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What Went Wrong: Louisville

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After a couple of days to reflect on the Jimmy V Classic, let's take one final look at the game before moving on.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In my game preview, I laid out what I considered to be three crucial keys to victory if Indiana wanted to pull off a big upset in Madison Square Garden.

Let's see how they fared:

  • MAKE SHOTS. Indiana actually did a pretty job of this in the first half, going into the locker room with only a five-point deficit thanks mostly to hitting 7-10 from distance. But legs got tired and players more desperate in the second half, and the Hoosiers hit only 1-10 in the second half. James Blackmon Jr., who was hitting over 50% for the game, made his first 3PT attempt and missed the next seven, finishing 1-8. For the game, the Hoosiers shot 54% eFG, which is awesome considering Louisville is holding opponents to 37.9% in that metric. But it wasn't enough because they simply didn't get enough shots off to make it matter, and that's where the next two things come into play.
  • DON'T PANIC. The Hoosiers turned the ball over at a 24.7% clip for the game and questionable shot selection lead to even more given away possessions that won't show up in the box score. Stan Robinson was the primary culprit in the turnover department, giving away the ball five times in just nine minutes of playing time. There were also a handful of times where Troy Williams' decision-making with the ball in his hands led to either a straight-up turnover or an ill-advised shot. Yogi Ferrell, despite our wishes to the contrary, cannot play 40 minutes, but when he went to the bench the Hoosiers seemed helpless against Louisville's full-court pressure. The sequence of three straight turnovers followed by four straight offensive rebounds was maddening to witness. When Yogi needs to rest, who can we count on to handle the ball? Crean has shown a willingness to move Yogi off the ball and turn it over to Robert Johnson, should he be the guy when Yogi leaves the court? The other option is Stanford Robinson, who has shown flashes of excellence (29.3% assist rate) along with stroke-inducing mistakes (27.6% turnover rate). RoJo's has the same issue as well, (20.8% ARate / 24.5% TORate) so we may be without a real answer for awhile. Yogi leads the team in minutes played and it's not particularly close, do you extend him even more at the possible sacrifice of quality? It's not an easy issue, but Indiana needs an answer soon.
  • CRASH THE GLASS. Indiana finished with 34 rebounds (10 offensive) while Louisville brought down 52 (26 offensive). The ridiculous offensive rebound discrepancy combined with Indiana's turnovers contributed to Louisville getting eighteen more shot attempts over the course of a game. A quick way to even up the playing field when you're playing a less-efficient offense is to give them more chances to hit shots. Eighteen more shots drastically increases Louisville's margin for error, and it was already decently big to begin with.

Ultimately, I thought Indiana played tough for most of the game before running out of gas towards the end. There was a stretch where Louisville was beginning to pull away and Indiana had multiple open looks at three pointers but couldn't, for the life of them, get any of them to drop and keep them in the game. I don't know if it was tired legs, rushed form, nerves, or simply the statistical water finding its level, but they could not buy a bucket for a long stretch in the second half. And not because of smothering Louisville defense, a lot of these were wide open looks.

I also discussed the importance of enticing the Cardinals to fire away from long range and the gameplan seemed to reflect that, as Indiana sagged off of shooters most of the night. The problem was: the Cardinals made shots, hitting 34.8% of their long distance attempts, a shot they've only made 29.0% of on the year. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones, who came in with eFG% of 48.6 and 31.7, respectively, shot 61.7 and 52.9 on the night. Rozier raised his season 3PT% by 10 points after going 5-8 from deep.

Montrezl Harrell got his, as we all knew he would, because there simply isn't anyone on this team or maybe anyone in the country that can keep him down consistently. Louisville was going to be a bear of a team to beat even if Rozier and Jones continued their cold shooting streak they had coming in, but with those guys hitting consistently the task became nearly impossible and Indiana was overwhelmed by the time the final buzzer sounded.

Like Ben said in his gamer: we didn't learn so much as things we already knew were reaffirmed. This team's lack of size puts it behind the eight ball on rebounding and defense, meaning it doesn't have a prayer to survive when the shooting goes cold. Indiana's overall numbers were only a little under their season averages, but watching the game you saw the cold streak in the second half that let Louisville pull away for good. Hanner Mosquera-Mosquera Perea showed some flashes of competence as a finisher on the offensive end but was still a step behind on defense, picking up two fouls fairly quickly and failing to gather in rebounds.

Because a skilled big man is not coming through the door for Indiana (as he is, unfortunately, preparing to come through the door for Marquette next month), what more can be learned or developed? You don't have to beat the Louisvilles of the world to get to the NCAA Tournament, but they'll be waiting for you if you have any designs of going past its first weekend.