clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Three Things: Indiana men’s basketball loses to Northwestern 84-83

Here Come the Takes

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Indiana Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I’m not quite sure what exactly we watched today, but it was certainly not the number 15 team in the country. Tomorrow’s AP poll will likely reflect that fact.

Indiana dropped its second straight game today, moving to 1-3 in conference and effectively ending any hopes of the conference title that many were expecting coming into the season. Neither the offense nor defense showed much promise today as the Hoosiers are clearly reeling with no answers on either end.

For what it’s worth, this is a Northwestern team that’s already notched wins in East Lansing and at home against a ranked Illinois team. Chris Collins has his team playing well early in this Big Ten season.

Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino also had solid performances today, once again looking the part of a preseason All-American and a five-star recruit, respectively. Unfortunately, Indiana didn’t get much outside of that and looks lost without Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson, who aren’t likely to return any time soon.

Here’s Three Things:

New (Lower) Expectations

Since the December 17th matchup with Kansas, Indiana has lost two of its starting five and a combined eight years of experience. When Indiana was ranked 15th at the beginning of last week, it still had the services of fifth-year senior Race Thompson, who had started 76 consecutive games for Indiana.

The hope was that Indiana had enough talent and depth to withstand these injuries and still win in the Big Ten, but that’s certainly in doubt now. In the first half today, the Hoosiers got a combined 0 points from Tamar Bates and Jordan Geronimo, the new starters replacing Johnson and Thompson.

Bates picked it up a bit in the second half and finished with a respectable nine points, but Geronimo continued to struggle after halftime and was eventually benched in favor of Malik Reneau. Offensively, Reneau started to resemble the version of himself he was earlier in the season with eight points on 80% shooting from the field today.

The injuries were most notable on defense, where both Reneau and Geronimo struggled against Robbie Beran’s ability to stretch the floor and racked up 3 fouls each. The guards also struggled to defend the perimeter and gave up a lot of uncontested first half threes that allowed Northwestern to build a sizable lead that Indiana could not overcome.

Some of these problems aren’t necessarily new. In Indiana’s loss at Rutgers, both Race and Xavier struggled mightily and allowed the Scarlet Knights to build a comfortable first half lead. Like Geronimo today, Thompson finished that game with 0 points.

Still, I’d like to think the combination of experience and hustle that those two bring would have helped Indiana over the hump in each of the last two losses. Especially considering how important Race was to Indiana building an early lead against the Hawkeyes.

Indiana will need to figure something out fast to keep things from getting uglier. At this point though, I’m not sure where the help will come from. Mike Woodson doesn’t seem to either.

Turnovers and Defense

Indiana turned the ball over 16 times today, giving up more than 20 points off turnovers in what ended up being a four point game. Until Mike Woodson switched to the zone, the half court defense wasn’t looking much better either.

On the bright side, we know Mike Woodson is willing to make adjustments within the first half when things aren’t going well. The zone gave Indiana a chance in each half and started runs that made the game appear more competitive than it actually was for stretches.

On the other hand, Indiana now clearly has an issue with on-ball defense that it didn’t have when Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson were healthy. Geronimo and Reneau have different strengths defensively, the former being more athletic with the latter being more physically capable of guarding physical fours in the paint.

Unfortunately, neither of them had an answer for Beran today, and each of Northwestern’s three starting guards got to double-digit scoring easily. Things got bad enough that C.J. Gunn even got some limited minutes in the first half for his sheer willingness to pressure Northwestern’s ball handlers.

This is no knock on C.J. Gunn, who figures to be a good player for Indiana in time. Mike Woodson just needs to be able to turn to the guys ahead of him on the depth chart for a spark on either end.

3-Point Shooting

I’ve been saying this for a while now, but the injuries and lack of defensive answers make it more urgent than ever - Indiana needs to take more 3-point shots.

For years, the Hoosiers had the reputation of being a team that team’s didn’t have to defend from deep. That is no longer the case. Indiana has four players shooting over 40% from deep and hit nine of its 18 attempts today against Northwestern.

There are some things that coaches can’t prepare for, like injuries forcing freshman to play key minutes for the foreseeable future. Coming into the season, the expectation would be that Reneau could come off the bench to work through whatever struggles he might have adjusting to college ball.

Then there are things that coaches can tweak, like demanding more three-point attempts from Miller Kopp, Tamar Bates, and Trey Galloway. Jalen Hood-Schifino, who went five of seven from deep today, appears to be the only one to appreciate Indiana’s newfound need for more shooting.

Woodson appeared to have been more willing to play the small ball lineup of Kopp, Bates, Galloway, Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis against Iowa than he was today, a surprising move considering Northwestern’s smaller lineup. Even with three forwards on the floor though, there’s no reason Bates and Kopp didn’t get more attempts up as starters today.

Woodson is sacrificing some defense in starting Bates and Kopp, so they really need to be able to offset that with more of an offensive spark. We saw a more aggressive Kopp earlier in the season, but he’s combined for just five field goal attempts total in the last two games, with only three of them coming from deep.

Getting shots up from good shooters seems to be an easier answer than fixing a defense that currently lacks an identity without Race and Xavier, so hopefully Woodson can make the adjustments necessary to right the ship. Hopefully he and Indiana can capitalize on the fact that they finally have the shooting thats been missing for so long.