Indiana 87 Eastern Michigan 67: The Report Card

In our preview for this game, we gave several reasons why the Hoosiers had better not look past Eastern Michigan. Irrespective of the final score of tonight’s game, the Eagles are a good team.  We’d be surprised if they aren’t at or near the top of the MAC when it’s all said and done.

But Indiana had its best game of the year.  Honestly, they had their best game since January before the wheels fell off last season.  The Hoosiers did it all tonight — low turnovers, perimeter shooting, intensity.  They even saw the return of one of their senior leaders, Collin Hartman.  If his entry into the game to a standing ovation didn’t give you chills then you just don’t appreciate what this guy has been through and what he means to the program.  It was a special moment.

Overall:  A-  There are nits that keep this performance from being an A, but let there be no doubt — this was a very solid effort from IU.  The progress this team has made in 2 short weeks is impressive.  You get the sense that these players have the Indiana State score up on their lockers and that game is willing them to grow and improve.  The change is impressive in such a short period of time.  Of course we all know what’s coming with the schedule, so we’ll truly see how far they’ve come over the next 5 games.  Getting Hartman back for that stretch is very important and just another step in the right direction.

Coaching:  A  There are so many reasons why an A is deserved here.  Archie Miller’s team was diving on the floor, they only had 8 turnovers for the second straight game, the approach to playing against a zone was the best we’ve seen in decades for IU.  The defense is still a work in process, but the effort is there.  The strategy to front James Thompson was solid.  Coach Miller isn’t afraid to use the bench as a teaching tool either.  There was a moment when Devonte Green took a rushed deep 3 and he was pulled immediately.  Miller seems to be demanding accountability, and for the most part this team is responding.

Offense:  A+  The thought of playing against a long and experienced zone defense probably gives most Hoosier fans a sick feeling.  Thoughts of standing around for 29 seconds and heaving a bad shot come to mind.  Not to mention the 2013 loss to Syracuse.  From the outset Indiana made it a point to get the ball inside and then look for skip passes or cuts to the basket to break down the zone.  There were very few moments where the shot clock was even a factor.  Indiana only had 8 turnovers, and 3 of those were right at the beginning of the game.  They basically had 5 turnovers in the last 36 minutes.  The perimeter shooting was the best it has been all year.  And for the most part the 3-pointers were good open looks resulting from ball movement and dribble penetration.  53% from the field, 57% from deep, 19 assists on only 8 turnovers — this was a great performance.

Defense:  B-  As we mentioned, the strategy to front Thompson was a good one, and De’Ron Davis and Freddie McSwain did a nice job executing it.  But this defense is still getting broken down too much with penetration and still allowing shooters to have big nights.  There was a sequence in the 2nd half where Eastern Michigan drew 3 consecutive fouls, and all of them were on dribble drives where Indiana reached rather than moving their feet.  Eastern Michigan is not a good perimeter shooting team and yet they still hit nine 3-pointers.  Indiana also only forced 10 turnovers.

Players

  • Curtis Jones:  C+  We’re to the point now where CuJo just is who he is.  We’ll continue to hold out hope for an emergence but his play has clearly formed a pattern and it hasn’t been what he is capable of.
  • Al Durham, Jr.:  A-  Durham’s play has formed a pattern as well, and it is impressive to say the least.  Yet another game with no turnovers, again with significant minutes.  Had 5 assists. He has a knack for taking charges, continues to flash a smooth right hand floater, and he’s not afraid to get on the floor.  The only thing that has kept him from getting A’s every night is his perimeter shot.  He’s been struggling a bit there, and yes that includes the 3-pointer that he banked.  Or did he call it?
  • Josh Newkirk:  A  5-6 on 3-pointers, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, a block and only one turnover.  This was one of his best games as a Hoosier and his second straight solid game.
  • Justin Smith:  A-   Came in off the bench and was immediately effective in the middle of the zone.  Had active hands on defense which led to a highlight reel dunk and timeout.  Active on the glass with 5 rebounds in only 12 minutes of play.
  • Robert Johnson:  A  If there was any concern that his funk might be back he put it to rest.  RJ looked extremely confident.  18 points on 6-8 shooting and only one turnover.  Indiana will win a lot of games when he plays like this.
  • Devonte Green:  C+  He lost minutes in this one.  Let’s face it, when Durham, Johnson and Newkirk are this good it is going to be hard for anyone else to see the floor.  He just has too many moments of forcing shots and making high risk passes.  We’re not worried here.  Green is immensely talented and valuable to this team.  We wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him shine against a style like Duke’s.
  • Juwan Morgan: Let’s face it, just about anything was going to be a letdown after Wednesday.  Morgan gave a nice effort.  A floor dive in the first half told you everything you need to know about the level of effort he is putting in.  No turnovers.  If there was anything that was disappointing it was perhaps only 4 rebounds.  He also tweaked a foot or ankle so that might have limited his lift.
  • Zach McRoberts:  B+  A really nice 8 minute contribution.  He was very active with hustle and rebounding.
  • De’Ron Davis:  B+  Was really good, but again couldn’t stay on the floor.  4 fouls and only played 13 minutes.  He had a great start to 2nd half with great post moves and great vision.  We really liked his intensity battling Thompson.  We even liked his intensity when he got his 4th foul.  There is no doubt he is a better player this year.
  • Freddie McSwain, Jr.:   A-  Showed us things we haven’t seen before with tip-ins, finishes around the basket and some nice passes from the post.  And oh yeah, another 9 rebounds.  Free throws were better too.  He did have 2 turnovers.
  • Collin Hartman:  A  Ok, we admit we’d give him the A even if he played poorly, but he didn’t.  How could he possibly make that shot?  It just shows how cool the guy is.  A year and a half out of the game…..all net.  Made some nice opposite side passes from the middle of the zone.  He did not appear to have any limitations.  It will be interesting to see if he ends up starting when he is ready.

[photo credit – Joe Ullrich]

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