It wasn't pretty -- but it was a Big Ten road win.
Indiana knocks off Minnesota in Williams Arena behind 20 points from Yogi Ferrell to advance to 5-0 in the Big Ten and for their tenth straight win overall. What did we learn?
1. Indiana doesn't have to shoot the ball spectacularly to win anymore.
In its previous iteration as a shoot-to-win team that relied almost wholly on the three-point basket, Indiana was going to struggle to grind out road wins in unfamiliar arenas. The tendency to shoot often from long distance, paired with Indiana's inability to guard on the opposing end would have had Indiana on BOATRACE WATCH on any evening they didn't come out blazing-hot from deep. Prime example? Check out the first few minutes of the second half at Duke. Indiana wasn't previously built for to win in the slog of a road conference game. But since James Blackmon's absence force Indiana to modify their style of play, the Hoosiers have picked it up defensively, part by playing with an energy not seen before on that end of the court, part by fitting in pieces that compliment each other far better when it comes to matching up with opponents.
Today, the Hoosiers shot just over 40% from the field and less than 33% from three. They won. Those two events weren't expected to occur, on the road, in the Big Ten, before the season. It might not be pretty all the time and might be limiting the ceiling, but Indiana's style change has raised the floor for this team. It affords a margin of error on the offensive end -- something required to win road games in conference play.
2. Nick Zeisloft back?
All that said, Indiana is at its best when shots are being made from long range. Despite running Ohio State out of the gym last Sunday with solid defense and hot shooting, streaky sharpshooter Nick Zeisloft failed to connect on any of his seven three point attempts. The senior from Naperville, Illinois had been mired in a shooting slump since the beginning of conference play -- and any goals to make any runs deep into March involve Zeisloft's hot outside shooting after James Blackmon's season-ending knee injury.
On a cold day in Minneapolis, things warmed up for #2. He connected on four long-range attempts in quick succession in the first half, before banging home a big 27 footer from the top of the arc in the mid-second half that helped the Hoosiers begin to stretch out the lead against the young Gophers. Much as it always is with Zeisloft, those five bombs accounted for his only offensive production of the day -- finishing with 15 points on 5-8 shooting from deep.
Long distance shooting is a fickle beast, often that hinges on the shooter's confidence. Zeisloft's likely got that rolling in the right direction again -- and it's good news for Tom Crean if he can keep that up through conference play.
3. Indiana is 5-0 in the Big Ten and you are not.
At the time of press, here's a complete list of Big Ten teams who are not 5-0.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Here's a list of teams that are, on the other hand, 5-0 in the Big Ten.
You can holler all you'd like about AIN'T PLAYED NOBODY. I'll be over here laughing at your mad tweets. Like it or not, Indiana's won ten straight games and will be favored to extend that streak to 14 before heading to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on February 2. Sometimes schedules suck. Sometimes they're good. Scheduling undoubtedly worked to Wisconsin's benefit in conference play last year. It's part of the sport, and there's no need to apologize for beating the teams that are placed in front of you by conference administrators.
Meanwhile, I'll just be over here reading your #MADABOUTINDIANA tweets.
Indiana's back on the court Tuesday at home against Illinois. It's a 7pm tip on ESPN.