Nearly two months into the regular season, nothing has defined this Indiana men’s basketball team quite like the 3-point line.
IU’s offensive highs and lows from beyond the arc have been a major talking point throughout the season. The Hoosiers are shooting 33.5 percent from 3-point range, which is 167th in the country and ninth in the Big Ten. But they do that on just 14.5 attempts per game, tied for third-fewest in the country.
That style of play isn’t exactly a modern approach, and requires Indiana to do several other things well to win. But it doesn’t have to be crippling, particularly with effective and efficient post play and with staunch defense.
But the defense — also behind the 3-point line — is a growing red flag for the Hoosiers. They’re having a lot of trouble limiting opponents’ outside shooting, and it’s becoming a real detriment to their chances in games. The Nebraska game on Wednesday exemplified that — the Cornhuskers shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, a lower percentage than IU did, but they fired off 32 attempts against IU’s porous defense.
During a media availability over Zoom on Friday, IU head coach Mike Woodson said half of Nebraska’s threes were tough shots made in spite of good defense, but half of them opened up because of his team’s defensive problems.
“We’re playing teams that are making threes. We’ve just got to do a better job,” Woodson said. “When we’re up and touching and making players feel us a little bit, we’re pretty good in guarding the 3-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.”
On the season, Indiana opponents are shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range. That ranks 262nd in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten. But IU is allowing 27 3-point attempts per game, the most in the Big Ten and tied for 20th-most in the country. Teams are clearly aware that the formula for beating the Hoosiers is to counter their usually low amount of 3-point attempts with a high amount on the other end, taking advantage of the open looks their defense is allowing.
The Nebraska game wasn’t a one-off. Kennesaw State shot 48.6 percent from 3-point range, on 35 attempts. IU opponents are shooting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc over the last four games, on an average of 33.3 attempts per game. Stretch it to the last six games, to include the Kansas and Auburn games, and the opponent 3-point percentage rises to 37.8, on 30 attempts per game.
Only four teams in the country are allowing more than 30 3-point attempts per game this season. Just one of those teams has a winning record. Their combined record is 16-42.
Woodson’s relatively younger team has clearly had difficulty grasping some of his defensive concepts so far. He acknowledged that after the Nebraska game, and added on Friday that the staff just has to keep working with the players to help them improve.
“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,” Woodson said. “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.”
For complete coverage of IU basketball, GO HERE.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”