At times, the Hoosiers have looked like Jekyll, and at other times, Hyde.
When they are at their best, Indiana has been a team that looks like it can compete with anyone. But there have been some ugly spells too. Above all, turnovers have held the Hoosiers back from being the team they know they can be.
Head coach Mike Woodson knows what he has to fix to get the team moving in the right direction. And with nothing but Big Ten obstacles in the way, the time is now.
“Well, not turning the ball over’s going to be one. I mean, right now that’s kind of been… We’ve been a lot better the last five games,” said Woodson.
Indiana’s offense many times has struggled with throwing the ball away to the other team. They have hit double-digit turnovers in all but two games this season.
One of their worst efforts came against Syracuse when they turned the ball over 26 times. Early turnovers in that game led to a 16-point Orange lead and an eventual loss. Seven turnovers in the first ten minutes of the second half almost cost IU a 14-point first half lead against St. John’s.
The Hoosiers have been able to survive heavy turnover games against lighter competition, including Louisiana (27), Merrimack (17), Northern Illinois (15), and Marshall (15). But there won’t be anymore light work on the schedule. Indiana either takes better care of the basketball from here on out, or it risks another disappointing winter.
Woodson has noticed a trend in his team’s giveaways.
“When we’re trying to play on the fly a lot of times, that’s where a lot of our mistakes come,” Woodson said of the turnovers.
“We just got to get better in that area because you’re not going to be able to run your set all the way through every time. There’s always going to be some breakdown, then you have to free-lance and feel good about how you free-lance and play offense. We’re not there yet in that area.”
Currently, the Hoosiers average 15.5 turnovers per game, which ranks No. 36 in the nation. But, that is not the only problem they must address.
Indiana is giving the ball away, and they are not taking advantage of what is being given to them.
“And making free throws, guys. When you’re in close games, you look at the two games, Syracuse and Wisconsin, a couple of possessions here or there, we probably sitting here 12-0,” Woodson said. “Free throws had a lot to do with it in the Syracuse game as well as turning it over, missed free throws coming down the stretch in the Wisconsin game.”
Combined in the two losses Indiana missed 15 free throws and lost by a total of seven points.
Essentially free throws are supposed to be gimme points. They call it the charity stripe for a reason. But it has been the opposite for the Hoosiers.
They get to the line an average of 21.4 times per game, but they are just shooting at a 67.7 percent clip. This puts them ranked No. 263 nationally.
Miller Kopp is their best free throw shooter and hits them at a 94.4 percent rate. But behind him, there is only one other player above the 75 percent mark. And that is Tamar Bates with an 80 percent rate.
The missed free throws have also come back to haunt them late in games. Against Wisconsin, they missed six free throws in the second half and ended up losing by five.
“To me, I mean, when you’re out on the road, you got to play all the way through. You can’t think that you’re just going to win it in 38. It’s a 40-minute game, man,” Woodson said of finishing the game.
And that’s the third area where Woodson wants his team to improve. The Syracuse and Wisconsin games were winnable, but his team has to learn how to close, especially on the road where IU is 0-2 in true away games.
“We just didn’t complete the game against Wisconsin. We got to put a 40-minute ballgame together, period, from beginning to the end,” Woodson said.
The Hoosiers have a chance to grab their first road win of the season when they take on Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern (BTN).
They’ll need to make their free throws and limit turnovers to get it done.
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