1. The opening tip
If the last "game-changing moments" column seemed a little gimmicky by only listing the timeout Tom Crean called in the first half, then let me apologize for the way the first item in this column will appear.
The truth of the matter is that for a team that had not shot worse than 41% in a contest this season, a 36.2% effort is just a bad night. Throughout most of the game, the defense was plenty good to beat a team like Penn State. But as we learned when Minnesota came to Bloomington last weekend, a cold shooting night is enough to make Indiana mediocre at best.
The difference in this game was that Indiana made seven more threes (9-27), but was just 8-20 (40%) inside the arc. Against the Gophers, the Hoosiers stopped the bleeding of their 2-for-18 outing behind the arc by making 24-for-39 (61.5%) from two. The 19 fewer shots inside the line and 16 less makes are most apparent in Thomas Bryant's stat line. The superb freshman was just 3-for-4 from the field for 10 points last night.
2. Switch to the zone
In the first 10-plus minutes of the second half, the Nittany Lions recorded a dunk and four or five layups that forced Tom Crean to move to a 2-3 zone. He really had no choice because it didn't seem like a single Hoosier could guard Brandon Taylor one-on-one. But the switch backfired quickly as Taylor made three threes when the zone shifted lazily, and then when the zone overplayed to Taylor, he found Payton Banks for another. Penn State made half of their made threes for the entire game in the five or six minutes down the stretch that Crean had the Hoosiers in a zone, and once they started falling, Indiana couldn't buy a stop.
3. Terrible officiating down the stretch
As CQ tweeted last night, you'll rarely find this blog complaining about officials, although THE KICK WAS GOOD. But this will be the second game-changing moments column (out of four) that will mention poor officiating. So instead of viewing it as complaining about the officials, view it as analysis of the two incorrect calls in the last minute of the game that took an already bad night and made it worse by flushing Indiana's Big Ten title hopes right down the damn drain.
With 1:05 to play, Thomas Bryant made two free throws to bring Indiana within one. 28 fantastic defensive seconds later, Yogi Ferrell got bulldozed and drew a charge.
At least, that's how that segment should read. Instead, Bill Ek ignored the fact that Yogi was in legal guarding position and the fact that, even if Yogi wasn't in legal guarding position, Shep Garner lowered his shoulder, extended his arm, and threw Yogi like a beanbag while playing cornhole. Bill Ek, who belongs back in the North Coast Athletic Conference (the conference of Indiana Division III schools Wabash and DePauw) where he was a few years ago being berated for being just as terrible then as he is now by a student section of 300 in Crawfordsville, called Yogi for a blocking foul.
Here's Yogi in legal guarding position:
And here's Yogi still in legal guarding position:
Here's Yogi about to get trucked:
Here's Yogi mid-trucking:
Here's Yogi having been left for dead:
And here's Bill Ek screwing the pooch:
Garner only made one of two and the Hoosiers quickly got the ball into Thomas Bryant who turned off the right block, crossed the lane to the left block and OH MY GOD HE GOT FOULED, LET'S GOOOOOOO!
Except, this time, it was Steve McJunkins who choked in the waning moments in State College.
Storytime: the other night, I'm refereeing a 6th grade girls basketball game (two-man crew). I'm up top in front of a bench and my partner is on the baseline. A girl goes up and tries to grab a rebound. As it happens with any 6th grade girls game, a scrum ensues and six girls immediately impede my view of the play. The girl who goes up for the rebound falls to the ground. Ultimately, she ends up with the ball.
The coach standing next to me is screaming that she travelled. I told him, "I couldn't see if she had the ball or not, so I can't make that call." He yelled, "She had the ball!" I replied, "I'm not saying she didn't. But I couldn't see it, so I couldn't call it."
Talked to my partner a couple minutes later during a timeout, and low and behold, she didn't have the ball.
I tell that story to say this: Any official, from the NBA Finals all the way down to your local Boys and Girls Club knows that you cannot call what you do not see, and Steve McJunkins called something that he could not have possibly seen when he called traveling on Thomas Bryant.
Look at this still frame:
That was the last dribble that McJunkins could see Thomas Bryant take. But it wasn't his last dribble. This was:
And the amount of space that Bryant can cover in one dribble is enough to completely change the angle for an official. From this dribble, Bryant gathers, establishes his left foot as his pivot foot, steps again with his right to clear space, and goes up for the bucket. But because McJunkins can't see when Bryant's dribble ends, he sees the two steps (the one establishing a pivot foot and the one to clear space) and calls him for traveling.
What's most telling about this sequence?
The third still from this sequence is of Hartman getting the ball into Bryant. The third official on this crew, Chris Beaver, is on the wing by Yogi and Robert Johnson. As the play develops and Bryant is impeded from McJunkins' view by the Penn State defender, only one official is left with a clean view of Bryant's movement with the ball -- Beaver.
And as McJunkins does his best TV Teddy impression, Beaver is still standing and watching because Thomas Bryant didn't travel:
Those two calls were a three-point swing (the free throw made by Garner and the two points that Bryant would've scored on this end). Then, with it 65-63 Penn State instead of 65-64 Indiana, the Hoosiers were forced to foul yet again, and Garner put them away with two on the other end.
Five points on two bad calls. And just like that, the Hoosiers are behind the eight ball in the Big Ten title race.