When Indiana last played, Mike Woodson emptied the bench in the final minutes down 20 points on the road at Penn State. Today, he was able to empty the bench with a comfortable 20-point lead over the visiting Wisconsin Badgers, who entered the game as the number 18 team in the latest AP Poll.
The Badgers were without one of their stars in Tyler Wahl, who led the team in scoring with 13.2 points per game before missing the last three games with an ankle injury. Still, this Badgers offense team is similar to the Penn State team that just embarrassed Indiana earlier this week, so the defensive adjustments should not be overlooked.
It was far from a perfect performance, as the Hoosiers scored just 21 points in the first half and entered the break with a one point lead. Too often this year, Indiana’s struggled to capitalize on a good offense or defensive performance by laying an egg on the other end of the floor.
Indiana held tough today though, and snapped a three game losing streak that threatened to derail a season that began with high expectations. It’s still going to be a battle for this battered team to get through Big Ten Play, but at least we now know they’re up for the fight.
Here’s Three Things:
By far, the most alarming trend over the last three games for Indiana was the deterioration of its defense. Indiana’s been a defense-first team for years now, so it seemed as though there would have to be some changes on that end for the Hoosiers to get out of this hole.
Whether the issues originated with the game plan or the effort, it’s clear that Indiana made the necessary changes in the three days off since the Penn State game. As I said above, this is even more significant considering the similarities between Wisconsin’s offense and the Nittany Lions.
Both Penn State and Wisconsin shoot it well from deep, and rely heavily on the three for their offense. They each get more than 38% of their offense from deep, putting both in the top 25 nationally in that category.
After being ripped up by Penn State’s 3-point attack, the Hoosiers were able to hold Wisconsin to 20.8% (5-24) from behind the arc today. Only one Badgers player had multiple makes from deep, compared to the three Nittany Lions who hit two or more threes against Indiana Wednesday.
To be honest, I don’t think anyone could have predicted such a rapid turnaround. At best, I was hoping for either better effort or an adjustment on Woodson’s part to the lack of effort we’ve seen over the last three games.
Instead, we got both. Through good game planning and an adherence to that game plan, Indiana put on a defensive clinic today and showed an ability to adjust when things aren’t going well.
Guys Stepped Up
Trayce Jackson-Davis’s domination down the stretch to put the game out of reach, while impressive, threatens to overshadow how much help he got from his teammates today. In addition to the defense, the lack of production from anyone not named Trayce or Jalen-Hood-Schifino was a cause for concern going forward.
In the absence of Race Thompson (who should be able to return this year) Jordan Geronimo played the best game of his college career today, putting up his second double-double and first against a high-major opponent. His 12 points led Indiana in scoring most of the way and his five offensive rebounds are more than double what anyone else in the game managed on the offensive glass.
Most importantly, Geronimo played disciplined defense. In 29 minutes, he committed just one foul while recording 6 defensive boards and a block, providing excellent help inside and out when needed.
Malik Reneau also played a more disciplined game today, cutting back on the turnovers and giving Indiana 6 points off the bench in 14 minutes. He did commit three fouls, which has been a sore spot for him, but overall looked better defending away from the basket than he had in prior outings.
Though the stats don’t necessarily reflect a great game, I also liked what I saw from Trey Galloway today. When JHS struggled to score early on, Galloway got more aggressive, taking two open threes in the first five minutes of the game.
Neither shot fell for him and the Hoosiers went away from the three-point line as the game went on, but that’s the kind of offensive aggression Indiana will need from its backcourt in Xavier Johnson’s absence.
Some Issues Persist
Until Miller Kopp hit his first three of the night with a little under five minutes left in the game, Indiana had not yet scored from behind the arc. In a game when Indiana was able to hold Wisconsin to under 25% from three, the Hoosiers outdid themselves and shot just 12.5%.
The problem runs deeper than just a cold shooting day, as Indiana somehow managed to take just eight three pointers in an entire game of college basketball. Miller Kopp, the team’s best shooter, didn’t even attempt a three until there were about six minutes left in the second half. He recorded 0 statistics in 11 minutes in the first half.
Indiana is not really in position to have one of its starters and most experienced players produce so little while it hopes to weather the storm through these injuries. We know Kopp is capable of more, he’s just looked like a shell of the player who put up 21 against Rutgers earlier this year.
There’s an argument to be made that Indiana had no need to force shots when it could score so easily on the interior, but I still would have liked to see more than eight total attempts from Indiana today. Nobody had more than two three-point attempts today and the Hoosiers cannot afford to have guys lose confidence after missing a couple of early shots.
Not every team will be as athletically challenged as Wisconsin, so Indiana will have to find ways to win when Malik Reneau and Jordan Geronimo aren’t able to shut down the opposing team’s four. Similarly, most other teams have more than one guard who is a threat to drive, which will put pressure on Indiana’s offense to hang tight.
There’s no need to get overly nit picky today, considering how bleak things looked earlier this week. At the same time, I am a bit reluctant to say that everything’s back to normal until this team can play a full game on both sides of the ball, like we saw on the road at Xavier.