IU improved to 2-0 with a comfortable home win over Chattanooga. Here are the stats. The trajectory of this game was strikingly similar to that of the opener against Stony Brook. TheMocs, like the Seawolves, hung around until about the six minute mark of the first half, but IU went on a serious run from that point forward, and put the game essentially out of reach early in the second half. Chattanooga took its last lead at the 7:25 mark of the first half, 21-20. IU went on a 16-3 run to finish the first half, and when IU's lead peaked at 29, almost exactly 20 minutes later, the Hoosiers had outscored the Mocs 45-15 during that stretch.
While it was the Hoosier offense that stood out in game 1, against Chattanooga the defense made more of an impact. The .69 points per possession that IU allowed the Mocs is the second best single game defensive performance of the Crean era, second only to last year's game against Wright State. The Hoosier offense was not overwhelmingly good, averaging just over a point per possession, and I wish I could give IU's defense all the credit for Chattanooga's poor numbers. The defense was good, but the Mocs missed quite a few open looks from deep. Had they been shooting well, the game might have been a bit more interesting. As it stood, the Mocs were decent from three point range, making 36 percent of their deep balls, but were horrible from inside the arc, shooting only 9-41 from two point range. Certainly, IU's superior athletes had something to do with that. Perhaps the most troubling stat was on the offensive boards, where IU corralled only 20 percent of its opportunities. Also, IU's turnover numbers continue to be too high. IU turned the ball over on 23 percent of its possessions, although that was offset by the fact that nearly a third of Chattanooga's possessions (32 percent) ended in turnovers. One positive development compared to last year: our fouls are down, and in both of our first two games, we have lived up to Coach Knight's well-known expectation that the team make more free throws than the other team attempted. We will see if that holds up on the road, of course, but last year we weren't holding such an advantage at home. Finally, one encouraging stat is that of Chattanooga's 25 turnovers, more than half of those, 15, were credited as steals for IU. Cody Zeller had six on his own.
Speaking of Zeller, he didn't have the dominant offensive performance that he had against Stony Brook. He attempted only 3 field goals and finished with 7 points, and had only 5 rebounds, 2 defensive. Still, his presence drew the double team, and had something to do with IU's solid performance from three point range, particularly that of Jordan Hulls, who shot 6-9 from three point range. John Shulman admitted as much in the postgame press conference, and added, hilariously: " Let me just tell you something, that's one skilled human in there." Other individual performances of note:
Victor Oladipo continued to excel at both ends of the court. His shot selection has been very good. He took two three pointers, but both were wide open, and he made one of them. Oladipo finished with a team and career high 21 points on 6-9 from the field and 8-11 from the line. The three turnovers were a negative.
Verdell Jones III was very efficient as a shooter, scoring 16 points on 5-7 from the field and 6-7 from the line, but that was offset by 5 turnovers. Sigh. I think we simply have to accept a certain number of turnovers as part of the Verdell experience. I don't expect the coaching staff to admit or accept that, but at this point, he is what he is, and he still is a net positive on the court.
Christian Watford continues to struggle, although Crean has been happy with his effort. Watford had two points on 1-7 shooting, although he had 5 rebounds and 3 assists to a turnover. Over two games, Watford is shooting 3-14 to the field. That's a bit troubling, but on the other hand, we know he's better than that, and we've been playing well even without positive contributions from CW.
Derek Elston continues to look like the player we thought he could become. In 13 minutes of play, Elston scored only 3 points but had 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
- Will Sheehey continues to struggle with the flu but still scored 6 points in 17 minutes.
Well, two games in, the Hoosiers certainly have shown every sign of being an improved team, but there are bigger challenges ahead. The first comes Wednesday night, when IU travels to Evansville to play the Aces at the Ford Center, their new downtown arena. Butler lost at Evansville in overtime last weekend, so this certainly is not a game to take lightly. IU didn't win a single game away from Assembly Hall last season, so even against a middle-of-the-pack opponent, a win in the crimson jerseys would be nice to see regardless. More on that game as the week goes on.