Indiana survives a scare from conference bottom-dweller Minnesota behind 23 points and 8 rebounds from Thomas Bryant. What did we learn?
1. Indiana came out flat in an early-afternoon game and made 11% of their three pointers. They still won anyway.
These aren't excuses, Indiana did not look like a good basketball team that would inspire fear in the hearts of opposing coaches today. That said, there's enough prior evidence that exists to say this performance was atypical for the Hoosiers, especially at home. The Hoosiers have been blitzing better teams than Minnesota in Assembly Hall in recent weeks (See, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern) but didn't seem to have it today. It was reasonable to think that there would be some Hoosier hangover from a hard-fought OT loss earlier in the week in Madison, and that Tom Crean's team might be ever-so-slightly looking ahead to Tuesday's matchup with Michigan in Ann Arbor. It's not ideal, but it happens. Whatever, move on. Big Ten wins are wins, and Indiana has more of those than any other team in the conference.
Of course, that's not to say Indiana doesn't have flaws or issues to address before heading to Ann Arbor this week. Indiana's defense looked suspect in the second half against the Gophers at times, but it's far more concerning that the Hoosiers weren't doing the one thing they're supposed to do really, really well -- make open shots. Crean's offense was plenty good enough to give Indiana's backcourt & wing players open opportunities, but the shots simply weren't going in. And considering the Hoosiers should be within their shooting comfort zone in Assembly Hall, it's mildly concerning too see such a cold-shooting display before heading to Crisler Arena on Tuesday.
2. Thomas Bryant saved Indiana from an embarrassing loss that could've sent the Hoosiers into a tailspin.
When shots weren't falling from the outside, last year's Indiana team didn't have an interior option to buoy the rest in the middle of an outside-shooting famine.That's no longer the case. Bryant was dynamic on the offensive end, dominating Minnesota's interior players for the majority of the first half to the tune of 23 points and eight rebounds on the night. The Gophers' run came during a stretch when Tom Crean's team seemingly went away from the freshman's interior presence, but he was able to fittingly hammer home a game-sealing dunk with less than one minute remaining.
Indiana's bread and butter will always be the outside shot, but the addition of Bryant's skill set raised the floor of disaster for this team. Today's result is evidence of that.
3. Indiana is 8-1 in the Big Ten and you are not.
Sure, the Hoosiers are about to start the meat of the schedule. Sure, today's win was far from impressive. But, as of right now, Indiana ends the month of January alone atop the Big Ten.
Now, the fun begins.