Indiana finished up the non-conference slate yesterday against the most delicious of cupcakes yesterday. Which begs the questions, if Indiana wins a basketball game that no one really cared about did it really happen? Yeah, I understand scheduling your weakest competition during finals and Christmas week, but it is still some hard basketball to watch. At least this game was a little better than Friday's. So there's that.
The Hoosiers did come out yesterday afternoon with a lot more energy than they showed against Nicholls State, but the focus was still greatly lacking. Indiana for the second consecutive game was erratic and careless with the basketball. I'm really hoping to chalk that up to the competition, as I know a lot of guys gun for the spectacular when the competition level is low. Still, 20 turnovers shouldn't be acceptable. Indiana needs to calm down now that the real games start in a little less than two weeks.
As for this game though, Indiana had very little problems scoring the basketball. In fact, despite the 26% turnover rate (12 of 20 came in the first half) the Hoosiers still scored 1.18 points per possession. Which tells you that really the only thing that held Indiana back yesterday from scoring 110 instead of 90 was their own carelessness. That's probably the most upsetting/reassuring part of the turnover battle (depending on how you spin it). It's upsetting because it was purely a focus thing. In both games against Kennesaw St and Nicholls St, perhaps 10 of the 40 turnovers were actually forced. The other 30 were guys not handing passes, players travelling/stepping out of bounds, and telegraphed passes right into the hands of the defenders. For the optimist, all of these things are easy to change. A little more attention to detail cuts down turnovers dramatically. The pessimist would say that shouldn't be a problem 12 games deep.
But enough about the turnovers. People are going to interpret those numbers however they interpret them. What should be at least a little bit encouraging is that some players seem to be coming around. Now in a game like this you shouldn't get too high or too low on any aspect of the game, but Will Sheehey has now strung together 3 really nice games. He's been the definition of slow starter to the season. If he's suddenly found his flow then this Hoosier team can compete in the Big Ten. If he's going to continue to struggle so will Indiana.
Yogi Ferrell also continued his great season so far. Ferrell has still struggled a bit with his decision making this year, but he appears to be improving at that. He had 5 assists in this game and 4 turnovers. However, I went back to count and 2 of those turnovers were on bang-bang plays that were inconsequential. One was an attempt at a spectacular fast break alley oop that Sheehey couldn't handle and another was on a behind the back pass that took Vonleh off guard as he fumbled it away. The raw turnover numbers don't tell the whole story for Yogi today.
Ferrell also poured in 25 points to go with his 6 rebounds and 5 assists. 16 of which came in the first half. Honestly, he could have scored 40 if he wanted to. The Owls had no chance of stopping him and the fact that he pulled back in the second half to be a facilitator rather than hunting his shots was encouraging. Indiana doesn't need Yogi to score 30, they need him to get and keep the offense running smoothly.
Finally, Luke Fischer deserves a little love for yesterday. He played a season high 19 minutes as Noah Vonleh struggled once again with foul trouble. Luke, more than made the most of his time. Shooting 4-5 from the floor and grabbing 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 blocks, Fischer's 10 points were an exciting 10. He looked poised on all parts of the court and showed off a lot of versatility. Add in a run the court slam that looked a lot like Cody Zeller and yesterday, Hoosier Nation got a little more excited about the prospects of Luke Fischer.
In the end, this game didn't really give us a whole lot though. The team played hard, but the competition stood very little chance. Troy Williams continued his iffy play with 6 turnovers and Jeremy Hollowell rarely touched the ball (only 9% usage rate). However, the bench looked good as Stan Robinson came up strong as well. Indiana now gets a 9 day break before they head into Champaign on New Year's Eve to start conference play. If the weekend and Tom Crean's comments before and after the game say anything, this 9 day break is going to be big for the Hoosiers. Crean was quoted that the freshmen have hit a bit of wall here at the end of the semester and 9 days should do a lot to allow them to rest up and take a few mental days. They're going to need them as no one in the conference is going to pull any punches. The real season starts in 9 days.