Indiana's first half performance at Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was exactly what might be expected of a young team that had not yet played on the road or against major conference competition. The Hoosiers trailed by 14 at halftime, but pulled to within a point on multiple occasions in the second half. Still, the Eagles' shooting and rebounding presented too much of a challenge, and IU fell 88-76. After IU pulled to within 1 point on a Jordan Hulls jumper with 5:44 remaining, the Hoosiers didn't score another field goal until the 1:53 mark, at which point BC had extended its lead to an insurmountable 13 point margin.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day was the Hoosiers' defensive rebounding. As I noted in my preview, BC is not a strong team on the offensive boards, but against IU they managed to corral a Michigan State-like 50.9 percent of their OR opportunities. It was by far IU's worst defensive rebounding performance of the season. This is a game in which the tempo-free stats are useful. While very good, the Eagles' 50.9 percent shooting from the field (same as IU), 10 three pointers, and 22 free throws don't jump off the page, when they are put together, and combined with a bunch of offensive rebounds and only six turnovers, BC's offensive efficiency, 1.45 points per possession, is IU's worst performance of the Crean era. That's right. No other team--not Michigan State, not Ohio State, not Kentucky--has scored as many points per possession as Boston College did last night, scoring 88 points in a 61 possession game. In sum, Boston College did what they needed to do, particularly in that they finally shot a respectable enough percentage to justify their large number of three point attempts. It seemed as if the Eagles made a three pointer every single time IU gained some momentum.
Still, the positive news is that IU's offense was very good, at least in the second half. After shooting 39 percent in the first half, IU made 63 percent of their shots in the second half. IU's overall turnover number of 10 in the game, good enough for 16.5 percent, is very good, and only three of those TOs came in the second half. Certainly, part of that is because it isn't a defensive priority for BC. Nevertheless, if anyone wonders why I harp on turnovers, IU's offensive efficiency number of 125.3 is the second-highest for IU of the Crean era, behind only last week's win over Northwestern State.
Individual performances of note:
- Christian Watford was excellent, again. Anyone who question's Tom Crean's coaching acumen should consider Watford's freshman-to-sophomore improvement. Watford scored 23 points on 5-9 from 2 point range, 2-3 behind the arc, and 7-9 behind the line. His three rebounds were a bit of a disappointment, but the less Watford has to be forced into an interior role, the better for IU.
- Maurice Creek was rusty, shooting only 2-8 from behind the arc, but he scored 15 points.
- Verdell Jones III scored 11 points on 5-9 from the field. He led the team with 5 rebounds, but led the way with 4 turnovers, as well.
For the first road game, this wasn't a disaster. Most significantly, when the game appeared to be heading toward rout status, IU fought back from a 14 point deficit to hang around for most of the second half. I'll never accept that a loss like this is necessary, but I'm also not discouraged. IU plays Savannah State on Saturday, and then it's off to Kentucky a week later.