Liddell are strong enough for the challenge, they might not have the overall quickness and poise to contain Jackson-Davis. The Buckeyes mainly doubled Jackson-Davis in the matchup last February. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="https://www.thehoosiernetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/TJD-Doubles-vs-OSU-Comp.mp4"][/video] Being doubled should be nothing new for Jackson-Davis, but there is the potential to see him go one-on-one against the Buckeyes. If that’s the case, he must go to work. FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS To win, Indiana will need to hug the 3-point line defensively. The Hoosiers have a tendency of helping one pass away against great shooters, and that ends up hurting them. Ohio State is too dangerous from beyond the arc. IU cannot make inopportune gambles in this game. IU will also need to stay in front of Liddell and force him into highly contested shots. This is a challenge that Thompson wasn’t quite ready for last year, but the fifth-year senior is having his best season on both sides of the ball this year. A steady mix of Thompson, Jackson-Davis, and Jordan Geronimo should at least make things difficult for Liddell. On offense, Indiana has to have quick ball reversals and create looks for its two shooters, Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp. There was no synergy and no clear objective for the Hoosiers offensively against Penn State, and that has to change. The Hoosiers must put their most efficient players in spots where they can succeed. Jackson-Davis also has to be great, not just good, against these top-tier squads. Jackson-Davis was just 5-for-12 at the rim against Penn State, as he misfired a few shots that he usually makes. This offense just isn’t gifted enough to overcome Jackson-Davis having off nights. He has to play like an All-American. This is the biggest (and possibly most important) test that Indiana has faced all season. The Hoosiers are now 0-3 on the road after suffering a loss to a Penn State team that they should have beaten. If this team is going to struggle in road environments, they have to get the job done in these monumental home games.