It's been a tough week of hearing 'fun facts'. As the guy wearing the biggest ears in the room, I found out on Friday that the ears are the last body part to stop growing. (Yes, I Googled it - it's true.) Then on Saturday, things got even tougher.... That's when the "Wisconsin has won 12 straight over Indiana" talk started. Now, the former remains my issue, but the latter no longer burdens the Hoosiers who stopped several streaks on Tuesday in their impressive 75-72 win over the No. 3 Badgers.
Now for some 'fun facts' we can all enjoy, "Hoosier Breakdown: Wisconsin" is next.
IN THE BEGINNING.
All-in-all, the best Hoosier performance to date against the best Wisconsin Badger team ever.
Indiana got off to a fast start, allowing the crowd to stay in the game.
A game full of runs, fittingly, it started with a couple early. After a Yogi Ferrell layup off a hand-off at the elbow and back-to-back Noah Vonleh triples, Will Sheehey went baseline to dunk over two Badger defenders. Indiana, however, then went ice-cold, missing its next five attempts. Meanwhile, Wisconsin started a perfect 6-for-6 from the field as all 5 starters scored in racing to a 16-10 advantage at the first official timeout. Worth noting because that's when Austin Etherington checked in, and he was solid throughout last night.
Indiana was able to keep it close by scoring in transition, getting behind the Badgers on run-outs, or simply weaving through defenders on the dribble en route to the rim.
In the half court IU looked like a team interested in finding an identity, as Dan Dakich noted during the broadcast, attacking the paint, playing with focus. Still too many misses close, but not settling for jump shots. It was the approach the Hoosiers needed for their "David" role.
Indiana again won the "free throw game" but only got the line 10 times. Wisconsin managed just a single free free throw make in four attempts. The lack of free throws made this a quick game.
"The Breakdown" counted THREE Will Sheehey first half dunks, and a strong shot fake with an up-and-under in the lane. He had a couple other strong takes as he was aggressive and focused on getting shots at the rim early. He didn't settle for jump shots in the first half. He defended. He was a catalyst.
The Badgers a tremendous passing team; they don't hold the ball, they don't overuse the dribble, they are always looking for a cutter, and they find the advantage on the court, or the mismatch. Early, they picked apart the Hoosiers, who had trouble finding shooters in transition and showed poor team-help defense.
Wisconsin had the Hoosiers scouted well. Bo Ryan saw that Noah Vonleh has a tendency to "hug his man" and not give help. Ryan ran a 'high 1-4' quick-hitter opposite Noah Vonleh on two occasions, and the Badgers were rewarded with easy layups both times when Vonleh didn't help on Trae Jackson back-cutting to the basket. This is the most basic, simplistic team-help principle there is; your man steps away from basket to set a back-screen or up-screen, you call-out the screen and either jam the cutter (by stepping in front of him, bumping him with your chest and leading him) or step towards the bucket with the cutter and give help until your teammate can recover. I'd also bet it's a drill the Hoosiers run every day in practice as part of the "Shell Defense" series.
Another admiration of Bo Ryan is the way his players cut-and-screen. They cut hard every time, and they actually screen people when they look to screen. The screeners' shoulders and base are set low-and-wide, and the cutter rubs shoulder-to-hip or shoulder-to-shoulder every time.
Two great individual defensive plays highlighted the final minute of the half. First Yogi Ferrell moved his feet and cut-off a baseline drive that resulted in Wisconsin guard Ben Brust committing a charge with 50 seconds left in the half. Then Josh Gasser was whistled for an unfortunate call just before the half at mid-court, when he bumped heads with an IU defender and was called for a charge with only 12 seconds remaining.
Wisky, 35-34 at the break.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT.
No Jeremy Hollowell for the second straight game (Coach's decision). Troy Williams only played eight minutes. Yogi Ferrell was benched for several minutes in the second half after settling for and missing a couple ill-advised three-point attempts.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON.
Bo Ryan entered the second half of Tuesday's game 245-25 all-time when leading at the half. That's a staggering stat. Down one, the Hoosiers had their work cut-out.
Traevon Jackson, the son of former Ohio State star, Jim Jackson, opened the second half with a cross-over pull-up. He went on to hit his first next four shots of the half, and finished with a career-high 21 points. Jackson was good, but IU routinely gave him his chances better than he deserved. For example, Will Sheehey didn't follow the scouting report, goes under the ball-screen and Jackson buried a 3 on-top with 17:30 left to play. IU later went zone and left Jackson alone in front of the Wisky bench for a corner-3.
You have to know scouting reports, you must know where shooters are....I see too many mistakes happening that I'm sure are covered in scouting reports. Again, that's an issue of concentration/focus.
But in a strange twist of events, it was Wisconsin who looked out-of-sorts down the stretch. Maybe it was the crowd - you guys were awesome again - but the Badgers got away from passing and cutting, and to the benefit of the Hoosiers, it affected their shooting. Trailing by eight with just over 13 minutes left, Indiana spent the next 3:39 battling, scoring 12 straight to gain the lead for the first time since 10-9 early on.
IU again outrebounded its opponent, 33-28.
Noah Vonleh played 32 big minutes tonight, too, including the "Breakdown Play of the Game." That came with 9:41 remaining when he busted across the lane on a missed free throw, getting a hand on the ball to tip it up and in, tying the game at 52-52. That's why we love to see him out there. He's always capable of changing the game. His entire repertoire was on-show again on Tuesday including two first-half 3's. More touches, please!
Yogi Ferrell started slow, 2-for-9 in the first half, but finished with a game-high 25 points (on 24 shot attempts). Stan Robinson was again a bright-spot for Indiana, taking the action to the Badgers on drive after sweet drive. "The Breakdown's" favorite was the first-half cross-over and-1, en route to a career game for the freshman. He was awesome. Much more in-control and poised, there were several plays where both he and Yogi were simply unstoppable.
IU also did an excellent job of handling the ball, only committing nine turnovers.
And when you get layups, you're valuing possessions. IU had a high rate of quality possessions on Tuesday.
Noah Vonleh still needs more touches. Five shot attempts is not enough.
Indiana needs attention in the team-help department. I think you'll also notice the zone will improve once we see some things tightened up. (Ball-you-man, don't hug your man, head-on-a-swivel, etc.)
Would love to see Crean continue mixing defenses, as I think it's a great tool to use come tourney time.
As a fan of coaches and what strings they pull, I found Tuesday's game fascinating. "The Breakdown" respects both coaches immensely, but we do like to analyze here. I found it interesting that Bo Ryan remained in man-to-man throughout the game, even though his team was shredded all night by IU penetration (the Hoosiers shot 4-14 from 3-point).
Tom Crean talked about mixing a little zone in on Tuesday, and he did. I first saw it around the 15:30 mark for one possession, and he then revisited it four straight possessions around the 10:30 mark when Yogi Ferrell was reinserted into the game. It actually worked, despite what we anticipated would happen against a good passing and shooting team like Wisconsin. "The Breakdown" actually would like to see more defenses mixed-in; mixing defenses keeps teams off-balance and guessing. Staying too long in a defense can burn you, and IU might have stayed in the zone one possession too long last night. Nevertheless, I think it's a great tool in the arsenal for the Hoosiers, as long as they can shore up their weaknesses in their half-court defense (i.e. team help, seeing the ball).
I'm not sure why you'd ever play man-to-man against Indiana.
Will Sheehey's start had "The Breakdown" on its feet. He was awesome. The second half saw him revert back to settling for jumpers somewhat, although he did hit a big three down the stretch.
When you're not shooting well, you have to recognize the ball isn't going in, and you have to change something. That was Coach Crean's point to Yogi, and when you had the success Yogi had at driving the basketball, you're wasting possessions by jacking 22-footers.
Yogi was 1-8 from 3-pt range, and short all night. Front of the rim. He did make the adjustment to get it over the front of the rim on his one make, but even that was flat. Will Sheehey seemed to be in the same boat. I would suggest to both to release the ball a little sooner. They appear to be holding onto the ball a half-count too late. Ask any great shooter and they'll tell you the same thing; the legs are the key to your shot.
The Indiana crowd of 17,472 groaned in unison when Tom Crean subbed Austin Etherington for Noah Vonleh with 1:18 remaining. Nine seconds later the ball found Frank Kaminsky's hands when he went high over Etherington to snatch it. He stuck it in and got fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw. Clearly Coach Crean anticipated Kaminsky might be shooting the three-point attempt or wanted five guys that could all switch with each other. Luckily, it all worked out.
Perhaps the play that interested me the most was the Tom Crean timeout after the IU free throws made it 75-72. Indiana had a couple to burn and Wisconsin was fresh out. Instead of using a sub in that position to stop the action and set his defense, Indiana called a timeout. While that did give Bo Ryan a free timeout to draw-up an offensive option, the Badgers didn't find the great look needed to extend the game.
Once again, the best IU effort of the season against one heck of a Wisconsin team. Wouldn't expect anything other than a great effort this weekend. Enjoy your Wednesday, you're almost there, people. Northwestern on Saturday afternoon as IU looks to keep Uncle Mo on its side.
We will see you on Sunday for the next, "Hoosier Breakdown".
Questions, comments, suggestions? All welcome. Contact Nick.