We all knew the Hoosiers were in for a much tougher test last night against Eastern Washington as they came off their worst performance of the early season against Lamar on Saturday. Indiana needed a strong start and they got exactly that taking an early 14-2 lead. However, Eastern Washington quickly got back into the game and actually took the lead away from Indiana from a stretch. It didn’t happen how anyone thought either. EWU came in making almost 12 threes a game and attempting about 33 a game. In the first half, they shot 2-7 and trailed the Hoosiers 41-35. So how did they get their points you ask? The same way all of Indiana’s other opponents have gotten their points – easy buckets in the paint. While the defense did pick up in stretches during the first half, it was generally awful which kept the Eagles in it.
The second half was no different. The Hoosiers started off by building back a bit of a lead, but the Eagles came roaring back with deep threes from Tyler Harvey (25 points) and constant wide open drives for Drew Brandon who ended up with 27 points. When the Eagles missed - Venky Jois was there to clean it up as he put up an incredible line of 20 points and 14 boards. Even with all of this though, the Hoosiers had a chance down the stretch. With 2:12 remaining and the game tied, Kevin Yogi Ferrell threw a beautiful alley-oop pass to Troy Williams for a dunk and a free throw to give Indiana the three point lead. At this point, most in the building thought the game was in the bag, but again the Eagles came roaring back, with a key trey from Parker Kelly, and ended up stunning the Hoosiers in this one 88-86. This loss, while early in the year, could look extremely bad if the Hoosiers end up on the bubble.So what were the key takeaways from this difficult night?
Indiana has no answers defensively or down low right now - Indiana gave up almost 70% shooting inside the arc to Lamar on Saturday and would give up 56% to Eastern Washington last night. Prior to this game, Eastern Washington made their living from three - not inside. To make matters worse, they gave up 88 points to Eastern Washington University - not Washington. That simply can't happen against this level of competition, and it causes one to stop and think what might happen when the Hoosiers play much better athletes in the B1G conference season. Drew Brandon essentially got a layup at the rim whenever he wanted in this one as the Hoosiers just don't have any intimidating force down low right now. Coach Crean may have said it best in the post game, "We have to get past where our best post defender is Yogi Ferrell." Hanner Mosquera-Perea only played 14 minutes in this one and contributed 4 points and 1 rebound. If he continues to perform like he has these past three games, it is hard to see how Indiana ends this season successfully. That may sound really harsh at this point of the year - but Indiana hasn't seen anything like the competition they are going to see against Louisville, Georgetown, and the B1G Conference. Things have to improve quickly or this season may spiral out of control.
"We have to get past where our best post defender is Yogi Ferrell." - Tom Crean
Yogi Ferrell can't be scoring 27 points for Indiana to be successful - This game reminded me a lot of last year's Indiana team. It was all Yogi all the time and that is really what tonight turned into. Yogi ended with 27 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds in a great individual performance - but I think it really hurts the team when he has to be the main guy scoring. Indiana has looked so much better early in the year with Yogi as a distributor to guys like James Blackmon Jr and Robert Johnson. He can create so much off of the dribble for himself and his teammates. When Yogi is the only one scoring, the rest of the team just stands around and watches and that is not good at all from an offensive standpoint. On the final meaningful possession for Indiana, it was Yogi driving to the rim with the Hoosiers down 3 and EWU knew it was coming -stacked the lane - and altered his shot which left the Hoosiers with a loss. If he has the confidence to kick that ball out to an open shooter like Nick Zeisloft or find a slasher like Troy Williams - things could turn out differently.
Troy Williams seems to be fitting into the offense better - Williams is still way too out of control at times and makes some very questionable decisions, but he does seem to be finding his way in this offense full of shooters. He had 10 points and 5 rebounds in the first half - both of which led Indiana. He would finish with 19 points and 9 rebounds in a very solid performance. He is getting multiple attempts right at the rim given the guards are able to find him cutting at the last minute. He needs to continue to drive the ball himself and find the open shooter if nothing is there at the rim. As his decision making improves, he could add a whole other dimension to this Indiana offense than we are seeing today. He also started the second half for Hanner Mosquera-Perea in this one which goes to show that Coach Crean is gaining confidence as well. His ability to defend in the post will also loom large going forward if Perea isn't going to contribute. Williams has the athleticism to compete down there, but will need to show great improvement moving forward.
Time will tell how devastating this loss will be to the long term goals of Indiana and they'll have to wait a few days now to get back on the court as they are off until Friday when they will face UNC Greensboro at The Assembly Hall. I would expect a very inspired performance in that one after a few hard days of practice. Indiana needs it and needs it badly.