The honeymoon phase of the Mike Woodson era came to an abrupt end on Sunday.
It’s been said that everything would be sunshine and lollipops for the first-year head coach until he started losing. Woodson is now three losses deep into his tenure, and this one starts to raise questions — not about the entire state of the program — but certainly about what we have here with the 2021-22 edition of IU basketball.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers lost 61-58 to the Nittany Lions with another edition of The Report Card.
IU (10-3, 1-2) will return home for a Thursday night showdown against Ohio State. That game tips at 7 p.m. Eastern at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Penn State’s defense set the rules. While they needed to get out and run in this one, IU didn’t. For the most part the game was a slow, half-court oriented methodical affair, and a Nittany Lion zone helped see to that.
Indiana struggled to recognize how to attack the zone, and then once they did, couldn’t knock down shots from long range.
“We were froze like we were in quicksand the first two three minutes like we had never seen you know an early 2-3 zone,” Woodson said. “But once we started cutting and moving we got the ball moving and then we couldn’t make shots.”
The Hoosiers made just 4-of-17 3-pointers on the day, their second worst game of the season from behind-the-arc and worst since the opener. Top shooters Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp got just four attempts combined, not nearly enough volume as Penn State stuck to them and forced them off the line. The coaching staff is going to have to find more actions that force defenses to choose between doubling the post or leaving Kopp and Stewart.
Indiana only committed six turnovers for the game, a season-low, but that’s not a figure to get too excited about. Penn State doesn’t gamble defensively, and as a result they’ve got a season-long track record of not forcing turnovers. It just goes to show, ball security alone is no panacea for these Hoosiers.
Instead the Nittany Lions packed it in, whether playing zone or man, they didn’t foul, and they didn’t allow a great deal of offensive rebounds. It was a game plan likely borrowed from Wisconsin’s second half approach.
When the ball went in the paint, PSU collapsed, and that led to inefficient day for Trayce Jackson-Davis, and a 4-of-11 shooting day for point guards Xavier Johnson and Rob Phinisee from 2-point range. Indiana’s 43.1 percent effective field goal percentage was their second worst effort of the season.
Down three on the final possession, Indiana still had Jackson-Davis and Thompson on the floor rather than their best 3-point shooters.
Penn State used massive big man John Harrar as a screener at the top of the key for most of the game, and Woodson wasn’t happy at all with how his team handled those actions.
“We just weren’t good in our pick-and-roll coverage,” Woodson said. “It was terrible.”
It is hard to know exactly what went wrong with the coverages because they are often gameplan specific, but on multiple occasions two players ended up on the ball, bigs switched onto guards, and the screener was often lost in the commotion.
It contributed to an 11-of-22 shooting effort from 3-point range by Penn State, a team that entered the game not particularly effective from deep. That was the second most threes an opponent has made this year against IU, and the highest conversion rate by more than 10 percentage points. Also a factor — the Hoosiers were giving too much space to shooters.
“This is the first time a team has gotten away from us shooting the three ball and I just thought our our ability to touch somebody to start the game wasn’t there,” Woodson said.
Indiana was outrebounded by 10 in the game, and 11 Penn State offensive boards played a key role. Although they didn’t score, on one late second half possession the Nittany Lions pulled down four offensive rebounds. At the very least that might have helped wear down IU.
“I thought during that three two three minute span we couldn’t even rebound the ball you know and that’s something that’s you know when you’re in a close game like that you got to come up with it,” Woodson said.
Although they gave up just 61 points, IU allowed 1.03 points per possession, the third most this season behind the Marshall and Syracuse games. Penn State’s offensive rebounding rate was the second highest allowed by the Hoosiers this season.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score, keys to the game and specialty stats
- Mike Woodson post-game
- Road woes continue for IU
- Extended highlights:
Trayce Jackson-Davis (C) It was an inefficient game. Although Jackson-Davis led Indiana in scoring with 20 points, it took him 18 shots to get there on a an 8-of-18 shooting night. He also contributed just five rebounds in 34 minutes and missed key shots in crunch time.
Race Thompson (C+) He was pulled out on the perimeter defensively where the matchups weren’t great, and given the perimeter offensively. Thompson’s effort was solid however with a team high 10 rebounds.
Miller Kopp (D+) Kopp is giving high level effort, but the results aren’t great because of a fairly limited offensive repertoire and mediocre defensive abilities. He just isn’t having a big enough impact on games on offense, and his defense is at times a liability.
Parker Stewart (D) Stewart struggled to guard on the perimeter the entire game and continued to show that if forced to beat teams off the dribble, he is much less of an offensive weapon. No Big Ten coach is going to miss that scout from here out.
Xavier Johnson (C) Johnson had four assists against just one turnover and didn’t foul in the second half. But his inefficiency on the offensive end is becoming a major concern. Johnson has made just 17-of 52 overall (32.7 percent) and 4-of-16 from three (25 percent) over the last six games.
Tamar Bates (D) Indiana really needs a dynamic playmaker on the wing, but so far Bates hasn’t been able to step into that role. He looks hurried. Give him the benefit of the doubt after a roller coaster month off the court.
Jordan Geronimo (B-) Minutes are hard to come by with Geronimo best positioned at the four behind Thompson, but he gave some solid minutes with a couple midrange buckets, solid defense and another strong rebounding effort. He did force an early shot clock three.
Rob Phinisee (B-) He got off to a shaky start, but in the end this was a third straight performance with positives to build from for the senior guard. He made 3-of-4 shots in the second half to keep IU close down the stretch. Phinisee has made five of his last nine from three.
Anthony Leal and Michael Durr appeared in the game briefly.
Khristian Lander did not play.
Trey Galloway was out with a wrist injury. Logan Duncomb was not in uniform and wearing a boot.
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