Despite a 2-0 start to the 2019-20 season, IU basketball head coach Archie Miller sees the writing on the wall if things don’t change.
“If we don’t get our defense going in another direction here, we’re going to experience some really hard moments in games. We can’t get stops,” Miller said after Indiana’s win on Saturday over Portland State.
More than executing the scheme, Miller indicated that his squad’s effort level on the defensive end is the glaring issue early in the season.
“I would just say in general we don’t have the toughness or the pressure on the ball right now that we’re going to need,” Miller continued. “The team methodically can move and do what they want to do real easily.
“In general our team’s toughness level on the ball, its ability to be really sticky on the ball is not there. Also I think just in general for a team with great size, we’re very spread out. It’s not hard around the paint right now.”
Although Miller is frustrated with his team’s early season effort on the defensive end, there is more going on here than meets the eye.
As is typical with lower level early season opponents, IU faced more guard oriented teams in the first week of the season — and they did it shorthanded.
Indiana only has three scholarship guards available to play right now including true freshman Armaan Franklin. One of the other available guards, Rob Phinisee, has been recovering from injury and playing at less than 100 percent from a stamina perspective.
Miller’s sophomore point guard is working his way back from an abdominal issue and is beginning to show signs of his elite defensive ability.
“Defensively you saw glimpses, Miller said of Phinisee’s impact against Portland State.
“When we needed to get some things done, he was really able to sit down and guard. In his defense, he’s probably practiced 1/10th of what everybody else is. He is basically being tossed out there and let’s get going.”
In Miller’s pack-line defensive scheme, strong on the ball defense is critical — and that is Phinisee’s specialty.
The Lafayette native had headline moments defending the ball as a true freshman including the final possession in a home win over Michigan State when he got a stop against All-American point guard Cassius Winston.
“He’ll always be that guy for us. He’s a tremendous defender,” Miller added on his radio show last night. … “Guys like Rob, guys who have played, they understand you can’t guard a player at a high level without having your feet under you. As he started to get cranked up, whoever we put him on, he was able to stick.”
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
North Alabama (1-1) at Indiana (2-0)
- Tip time: 7 p.m. EST
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: Big Ten Network
- Series: First regular season meeting
- Point Spread: Indiana is a 22.5 point favorite in Vegas; KenPom has Indiana by 22.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
- Located in Florence, Alabama, the Lions are part of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
- North Alabama is ranked No. 284 according to KenPom.
The two programs met in an exhibition game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on November 4, 2007. IU won the game 121-76. UNA became a Division One program in 2018.
- The Lions were a Division II powerhouse with 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, eight regional championships, five Final Fours and two national championships.
Of course the fourth scholarship guard missing from the lineup is senior captain Devonte Green.
Still at least a week away from a return to action with a hamstring injury, Green, along with a healthier Phinisee will almost certainly give IU’s defense on the perimeter a boost.
The early season numbers support Miller’s contention that the early defensive struggles stem from a lack of effort on the perimeter.
The Hoosiers are No. 275 in turnover percentage, No. 247 in steal percentage and No. 246 in defending three-pointers according to KenPom.
A point of emphasis in the days since the win over Portland State, Miller indicated on his radio show last night that his team has “made strides in how hard you have to defend.”
“Hopefully we can start to make some steps defensively to start to look the part that we’re going to have to.”
LIONS TO PRESENT CHALLENGE FOR HOOSIER OFFENSE
While Miller has been focused on getting the defense right, his biggest challenge on Tuesday night might be when the Hoosiers have the basketball.
North Alabama has forced 47 turnovers through its first two games.
“They have great quickness in the backcourt and mobility in the frontcourt,” Miller said on his radio show last night. “They can run and jump you, they can trap on the first pass. Even when they don’t, they’re going to make you feel like they’re coming every time.”
The Lions faced South Carolina on the road and forced the Gamecocks into 20 turnovers, and then forced another 27 in a win against NCCAA member Carver College.
Through two games UNA is forcing turnovers on 25 percent of their opponent’s possessions.
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