Indiana displayed some early urgency, hit some shots, and held on for a much-needed 82-72 win over Minnesota on Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Here are Three Things:
Holy cow! This team can shoot!
At long last, the Hoosiers are showing some ability with the ball in their hands. After knocking down seven of its 12 shots from beyond the arc on Wednesday, Indiana now ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a 36% 3-point shooting mark in conference play — by far the program’s best rate of success during the Archie Miller era.
IU has been especially good from deep over its past seven games, hitting 41% of its 3s in that span. Against the Gophers, the 3s not only came as part of a natural flow to the offense, they came in bunches. There were the three straight 3s strung together by Al Durham and Jerome Hunter early in the second half. Then there were the back-to-back triples that Durham and Armaan Franklin nailed toward the end of an 18-2 IU run later in the period. Fun stuff.
For an Indiana team that otherwise seems to play a version of the same game night after night, the 3-point shooting during conference play has been a positive development to surface in recent weeks. It’s not always something this group can count on, but it’s definitely an area of improvement — and a big reason for IU’s cushion in this one.
Jerome Hunter has become A Guy
He’s not quite A Dude, though you might be able to argue he’s Kind Of A Dude. Either way, he’s definitely A Guy — someone IU is beginning to count on for contributions off the bench. Look, he’s going to have his share of no-no-no moments and no-no-no-YES moments, too. That’s just who Hunter seems to be. But we’re finally starting to see a version of the recruit that Archie Miller was so high on in 2017.
Hunter’s 16 points on Wednesday registered as a new career high. He hit both of his 3-balls and went 5-for-6 from the field — and if memory serves, his one miss seemed to rim out. Just as encouraging, Hunter, who entered play as a 40% free throw shooter this season, went 4-for-5 at the line. Over his past three games, he’s making 72% of his free throws, so that, too, is another step in the right direction for the redshirt sophomore.
He looks like a different player since returning from his two-game benching earlier this month, a player who is driven to make the most of his minutes down the stretch.
This one had its hairy moments
Oh, the conversations we might be having had IU missed a few more 3s and done its usual thing at the line.
There were way too many turnovers — 17! — against a team like Minnesota. The Gophers took advantage of the errors, too, scoring 25 points right off of those Hoosier miscues. Then there were the defensive lapses that led to a few too many straight line drives to the rim for Gopher ball-handlers.
The turnovers are one thing, but it’s the defense that’s starting to feel like the most concerning area for Indiana at this point in the season. In conference play, IU now ranks 13th among Big Ten teams in defensive efficiency, per Bart Torvik. Not good! Sure, the Hoosiers kept a bad Minnesota shooting team from having a night on the outside, but they still allowed the Gophers to post their second-highest points per possession total (1.06) in a road game this season. There are some problematic trends on the defensive end, and they’re worthy of scrutiny. Even so, this was a nice win; one where IU’s offense (?!) was able to overcome the shortcomings in other areas. In a must-win scenario, you’ll take it.