The season appears to be in crisis mode now as Indiana already has four losses in the Big Ten just five games in. And the Hoosiers haven’t yet hit the meat of their league schedule.
IU played reasonable well early, and held a 15-13 lead midway through the first half. But that lead was met with an 8-0 run, and from there the defense imploded. The Nittany Lions dropped 24 on IU over the last 10 minutes of the first half, and another 48 in the second half.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers lost 85-66 with another edition of The Report Card.
Indiana (10-6, 1-4) will next host Wisconsin at 1 p.m. Eastern on Saturday in Bloomington.
Indiana started the game with a shot clock violation — an omen for what was to come in a dismal first half on the offensive end. IU seemed to pass around perimeter aimlessly after the ball was regularly forced out of the post with double teams.
Before the break IU scored just .81 points per possession and put 26 on the scoreboard. They had eight turnovers at halftime and made just 1-of-7 shots from three. The damage was done.
Indiana did improve in the second half — and they did that by initiating their offense earlier in possessions, and taking better care of the basketball. Trayce Jackson-Davis tried to score quickly before doubles could arrive, and Indiana’s guards forced the issue with aggressive drives.
IU did generate 13 offensive rebounds, a number you’d expect against an undersized PSU squad.
But Indiana made just 4-of-14 from three — their third worst percentage of the season, and not nearly enough volume to keep pace with the onslaught happening on the other end. And Trayce Jackson-Davis only got 10 field goal attempts on the night, meaning other people scoring from two was what IU got, and likely what Penn State chose to live with.
IU shot just 10-of-18 from the line and 44 percent from the field overall. The Hoosiers scored 1.01 points per possession — their third lowest output of the season.
Penn State came in with a reputation for both loving the 3-point shot, and making them at a high rate. The one thing that Indiana unequivocally could not do is give up a bunch of open looks from long range. And the Nittany Lions tied their program record with 18 made triples. Threes accounted for more than half of Penn State’s shots, and they made an astronomical 58 percent of them.
When it comes to preparation, gameplan and execution, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Indiana helped off their man way too much, leaving open shooter after open shooter. When the Hoosiers were in position to close out, they did so in a lackadaisical fashion, leaving enough room for comfortable attempts.
Penn State created the open looks by driving the ball to the paint and kicking it out when the overly aggressive help arrived. In, out and around the ball went, and eventually open shooters were located. Indiana was stretched apart and twisted in knots.
“When we played Penn State last year at home, the first half of that game was tremendous in terms of how we got up, we touched everybody, everybody was on a string,” Mike Woodson said after the game. “Tonight was just the opposite. If there was one rotation, we didn’t make the next rotation. We looked lost, and that’s on me.”
Woodson suggested the game plan was to not help off shooters, and that his players might have panicked after falling behind.
“Maybe they think that (helping) is being aggressive,” Woodson said. “And I get it when you are trying to dig out of a hole. You do things kind of, you know, there were times we did things that we never even talked about doing in our scout, our walk-through, our practice, and you just shake your head and say, ‘why did you do that?’”
But Penn State appeared to know IU’s weakness — the lane. Get it there, and the Hoosiers have been trained to help aggressively.
Penn State had 19 assists and shot 54 percent from the field overall. That was the best percentage by any IU opponent all season.
In the end, Indiana allowed 1.3 points per possession, the most by any Hoosier squad since a game at Michigan in 2020.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- Indiana is running out of time and margin for error
- Watch: Mike Woodson and Trey Galloway discuss loss to Penn State
- IU basketball: Penn State 85 Indiana 66 — Three keys | Highlights | Final stats
From time to time we skip the player grades when it seems like Indiana wasn’t well prepared. While there was plenty of blame to go around, there’s no sense in beating up on a bunch of college kids after this one.
Mike Woodson has said on repeat for the last month his team isn’t playing hard. It’s time to ask — is Woodson coaching hard?
There appears to be no rigor when it comes to drilling the game plan. Said different, a lack of execution reflects a lack of preparedness. And that’s nothing new. Indiana has given up 84 or more points in their last five games against high majors.
During the last month Indiana has lost in every conceivable fashion — to a good defensive team (Rutgers), a good offensive team (Iowa), at home (Northwestern), on the road (at Kanas, and others), against a big team (Arizona), and a small team (Penn State). And all of those games involved IU getting steamrolled for major stretches.
So it’s not like this Indiana team simply has a kryptonite against a certain kind of team or a certain style. They are losing to everyone, in every way.
And that means they likely aren’t being properly prepared for the nuances of each opponent. And a proper game plan is either not being developed, or not being executed. Either way, that’s on the coach to demand more.
If the team isn’t playing hard for a month, they aren’t being coached in a way that promotes better effort.
Yes, Xavier Johnson would have been highly valuable in this game guarding the perimeter and getting downhill on offense. And yes, Trayce Jackson-Davis is nowhere near 100 percent. That’s fairly obvious.
But there are other issues right now that point to coaching.
Why is Miller Kopp just standing on the perimeter? He’s taken exactly three 3-pointers in the last three games — combined. If you can’t get him shots, what is his value? It has to be more than spacing the floor. He’s not the only one standing in this offense that seems a better fit when teams have four versatile three-level scorers on the court. Indiana doesn’t have that. No college teams have that.
Why does Indiana insist on playing through the post, when it’s been proven time and time again they are not effective playing that way when teams double from the weak-side? And it seems even more true when Jackson-Davis is hobbled and lacks burst.
Why won’t Woodson at least give the lineup that puts his best four shooters on the floor a chance — Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trey Galloway, Tamar Bates and Miller Kopp? He’s said he’s a 4-out, 1-in coach, and that’s the only lineup that can play that style.
We already talked about the helping off Penn State’s talented shooters. If the help and switch strategies were properly coached over the last few days, Indiana would have executed. And why was Indiana using guards to double team other guards on the perimeter, leaving shooters wide open and putting the defense in a constant scramble?
Why did Woodson go with a lineup that included Jackson-Davis and Reneau, while trying to guard Penn State’s four shooters? That’s when the 3-point barrage began.
And big picture, what on earth has happened to this defense? Indiana has dropped from No. 24 a year ago in defensive efficiency to No. 67 this year.
One bad game — fine, maybe that’s on the players. No big deal. Happens to everyone. But If players aren’t buying in, aren’t playing hard, and aren’t executing for a month — that’s all on the coaches to get through to their team and find answers.
And right now, it’s job one.
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