Indiana took care of business on Sunday with a 32-point win on its home court against Merrimack.
It isn’t clear how much value the Hoosiers are gleaning from these mid-major opponents, but for the most part, the results have been convincing.
Let’s take a look back at the details of what went right and wrong with another edition of The Report Card.
Indiana (8-2, 1-1) will next travel to Indianapolis to face Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday in connection with the final Crossroads Classic.
Indiana probably won’t see much more zone the remainder of the season, but when teams try it, the Hoosiers should be ready.
One thing to keep in mind when assessing this performance, Merrimack is respectable defensively — top-150 in defensive efficiency, and top-20 in forcing turnovers. Anytime you play a team that is full-time committed to playing zone, it can create challenges, and IU had its share. For the seventh time in ten games they had 15 or more turnovers.
“We had 17 turnovers tonight against zone play. And we had 25 to 26 turnovers against zone play in Syracuse. Those are things that we’ve got to clean up and figure out because those are opportunities to score the basketball that we don’t give ourselves a chance,” head coach Mike Woodson said.
Many of the turnovers came as IU put the ball on the floor in the teeth of the zone, and they were unaware of back-side hands collapsing on them.
While they made mistakes, Indiana attacked the zone patiently and properly, utilizing fakes, dribble penetration, and passes into the middle. They also preyed on the weakness of most zones and especially Merrimack — the offensive glass. The Hoosiers had a season-high 18 offensive rebounds, and they turned those into 21 points.
“When you’re in a 2-3 zone, it’s hard to match up and rebound. We talked about it from the get-go,” Race Thompson said. “I told Mike Durr, I said (you) can offensive rebound out of the 2-3 zone, bro, and then you just push to the basket, get the rebound. I think we hit them in size a little bit too.”
With Merrimack attached to Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp on the wings, Indiana also exposed the middle of that zone with a plethora of one-on-one opportunities for its big men. In the end, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo had 43 points and 29 rebounds.
The Hoosiers did have 16 assists on their 27 field goals and shot 51.9 percent for the game — so beyond the turnovers they ran fairly effective offense, and they got to the line a season-high 32 times.
Fueled by the offensive rebounding, Indiana had a season-high 1.24 points per possession.
With just under five minutes left in the first half, Merrimack’s best player Jordan Minor tried to score over Trayce Jackson-Davis on the block but the IU big man blocked it. The ball came back to Minor and he tried to go over Jackson-Davis again. The result was the same. That sequence told the story of Merrimack’s day, as they made less 2-point shots (5) than Indiana had blocks (7).
Indiana’s 2-point field goals defense was a season best 20 percent (5-for-25). Nationally Indiana is No. 2 in defending 2-point shots at 38.5 percent.
While Merrimack wasn’t able to score in the paint, they were effective at times at running 5-out, moving the ball and creating 3-point opportunities. Their 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) effort from behind-the-arc kept them in the game through the early part of the second half. The 5-out approach is something Indiana is starting to see more often, and for teams with the right personnel, it seems to create challenges for certain IU lineups as it relates to shutting down dribble drives.
But still Indiana held the Warriors to just 29.6 percent from the field and .75 points per possession. The Hoosiers really put the clamps on in the second half when Merrimack shot just 24 percent, turned it over six times, and scored just .58 points per possession.
Indiana will see one of the country’s better offenses next weekend in Notre Dame. It will be a good measuring stick for where this IU defense really is.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score, keys to the game and specialty stats
- Woodson, Thompson and Geronimo post-game
- Indiana’s frontcourt dominates
Trayce Jackson-Davis (B+) Jackson-Davis should have been dominant in this one, and for the most part he was with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in just 24 minutes of action. While he wasn’t particularly efficient considering the opponent, perhaps most encouraging was a 6-of-6 day at the stripe, and just one turnover against the zone.
Race Thompson (B+) Thompson was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and added 7 rebounds in just 20 minutes. Most impressive was his ability to play through contact and utilize a soft touch in the paint. Unlike Jackson-Davis, Thompson was just 2-of-5 at the line.
Miller Kopp (B+) Kopp led the effort as IU pulled away as he found the holes in the zone and hit a couple second half baseline threes. He is up to 41.9 percent from three on the season.
Parker Stewart (D) It feels like the book is out on Stewart — stick to him and force him to beat you on the dribble drive. After a strong first half at Wisconsin, he has been shut out since. Stewart was struggling against dribble penetration as well, and he had a couple turnovers in just 18 minutes.
Xavier Johnson (B) Johnson bounced back after a tough second half at Wisconsin, playing more under control for most of this one. He continues to be an opportunistic 3-point shooter and is up to 46.2 percent (6-of-13) on the season.
Tamar Bates (B) Brought good energy off the bench, and a more versatile offensive scoring option and perimeter defender. Bates will need to be more efficient, but he rebounded well from his guard position.
Jordan Geronimo (A-) Geronimo has shown glimpses of potential to breakout like he did on Sunday with career highs in both points (13) and rebounds (13), and he added a block and a steal, all in just 20 minutes. He showed a nice touch on multiple mid-range shots, but Geronimo also had three turnovers, which continues to be his area of needed improvement.
Michael Durr (C) With three turnovers in 12 minutes and a 3-of-6 day at the line, Durr wasn’t particularly effective. On the positive, he got to the line, and for the second straight game he showed an ability to stretch the defense with the jump shot.
Rob Phinisee (B-) You have to feel for Phinisee at this point. Just about everything he did looked good except when it came to shooting the ball. Phinisee made good passes against the zone, probed and pushed effectively and played good defense. But he’s really struggling with his shot.
Anthony Leal (B) Leal saw good minutes, the third straight game he’s played 10 or more. But he is in the game to make perimeter shots and he missed three straight 3-pointers to close out his day. Still, Leal gives IU a good boost of energy off the bench.
Khristian Lander (C) The opportunity is there to move up the depth chart at point guard, but two turnovers in seven minutes won’t help the cause. For now Lander must continue to try to make his case in practice, and with tough mop-up duty in games.
Logan Duncomb (B) If nothing else, some encouraging signs — an offensive rebound, a block and his first career points in just four minutes
Trey Galloway was out with a wrist injury. While he still has a cast on his left wrist area, he was seen catching passes and shooting perimeter shots during warm-ups.
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