Louisiana scored four early points against the Indiana’s aggressive defense, and then they went cold. Ice cold.
A stingy defense — that has quickly become the identity of Mike Woodson’s team — held the Ragin’ Cajuns to just 14-of-73 shooting in the 76-44 win, good for 19.2 percent. This marked the lowest field goal percentage allowed by IU at least since the 1996-97 season. The previous low during that span was nearly a full five percentage points higher when IU held Rutgers to 24.1 percent in 2018.
“Well, again, I got to give the players all the credit,” Woodson said after the game. “They were paying attention to details, especially when we’re game prepping for our opponents and they’re going out and executing, so it’s kind of nice to see from a coaching standpoint.”
After allowing the two early buckets, the defense set the tone after the media timeout. Louisiana forward Jordan Brown hit Race Thompson with a shimmy move to get an open hook shot. However, Trayce Jackson-Davis shifted over to the weak side and bounced above the rim to deny the shot. An early side of stuffing for Thanksgiving.
From then on, the Cajuns felt the inside presence of the Hoosiers’ frontcourt. The team combined for eight blocks and made sure to contest every shot, which rattled the Louisiana offense. During a 14-minute stretch, they missed 25 consecutive shots and only scored three points during that span– all from free throws.
By the end of the first half, Louisiana was shooting an abysmal 11.8% from the field and only converted on 4-of-34 shots from the field. The 14 points conceded by IU in the first half ties the fewest the team has given up since March 2, 2013, against Iowa. It is the fewest outright the team has given up since Dec. 28, 1999, when it held Holy Cross to just 11 first-half points.
“It just got out of hand early and kind of snowballed from there and we missed a lot of point-blank shots that we should have been making,” said Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin. “I think our guys got frustrated a little bit. But give Indiana credit. They had a good game plan, and they played extremely well.”
The key to the defensive pressure of the Hoosiers is their athleticism. Through the early stages of the season, Woodson has preached for his team to stay on their man and not switch defenders on pick-and-roll plays. However, if necessary, Jackson-Davis, Thompson, and Jordan Geronimo have the length and quickness to guard multiple positions.
“And those responsibilities have been executed pretty well,” Woodson said of his frontcourt.
“I think, from a pick and roll standpoint. Our pick and roll defense has been pretty good because our bigs are active and able to be up, and we are demanding our guards get into the ball and take onus on guarding the ball. It kind of goes hand in hand.”
Against Eastern Michigan and St. John’s, the IU defense started the same way as it did tonight. However, in the second half, the defense faltered. Both opponents managed to heat up in the second half, and trim down double-digit leads. Despite them pulling out close wins in both games, their head coach wants to see them play with the same intensity for the full game.
“You know, I just tell guys at halftime, Man, listen, we been in this position a few times where we didn’t come out and play like we got the lead,” Woodson said of his halftime speech to the team.
“So I’m always hammering that into them at halftime. You just got to do the things that got you the lead, and the defensive end was the reason you were in the position you were in.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns had a bit more success in the second half but not nearly enough. They were able to convert on 10-of-39, or 25 percent, of their shots from the field. However, they were held to the same three-point percentage as the first-half, 10 percent.
And IU did not relinquish the lead but rather extended it. Despite Louisiana being able to more than double their first-half points with 30, the Hoosiers ended up winning by 32 points as opposed to the 23 they were up at half-time while giving the bench extended minutes after the break.
“So you got to stay solid in that area. I thought we were pretty good the second half for the most part,” Woodson added.
The Hoosiers will look to continue the defensive intensity for a full 40 minutes on Tuesday. They will take on Jackson St. in “The Hoosier Classic.” The tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Eastern.
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