You would except Indiana to beat Tennessee Tech 10/10 times every year, no matter how bad the team is. This game was more than just a victory on the stat sheet, it showed that Indiana not only bounces back from a nightmare game, but can play sound and selfless basketball from start to finish. Nothing can take away the result against Fort Wayne, but it was a relief to see this performance just a couple days after with an 87-59 victory by the Hoosiers.
The defense was the highlight of the night, no question. Against Fort Wayne, one of the biggest faults of the defense was the lack of pressure on the ball and the lack of effort to close out on shooters. Tonight, Indiana turned it around and pressured almost every single play, put pressure on the ball, and put a hand in the opponent’s face, even if it was 3 feet beyond the arc. The hustle was there, from start to finish, and the mindset was clearly different from three nights ago.
- Indiana held a good 3-point shooting team in Tennessee Tech to just 27.8% on the night, and a couple of those makes came late in garbage time. They made just five 3-pointers, and most of their misses came off of good, on the ball pressure, where TTU did not get open looks. They also attempted only 18 3-point shots, which shows how quickly the defense closed in on shooters. These attempts are usually much higher than 18, and Indiana finally didn’t shy away from guarding the perimeter.
- 10 blocks and 10 steals. Most of the blocks and steals came from good hustle, forcing the Golden Eagles to cough the ball up and take bad shots. Justin Smith’s 2 blocks in-a-row were key for him getting more minutes, and summed up the “don’t quit” mentality we can (sometimes) see from this Hoosier team.
- 14 total fouls. This stat is going to be overlooked more than others, but committing only 14 fouls is great for the entire game. It shows how the defense was playing sound basketball and not committing careless fouls. They were in the right place at the right time, and didn’t panic when something didn’t go their way.
This has been a problem going into games for this Hoosier team. Archie said he worked everyone really hard the past couple days, and it showed on the floor tonight. They let Tennessee Tech stay in the game for the first 10 minutes of the half, but got comfortable with their shots and kept playing solid defense to turn the score around.
In the first 11 games of this 2017-2018 season, the Hoosiers haven’t played a full 40 minutes of solid play. We have seen Indiana play for the first 20 minutes, but slow down in the last 20 (i.e. Seton Hall). The closest IU has gotten to a full game of focused effort was the Duke game, where they played 36 minutes of incredible basketball but ultimately fell short. Tonight, Indiana played a full 40 minutes of basketball.
You could tell that this team had a different focus and a different mentality compared to the Fort Wayne game. They came out playing with a purpose. There was a renewed confidence in this team tonight, and it wasn’t just that they were playing a lower-level opponent. They were playing faster, harder, and stronger since before the Notre Dame game, if not all the way back to the Duke game. The result of this game shows that there are multiple ways that Miller can get to his players, and he’s figuring out that he might need to give them a little push before certain games.
I previously talked about how Indiana needed to commit less than 12 turnovers in order to get back on the right track to what Archie wants on a consistent basis. Indiana only committed 10 turnovers on the night, which is on the lower end compared to their other games. The careless turnovers were cut down significantly, and they had smarter passes.
On our podcast, Matt and I talked about how IU did not take advantage of turnovers Fort Wayne committed, unlike the Mastodons where they had 29 points off of 18 Indiana turnovers. Tonight, the Hoosiers had 18 points off of 16 Tennessee Tech turnovers. Not the best, but it was much better compared to only 7 points the other night. The tempo was increased, and IU benefitted from a quicker pace when taking advantage of the TTU turnovers.
Lastly, Indiana held the Golden Eagles to .82 points per possession, the lowest total its held their opponents to all season. This statistic is very low for any team, no matter who their opponent is. This goes back to how well their defense was performing throughout the night, and how they need to keep this consistency up going into B1G play.
Player of the Game: Josh Newkirk showed how he can still make a difference when he’s on the court. He had a season-high 20 points, and did it in 24 minutes. He was 3-4 from beyond the arc, and proved that his 3-point shot that can be deadly if he’s focused. 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block capped off by just 2 turnovers. The Hoosiers need a point guard who can pass the ball as well as drive, and Josh showed that he can do both in one game.
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