Saturday at Maryland, Indiana had things going in reverse.
On an individual level for a point guard, a longstanding benchmark for the assist to turnover ratio has been 2-to-1.
Teams rarely reach that standard as a group. Notre Dame leads the country right now at 1.96. The top 50 teams nationally are all above 1.2.
There were several things on the offensive end of the floor that were problematic for the Hoosiers against the Terrapins, but compiling a season low 7 assists against 14 turnovers was one statistical measure that jumped off the table.
14 turnovers in a tough road environment isn’t a terribly concerning number. For Indiana head coach Archie Miller, it is the other side of the equation that is keeping him up at night.
“We’ve missed a ton of opportunities in the last few games, especially our guards, to get assists,” Miller said on Monday night on his radio show. “We’re making it harder on ourselves.”
Over the last seven games, which corresponds to Indiana’s schedule getting more difficult beginning with Florida State, the Hoosiers are averaging just 11.9 assists per game compared to 13.5 on the season as a whole. The top teams nationally are averaging nearly 20 assists per contest.
A factor in the sluggish offensive play has been that teams have started to recognize and counter Indiana’s emphasis on playing inside-out.
“Sometimes teams are selling out, throwing the kitchen sink down there (to not let the ball in the post),” Miller said.
The third year Hoosier head coach believes that his guards now need to make teams pay for emphasizing the post so much, and be ready when the ball comes back outside.
“Our bigs will do a good job of getting it out,” Miller said. “I think our perimeter guys have got to start doing a good job of recognizing how teams are starting to play. They have to be ready to shoot off of inside out catches. They have to be ready to catch the ball when a team collapses.”
A narrative has emerged that Indiana is not a good perimeter shooting team — and the numbers seem to back that up. Indiana is converting on just 30.7 percent of its three-point attempts, which ranks No. 264 nationally.
Rather than an inability to make shots, Miller believes his team’s shooting deficiencies stem from a lack of quality looks, and at times even passing up open shots.
“We’re not getting enough rhythm good looks over the course of a game,” Miller said. “We’re over dribbling, taking tough twos. Sometimes we’re passing up a good one. You have to be ready, attack, and understand those are the ones you are going to make. You’re not going to make the ones at the end of the shot clock off the bounce all the time.”
Of course it is on Miller’s shoulders to get the issue corrected, and his offense that is failing to produce.
First and foremost, he is looking to his guards to put defenses in tougher positions and then recognize the openings when they are created rather than forcing the issue.
“There aren’t many guys that are getting good looks right now from the typical basketball play where there is two guarding one, or you drive the ball and make the easy kick out pass, Miller said.
“We just weren’t good enough to make the game easier on some drive and pass opportunities, taking a quality three rather than a tough two. That’s really been a bugaboo for us, but we’ve got to get that corrected.”
While there aren’t statistics to directly measure the quality of shots a team takes, or how open a shooter was, the eye test does seem to support what Miller is saying.
Assists do at least suggest that in large part baskets are being made through the offense, through motion, and through good recognition of what a defense is giving you. IU is No. 219 in the country in field goals made via an assist (49.9%).
A lot of what Indiana is shooting right now seems to be a closely guarded, challenged and difficult attempt, and the former point guard is calling out his backcourt as the culprit.
“Our guards aren’t moving,” Miller said. “Our guards aren’t playing the game with one another as easy as they could. Our passing has to get better, our assist totals have to go up offensively. We have to get a better shot. They are there. We’ve just got to be willing to make the reads, and make the passes.”
Of course Indiana has played much of the season without point guard Rob Phinisee at 100 percent. Although he has been back in the rotation for nearly a month, the sophomore has been coming off the bench and playing limited minutes.
Phinisee leads the team with 3.1 assists per game, but he has averaged just 19.6 minutes over nine contests after playing 27.3 minutes per outing last year.
A healthy and productive Phinisee would likely go a long way towards generating good open attempts in rhythm, and with that Miller believes the shots will start falling.
“I think we will make good threes if we deliver the ball when it is supposed to be delivered,” he said. “How many of those (good shots) are we getting. I don’t see a lot of them right now. We’ve got to get that corrected.”
Ultimately, Miller believes that his team will turn things around.
“We’re okay. We’re all correctable.”
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