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Kentucky 90, Indiana 73: a closer look.

The official stats are here.  The Pomeroy gameplan is here.

It's no secret to anyone who watched the game that IU was dominated on the boards at both ends of the court.  IU's 22.2 percent offensive rebound percentage is IU's second worst of the season, second only to the performance against Boston University.  Further, at the offensive end, Kentucky rebounded an incredible 56.8 percent of its own misses.  In other words, nearly 6 in 10 Kentucky misses led to another opportunity for the Wildcats to score.  Unlike some other numbers, UK's rebounding advantage was constant throughout the game.  In the first half, UK rebounded 7 of 14 of its missed shots. Obviously, this is an extremely difficult disadvantage to overcome.   Still, for over half of the game the Hoosiers did overcome the board deficit, but only with unsustainable 63 percent shooting, including 5-8 from three point range, in the first half.  IU's offense cratered in the second half (IU shot only 33 percent from the field), and UK rolled. 

Really, for all of the justifiable John Wall hype, the entire stat sheet demonstrates UK's interior dominance.  UK scored 44 points in the paint, IU 26.  Kentucky blocked 7 shots, IU 3.  One third of IU's field goal attempts were three point shots.  In short, UK, while taking multiple opportunities of its own, essentially limited IU to a single jump shot on a typical possession. IU's offensive output of nearly 1.1 points per possession was the Hoosiers' best of the season.  Unfortunately, IU's 1.32 points per possession yielded to UK was by far the worst defensive performance of the season and third-worst of the Crean era.

Still, the news was not all bad for IU.  The Hoosiers turned the ball over only 9 times in a 68 possession game (despite each team's purported desire to push the ball, this was IU's slowes pace of the season).  The turnover percentage of 13.3 represents, by far, IU's best ball-handling of the Crean era.  Turnovers were the bane of IU's existence last season, but IU now is ranked #151 in Division I in turnover percentage, and has taken good care of the ball in the games against Pitt and Kentucky.  Considering that UK pressed for part of the game, this is significant progress.  I simply cannot accept a 17 point home loss to Kentucky as any sort of moral victory, but the Hoosiers, for the entire game against Pitt and in the first half against Kentucky, have looked like a transformed team.  I have no idea how that will translate to Big Ten play, but things do not look as hopeless as they looked after 0-3 in Puerto Rico.  All along, I and many others have said that unlike last year's overmatched team, the 2009-10 Hoosiers have enough talent to improve.  That seems to be happening, however modestly.  Enough to break .500 and sneak into the NIT?  Keep watching, I guess. 

Individual performances:

  • As I mentioned yesterday, Maurice Creek's performance was the finest of his short career.  Creek shot 5-8 from three point range, 4-6 from inside the arc, and 8-8 from the line.  Thanks to his success behind the arc and at the line, Creek averaged 2.2 points per shot for a total of 31.  He also had 2 steals and an assist and only one turnover.  
  • Christian Watford, talented but scrawny, continues to struggle against more powerful opponents.  Watford scored 7 points on 3-8 from the field, did not get to the line, and had only 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. 
  • Jeremiah Rivers should consider a Daniel Moore-style shooting rule (layups only), but other than his 3-9 from the field, he was very good, with 8 assists, 1 turnover, and a block. 
  • Jordan Hulls scored 6 points on 2-4 shooting (all behind the arc) but didn't have an assist in 17 minutes.
  • Devan Dumes continues to play reasonably well in a limited role.  He scored 5 points on 2-3 from the field and had two assists, a block, and a steal.
  • Tom Pritchard was the invisible man.  He played 20 minutes and was 2-2 from the field with one rebound, one foul, one assist, and one turnover.
The biggest problem facing these Hoosiers seems to be on the interior, and I don't see a great solution.  We have to get bigger, better, and older, something that can't be done, at least not much, in a few weeks.  Still, this team played very well at certain points against one of the best and most talented teams in the country.

As I said this morning, IU has another week-long layoff.  This week, we will talk Big Ten expansion, take a long view of the basketball season so far, and perhaps some football post-mortem as most other Big Ten programs ready for bowl games.