Indiana lost its fourth game of the season last night in Iowa City to drop to 12-4 on the season and 0-4 on the road under Mike Woodson. While not ranked, Iowa went into the game with a top 5 offense according to Kenpom and was favored by just about every computer model and betting service. So it wasn’t a bad loss, per se, but after getting out to a solid halftime lead before collapsing in the second half, Indiana did little to ease fans’ concerns about some of their biggest weaknesses as a team this year.
Here’s Three Things:
Indiana turned the ball over 23 times, shot 61.9% from the free throw line, and 31.8% from deep in the loss to Iowa. Add in the fact that Indiana built itself a comfortable lead at one point, and you have the blueprint to basically every Indiana loss over the last few years. Inconsistent play, bad shooting from the free throw line and three point range, and unforced errors have kept Indiana from reaching their potential as a team since the start of the Archie Miller era, so it’s no surprise to see some of these trends spilling over into the first year of the Mike Woodson era.
Like Minnesota tried to do in the last game, Iowa focused on defending the post game with early double teams in the first half before getting into the zone for a little in the second half. Until Indiana can prove that they can regularly handle opposing defenses taking away the post offense, expect to see a lot more of these kinds of games.
Still trending up
Perhaps because the loss resembled so many that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, it’s easy to forget that this was only the fourth loss of the season, and the first season under a new head coach. Even after allowing 83 points on the night, Indiana’s defensive rating on Kenpom improved from No. 11 to No. 10 nationwide, and the team’s overall ranking remained about the same. This year’s team is still hitting threes at a higher rate than last season, defending better, and even hitting more free throws than last year’s team. Entering last night’s game Indiana had turned the ball over fewer than ten times in three straight games, a feat they had only achieved three times in the eleven seasons before Woodson took over.
The improvements may be too small or slow to put every fan at ease, but they are real. Rebuilding this program from the mess that Archie left is going to take time. I highly doubt whether any coach could build an offensive juggernaut with the current roster make-up. If I had any complaint, it would actually be that Indiana hasn’t taken enough threes yet as they still get 55.1% of their offense from 2 pt. field goals. Indiana has two guys in Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp who are hitting over 35% from deep, so I’d like to see them get some more shots in games like last night, when the offense is struggling to score otherwise.
Need better guard play
Good Rob Phinisee was nowhere to be found last night, as he scored just two points while turning the ball over four times in 19 minutes of play. Xavier Johnson was only marginally better, scoring seven points versus four turnovers in his 26 minutes of action. Combined, the two missed all five three point attempts they took. Trey Galloway provided a nice scoring spark with 10 points off the bench, but committed three turnovers on a night when Indiana really could not afford to be careless with the ball.
Parker Stewart was probably the lone bright spot in Indiana’s backcourt last night, finishing with 11 points and three assists with just one turnover. At points, he looked like the only one who wasn’t playing nervous. Tamar Bates gets a pass, since this is only his sixth Big Ten game. Outside of those two though, Indiana will need better guard play this season if they hope to finish in the top half of the conference and feel a little more comfortable on Selection Sunday. Phinisee has looked the part at other points this season, so hopefully last night was just a hiccup in his return to form, and as we’ve seen, a good game from Rob can be the difference between a win and a loss for Indiana.
In other words, the Hoosiers aren’t far off from where we want them to be, they just aren’t all the way there yet.