While Indiana has had a couple decent tests at home against SMU and Pittsburgh - the Hoosiers got their first real test last night against Louisville. It was billed as the great offense of Indiana versus the great defense of Louisville. What it turned into was one of the most exciting first 30 minutes to watch so far this season in college basketball. Up and down the court at a lightening pace. Three after three for Indiana. Dunk after dunk for Louisville (mostly for Montrezl Harrell). Louisville would go on a 9-0 run and then Indiana would come roaring right back. The Hoosiers shot 7-10 from three in the first half - and they needed it as Louisville got 18 more shots in the half due to 13 Indiana turnovers and an incredible 14 offensive rebounds. The halftime score would remind many of several final scores in college basketball this season (such as Michigan's 45-42 loss to EMU last night) as Louisville took the lead 46-41 heading into the break.
The second half started off the same way. Indiana zoomed out to a 4 point lead with about 15 minutes left and then Louisville answered with another 10-0 run to take back control with more Harrell dunks (he would become the all-time leader in Louisville history in that category in this one). From that point though, Louisville really took over - especially on the offensive boards which led to easy bucket after easy bucket. It also appeared that the pressure of Louisville started to get to the Hoosiers about mid-way through the second half as Indiana's shots started to come up short. Louisville would go on to run away with this one 94-74 which doesn't do the game justice for how close it was played for 30 minutes. So what did we learn about the Indiana Hoosiers against the #4 team in the country?
Hanner Mosquera-Perea is a functional big man when he wants to be - Hanner came out in the first 5 minutes of this basketball game and dominated Louisville. He scored 8 of the first 13 Hoosier points and looked like an offensive machine. He was also pulling down rebounds and diving on the floor for loose balls on defense. He was really the only answer the Hoosiers had for Harrell all night. When Hanner was off the court - Harrell had zero opposition at the rim and that showed with all of dunks throughout the night. If Coach Crean could somehow get that type of energy and attitude out of Hanner on a regular basis - this Indiana team could be very good - especially when you consider the development we have seen from Emmitt Holt down low as well.
Indiana's inability to rebound is a major deficiency - Yes, we already knew this was the case, but it really hasn't hurt Indiana until last night. The only thing the Hoosiers boarded last night was the bus. It's amazing that Indiana was even in this game for part of the second half as the Cardinals won the offensive rebound battle 24-10. To go along with the 19 turnovers, that rebounding deficiency led to 17 more shots for Louisville than the Hoosiers got. Who was the leading rebounder for Indiana - well, that was 6'0" Kevin Yogi Ferrell with 7. Given these numbers, it is a miracle that Indiana was even in this game as long as they were. Indiana's efficiency from long range can only cover up the lack of rebounding for so long and Indiana has to improve here quickly if this season is going to end with games in the NCAA Tournament. You can't win many basketball games with the kind of shot differential that occurred last night - I don't care what type of competition you are facing.
"The only thing the Hoosiers boarded last night was the bus."
Stanford Robinson continues to struggle - Robinson came in for limited minutes in the first half and immediately contributed 4 turnovers - and bad turnovers at that. He then sat out the rest of the half and returned in the second half only to play slightly better. From my perspective - Robinson simply appears to be pressing at this point. Coach Crean has said over and over again that Robinson works as hard as anyone and really wants to improve and play well. I believe he just needs to let the game come to him a little more which can be driven from his tremendous defensive capability. Indiana is about as bad defensively as you get in Division 1 basketball (at least so far this season) and Robinson is a good defensive player. He has to find a way to improve his handle of the ball and improve his decision making on offense to allow Crean to have the confidence to put him out there. Indiana needs him badly.
Yes, Indiana lost by 20 points - but a lot of that happened in the last 7 or 8 minutes of the game. The Hoosiers competed with one of the best teams in the country for 32 minutes - and competed well. This team should continue to grow and we'll see how quickly that growth occurs with tough matchups against Butler and Georgetown looming in the latter half of this month. The Hoosiers need to go back to the drawing board defensively and let the rest of the game come to them from there.