We are not in crisis mode quite yet, but Indiana finds itself in an all too familiar February free fall.
There were promising moments at The Breslin Center — a 9-5 start, a 9-0 late first half run and an 8-0 start to the second half. But those stretches were the exceptions, and a 22-7 Michigan State run in the game’s final ten minutes the final dagger in a third straight loss for IU.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers fell with another edition of The Report Card.
IU (16-8 7-7) will host Wisconsin on Tuesday evening in Bloomington.
When Indiana loses the offense is typically to blame, and that was the case in East Lansing on Saturday.
In fact, IU’s offensive effectiveness is plummeting. They’ve dropped to No. 112 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, and they are No. 12 in the Big Ten in league games.
IU is playing slow on the offensive end, with limited movement, little imagination, and they insist on working the ball inside-out with little to show for it.
The Hoosiers’ attack continues to be focused on getting the ball inside to center Trayce Jackson-Davis, and the IU big man continues to be in a funk. He was 5-of-13 from the field and Jackson-Davis is now 12-of-35 over the last three games. His primary scoring move in the post, an off balance foray through the paint, is more often than not missing the mark right now against Big Ten size and length.
“I just think that I’m going too quick and I’m trying to read the double team too fast,” Jackson-Davis said. ” I feel like the first half I was kind of going away from it but in the second half I got more comfortable and started going into the contact and getting free throws and finishing.”
Jackson-Davis got very little help from his teammates on the perimeter as the Hoosiers made just 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from three. Top shooters Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart were a combined 2-of-10 from behind-the-arc, and IU has fallen to No. 13 in the Big Ten in conference games, making just 31.5 percent of their long range attempts.
“We’re not shooting the ball very well right now,” IU coach Mike Woodson said. “Look at the 3 ball. We shot terribly in that category.”
To make matters worse IU made just 16-of-27 free throw attempts, good for just 59.3 percent.
“If you just make your free throws you are in the ball game,” Woodson said. “They made their free throws and we didn’t.”
IU had just .858 points per possession, its second worst performance on the season. Particularly alarming: Their worst three performances on the 2021-22 campaign have come in the last three games. The same holds true for Indiana’s effective field goal percentage over the last three games.
Indiana took away three of MSU’s top four scorers, with Gabe Brown, Max Christie and Marcus Bingham combining to go just 3-of-14 from the field.
That alone should have gone a long way towards a Hoosier win, because on paper IU appeared to have a clear advantage at point guard in this game. They simply had to keep A.J. Hoggard out of the paint, and run Tyson Walker off the 3-point line. Instead the pair combined for 29 with Hoggard converting on 4-of-6 from 2-point range and Walker 3-of-6 from three.
Why did IU struggle so much with the MSU point guards? One reason was a familiar bugaboo — ball screen coverages.
“I thought that was a major breakdown as far as our pick and roll coverage,” Woodson said.
“I mean, normally, we’ve been pretty good at guarding the ball and really taken care of our assignments in the pick and roll, and they had their way tonight. So, we’ve got to go back, watch this tape, break it down, and regroup. Because Wisconsin, they run a bunch of ball screens as well, and we’ve been pretty good in that category, but tonight we were awful, I mean, just awful.”
On the plus side IU did force 15 MSU turnovers including six steals.
IU gave up 1.07 points per possession, and they’ve typically lost when allowing more than one. The main culprit on this day was too many free throw attempts. Michigan State was awarded 28 free attempts and unlike the Hoosiers, they converted.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score, highlights, keys to the game and specialty stats
- Woodson, Jackson-Davis and Thompson post-game
- Hoosiers lose chippy foul fest
- Long form highlights:
Trayce Jackson-Davis (D-) Much will be made of Jackson-Davis’ inefficiency in the paint, but his five rebounds in 34 minutes was equally concerning. He’s now had single-digit rebounds in six of the last seven games. On the plus side Jackson-Davis made 7-of-9 free throws.
Race Thompson (A-) Thompson did a little bit of everything including a career-high 14 rebounds. He had no turnovers in 33 minutes, hit a three, had three steals and a block. He has now scored 13 or more points in five straight games. If you want to find a negative, Thompson was just 4-of-9 from 2-point range and doesn’t use his off hand effectively in the paint.
Xavier Johnson (C-) Johnson was good for most of the game when he was on the floor which wasn’t often as he struggled with fouls. And then he imploded late with turnovers as the game slipped out of reach. He started the contest with four assists and no turnovers and ended up with four of each.
Miller Kopp (C-) Kopp struggled with fouls and turnovers and was just 1-of-3 shooting, but he was on the floor during some of Indiana’s better play, and he primarily guarded Brown who was shut out. It did leave you wondering why he didn’t play a little more.
Trey Galloway (D) He had three assists and no turnovers and was forced back into point guard duties at times when Johnson was out. But he can’t go 0-of-6 from the field if he is going to continue to start, and Galloway was part of the struggle on ball screen defense.
Jordan Geronimo (D-) Three turnovers and three fouls in nine minutes won’t get it done, and Geronimo often seems lost on defense.
Parker Stewart (D-) Mike Woodson made a statement by benching Stewart when Kopp was the more obvious choice. Stewart responded to his reserve role with his worst game of the season: 1-of-9 from the field including 1-of-7 from three, to go with a difficult to comprehend 1-of-6 from the line. You can only hope this wasn’t a mental response to losing his starting role. He did have three assists, no turnovers and a steal and was part of the defensive effort on Brown and Christie.
Tamar Bates (B-) Bates is coming out of a midseason funk and is clearly in line for more minutes down the home stretch of the season as his play improves. He hit a pair of long jumpers during a critical first half stretch when IU rallied to pull to within one, and he was improved defensively.
Michael Durr, Anthony Leal, Khristian Lander and Logan Duncomb all played briefly. Rob Phinisee was out with a foot injury.
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