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Three Things: Indiana beats Maryland 68-55

Road win number two

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In what was expected to be a close game, Indiana came out hot and looked surprisingly dominant in a 68-55 win over Maryland. Besides struggling away from Assembly Hall in general over the last few seasons, Indiana’s men’s basketball team hadn’t won in College Park since 1934 coming into today. The win is Indiana’s 16th of the year, and brings the Hoosiers to 7-4 in conference play, matching last season’s conference win total with nine games remaining.

Here’s Three Things:

Indiana continues to improve

Michigan came to Indiana last Sunday and exploited the Hoosiers’ lack of effort and three point defense to walk away with a comfortable 80-62 win. Since that game, there’s been no question about Indiana’s effort. The Hoosiers pounced on Penn State to build an early lead that they never relinquished, then out-hustled the Terrapins to get another first half lead, this time on the road. While Indiana did take its foot off the gas late against the Nittany Lions, allowing them some late three pointers to erase a solid perimeter defensive performance, the Hoosiers played a more complete game today, holding the Terrapins to a 22.2% three point shooting night.

Maybe more important than effort and perimeter defense, Indiana appears to have learned how to close out games. Outside of the Michigan game, in which the Hoosiers never had a chance, Indiana had a fighting chance to win every game this season. Twice already this year, against Iowa and Wisconsin, Indiana played impressive first halves on the road before collapsing in the second half. Today, Indiana played a more complete game, maintaining a double digit lead for the entire second half and even getting some bench players in at the end of the game.

There’s plenty of season left to play, but Indiana has done a great job of improving in each game this season, so we probably haven’t seen their best yet.

Indiana is deep

While much of the chatter around Mike Woodson’s rotations lately has surrounded the starting lineup, the bench has quietly turned into one of the strong points for Indiana this season. Jordan Geronimo, Trey Galloway, and Khristian Lander combined for 19 points off the bench today for Indiana, while Maryland got just three points from its bench. Indiana was also without Rob Phinisee today, who had previously been Indiana’s most used player off the bench, according to Kenpom.

Last year, Indiana’s scoring options were extremely limited, with only six players on the roster averaging more than four points per game and only seven players seeing more than 12 minutes per game. This year, Woodson has nine players who he goes to for 12+ minutes per game, all nine of whom are averaging over four points per game. Some players are obviously still adjusting, like Tamar Bates, who went 0-6 from the field today, but overall, Indiana has more options. On any given night though, one of these bench players may go off for 20, like Rob did against Purdue, and that’s a huge advantage for Mike Woodson down the stretch.

This defense is badass

If the season were to end today, Indiana’s defense would be the highest ranked in Kenpom since the 2002 season, when Indiana finished with the fifth best defense in the country. Indiana’s opponents are shooting just 41.4% from two-point range, good for fifth in the country while the three point defense has jumped form 144th nationwide to a much more respectable 60th place. Indiana also has a block rate of 15.6%, the 11th best in the country, thanks to games like today, when the Hoosiers blocked six shots.

Indiana’s offense is still a work in progress at this point, but with the way the defense is playing, the Hoosiers can afford to have some cold shooting nights without losing all-important conference games.