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Indiana men’s basketball: Analyzing 3-point defense

Here’s what the Hoosiers’ numbers look like defending the perimeter under Mike Woodson.

Kennesaw State v Indiana Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Indiana men’s basketball head coach Mike Woodson was asked about his team’s 3-point defense during a press conference Friday morning.

It’s been a hot topic, Indiana left multiple shooters open on the arc against Kennesaw State before Nebraska’s Keisei Tominaga absolutely lit them up to the tune of 28 points on Wednesday. It was an issue against teams like Penn State and Iowa last year.

The problem arises from opponents’ volume of shots from deep alongside Indiana not keeping up with that pace. The Hoosiers are outshot in just about every game, allowing multiple mid-majors to hang around or Auburn to bury them.

Here’s what Woodson had to say:


Q. Just curious, on the three-point defense, I know some of it obviously is guys making tough shots, but is there anything you can do differently to make teams more uncomfortable maybe from getting shots on the perimeter and defensively, or is that just kind of something you live with, giving up some threes?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, we ain’t trying to give up anything. I mean, the threes that they made, I thought half of them were some tough ones. The little guard [Tominaga], he made about three of them that were really deep, deep threes. I recall the one where Malik switched out and then Malik left him, and he just pulled up and made it.

I mean, we’re playing teams that are making threes. We’ve just got to do a better job.

When we’re up and touching and making players feel us a little bit, we’re pretty good in guarding the three-point line. But when we’re late on switches and not really communicating, because that’s been a big problem with this team this season, we’re getting burned on threes.

We’ve just got to keep working through it and being a lot tougher than our opponent in terms of trying to take threes away because it has been a problem for us this season.

Q. Just to follow up further, in rewatching the last four games, 48 threes given up in the last four games. It seems like the weak side guys kind of drift into the lane when the ball gets reversed are having a hard time getting back to the corner or back to the wings. Is that just an execution thing, or is it more philosophical where they’re maybe drifting too far away from their shooters or do they need to stay more engaged with the shooters on the weak side?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, there’s a number of guys that are doing it, and it’s mainly our younger guys in terms of being in to get out. The last two years here we had some veteran guys that were pretty good at doing that.

We’ve just got to keep working with them. We know it works, and it’s been a struggle this year because guys are not catching on quickly as I thought they would. But hey, the only way you get through it is you’ve got to keep working and hopefully something clicks, and then we’re back to defending the three.

We defend the two pretty well, but the three has kind of been out of whack. It’s not been the same as it’s been the last two years. So we’ve just got to keep working on it.


I’ve provided the full quotes and questions for the sake of context.

Woodson said that Indiana’s 3-point defense has been different (worse) than it has been the past two seasons. Here are Indiana’s numbers defending the 3-point line from all three of Woodson’s seasons in Bloomington.

  • 3PA/FGA: The percentage of an opposing offense’s shots that are 3-point attempts.
  • Point Distribution on 3s: Where the opponent’s offense is coming from. Less about the quality of the defense, more about how the team plays defense.
  • 3P%: Self explanatory. Percentage of 3-point FGs made.

2021-22

This was Indiana’s best year on defense under Woodson by some distance. The Hoosiers were 24th in total defensive efficiency, their highest ranking since 2012-13. Here are the stats, followed by where that ranked nationally in paratheses.

  • 3PA/FGA: 40.1 (259)
  • Point Distribution on 3s: 34.3% (69)
  • 3P%: 33% (137)

2022-23

  • 3PA/FGA: 37.8 (198)
  • Point Distribution on 3s: 32.8% (104)
  • 3P%: 33.4% (134)

2023-24

  • 3PA/FGA: 43.6 (335)
  • Point Distribution on 3s: 38.1 (11)
  • 3P%: 34.9% (263)

So, Indiana’s opponents took a decent amount of 3s that first year and shot 33% on them. The attempts dipped last year while the percentage rose ever so slightly.

The Hoosiers’ overall defensive efficiency rating went from 92.9 (24) in 21-22 to 97.2 (45) in 22-23. If you’re looking for something to attribute that to, Indiana’s opponents hauled a higher rate of offensive rebounds last year than Woodson’s first while 2-point defense dipped slightly.

This year, the floodgates have opened on 3s. Indiana’s opponents are getting nearly 40% of their points from deep and shooting just shy of 35% on those attempts. That’s just a recipe for disaster when you add in the Hoosiers’ own shooting woes.

So, yes, Woodson is right. Everything has gotten worse. So, how? Why is the 3-point defense in the state it is?

For starters, Indiana has a different roster than it did last season. Gone are Jalen Hood-Schifino, Miller Kopp, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo and Race Thompson. Xavier Johnson was injured for nearly all of last season, which hit Indiana’s depth hard.

Indiana’s starting lineup last year consisted of

Indiana’s starting lineups, by eligibility

2022-23 2023-24
2022-23 2023-24
Freshman (NBA) Freshman
Junior Senior
Fifth Year Senior Freshman
Fifth Year Senior Sophomore
Senior Sophomore

That’s losing a considerable amount of experience, most of which already had starting minutes in the system. There were going to be hiccups, of course, but the dropoff has been drastic.

Jalen Hood-Schifino had a really good amount of size for a guard and was able to hold his own on defense while Trey Galloway took on Xavier Johnson’s role of guarding the opponent’s primary ballhandler.

Kopp had a ton of minutes under his belt and provided solid defense on the wing. Mgbako, his replacement at the three, has a vast amount of offensive potential but just doesn’t provide the same defense.

Woodson has opted for Walker at the three more over time, with Banks getting a bit of run in as well. Walker has the experience, but isn’t the outside shooting presence Kopp was.

Indiana’s frontcourt is young, both Ware and Reneau are sophomores who got limited playing time last season albeit for different reasons. The former is in year one of Indiana’s system and operates more as a rim protector than anything.

Inside the Hall has put together a few film session pieces including how Kennesaw State exploited Indiana’s help defense, Indiana losing track of shooters against Army and how Indiana’s defense led to a 3-point shooting clinic by Penn State last year.

The help defense isn’t a new issue, it’s just remarkably worse this year with Indiana being so much younger.