Indiana at Illinois: The Report Card

It’s an unguarded shot 15 feet away from the basket that college players have attempted thousands of times.  On Wednesday night for IU, it looked like a halftime half court contest.  IU missed 13 free throws on the night and lost by two points.  You really don’t need to know much more than that.  It was a bad time to give one away to a conference bottom feeder.  The Hoosiers are about to begin their most difficult 3 game stretch of the season.  It starts with Purdue on Sunday.  IU loses this one, 73-71.

Overall:  C+  It was a game that started out so promising.  IU jumped out to an early lead and seemed to show a lot of mental toughness by keeping the Illini from mounting a run.  When Illinois would get closer than 4 IU always had an answer.  The second half was a completely different story, as the Illini came out of the gates with more energy and their pressure defense had more of an impact.  Indiana had 11 turnovers on only 4 assists in the 2nd half.  Archie Miller suggested that the Hoosiers didn’t have the same energy in the 2nd half.  Illinois was on less rest than IU, so the short turnaround cannot be used as excuse for that.  We’d be remiss to not mention that IU was called for 19 second half fouls, or nearly a foul a minute.  At some points in the half it felt like the whistle was automatic on every trip down the floor.

Coaching:  C+  Indiana’s approach to the Illinois pressure defense in the 1st half was impressive.  The Hoosiers attacked the pressure rather than backing down.  Miller was not able to getting his team to respond when Illinois ramped up the pressure however.  How much can you blame poor free throw shooting on a coach?  We suppose there is some blame there, but for us that is more of an individual thing.  It would be difficult to blame the coach for all of the second half fouls called on the Hoosiers on the night too.  The way Illinois plays defense, it should be reasonable for Miller to expect that his guys can play good hard aggressive defense as well without being called for a foul a minute.

Offense:  C  Poor free throw shooting, 18 turnovers, only 5 offensive rebounds, and another dud from behind the 3-point line.  Yes there were some good things, like shooting nearly 57% from the field overall, but for the most part IU let this one get away on this end of the floor.  Of course Illinois’ scheme is designed to be disruptive and make you uncomfortable, but they weren’t guarding free throws and many of the missed 3’s were wide open.

Defense:  B-   It’s hard to be too critical here.  Indiana was getting 2nd half stops only to see the Illini bailed out time and time again by the officials in front of their home crowd.  Sure, some of those calls were real Big Ten fouls, but it sure didn’t look like the game was being called the same at both ends of the floor, especially on drives to the bucket.  Indiana was actually able to keep the Illini from scoring from the field for more than 10 minutes in the 2nd half, but Illinois made up for it at the line.

Players with meaningful minutes:

  • Al Durham, Jr.:  B-  A better night after a really tough game on Monday.  He made a great pass to Morgan in the first half to set up an “and one”, and overall the energy and body language was better.
  • Josh Newkirk:  D+  We take no pleasure in giving that kind of grade, but where was he tonight? Against an intense pressure defense, nothing is more important than your senior point guard.  Only 2 points and 4 turnovers in 12 minutes.
  • Justin Smith:  C+  He has to be smarter putting the ball on the floor in traffic and he has to be more confident when he catches the ball around the basket.  He had 3 turnovers on the night.  It appears that Miller is struggling to keep him on the floor because of his defense.  After only 1 rebound on Monday, zero tonight.
  • Robert Johnson:  B-  IU really needed more from Johnson tonight.  He had a couple big timely 3 pointers but for the most part that was it.  He was handed the Frazier assignment in the second half on defense and generally held him in check.  Another solid rebounding night with 5.  Only 1 assist on 3 turnovers.
  • Devonte Green:  B-  Sure people will focus on the last play but that is just that — one play.  He played extended minutes due to Newkirk’s ineffectiveness and for the most part played decent.  5 assists on only 2 turnovers against that defense is a solid night.  Unfortunately, his shot continues to fail him.  He struggled some with Frazier in the first half on defense.
  • Juwan Morgan:  A-  Juwan needs some help.  Night in and night out he carries this team.  It is getting to the point that it is amazing that he continues to be so effective when you consider how bad IU’s perimeter shooting has been.  He can probably expect triple teams to make someone else beat them.  An amazingly efficient 12 for 14 from the field for 28 points to go with 9 rebounds and 3 assists.  You have to mention the 5 missed free throws, especially in a 2 point loss.
  • Zach McRoberts:  B+  He was a real valuable scorer in the first half, and no that is not a typo.  It was the next step in his evolution to knock down big shots on the road.  10 points and 5 rebounds on the night.
  • Freddie McSwain, Jr.:  B  He seems to be an asset on the defensive end and a liability on offense.  That is Archie’s dilemma as Smith is generally the opposite.  McSwain was a presence on defense with good positioning and 3 blocks, but he couldn’t finish on 2 looks around the basket.  He was 75% from the line which on this night is worth noting.
  • Collin Hartman:  C+  This is getting hard to watch.  Everyone in Hoosier Nation wants to see this guy go out on a white horse but for whatever reason his perimeter shot is just gone.  And that included free throws tonight where he was 1-4.  Is the shoulder still an issue?  He did a nice job in the first half getting to the center of the Illinois pressure and then leading the attack, and he did have a couple nice finishes around the basket.

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Photo credit – Noble Guyon/IDS

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