Indiana bounced back from its 20-point loss Sunday to UConn with a 74-66 victory over Louisville Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Here are five takeaways from the win against the Cardinals:
Indiana’s passing zone to stop dribble penetration
Mike Woodson is a firm believer in man-to-man defense, but he made a necessary adjustment Monday afternoon.
After Louisville took control of the game in the second half, Woodson switched to a zone defense to limit dribble penetration. The adjustment worked.
The Cardinals couldn’t make perimeter shots and seemed confused by the defensive shift.
“I knew Woody wouldn’t play zone. Or I thought. He cheated on me,” Louisville coach Kenny Payne said. “But to be honest with you, that (zone) would be the last thing I think we would have a problem with because we’ve been really, really good against the zone, even in practice… But in this game, we were hesitant. , we have stagnated. We processed the play instead of instinctively moving the ball. We telegraphed passes. We need to do a better job.
Don’t expect the zone to become a regular fit for Indiana.
Woodson said after the game that he’s “always trying to get our man-to-man defense where I need it to be.”
The bench gives a boost
Indiana’s bench production early in the season had been disappointing.
Besides some early flashes of stellar play from Gabe Cupps, most of the goals and minutes came from the starting lineup. In four games, Indiana’s bench averaged 11.2 points.
On Monday, the bench scored 30 points. Four different Hoosiers contributed, led by 11 points from Anthony Walker in 20 minutes. Nine of Walker’s points came in the first half.
Indiana also received contributions from sophomore CJ Gunn (six points), Kaleb Banks (four points) and Payton Sparks (nine points).
Gunn was again active defensively and shot 3 of 7 from the field. Sparks went 4 of 5 from the field and had several vital buckets when Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau were benched due to foul trouble. And Banks had his best game as a Hoosier in 25 minutes. He was excellent defensively and on the glass, finishing with eight rebounds and a team-high three blocked shots.
Xavier Johnson leads Indiana down the stretch
After having minimal impact in Sunday’s loss to UConn due to foul trouble, Xavier Johnson bounced back against Louisville.
Johnson had four of his team’s five assists in the second half and finished with 14 points in 31 minutes.
The sixth-year point guard made Indiana’s only 3-pointer in the game and shot 9 of 12 from the free throw line. With Trey Galloway struggling, the Hoosiers needed Johnson to step up and produce in a close game down the stretch.
And that’s exactly what he did.
“He’s a senior, he’s supposed to do this,” Mike Woodson told Don Fischer on the postgame radio show. “I just have to make him understand that it’s okay to lead.”
Much improved effort on the glass
Indiana’s rebounding numbers through four games were concerning.
The Hoosiers were giving up a ton of offensive rebounds and too many second chance points. And their ability to crash the offensive boards and get second-chance points had been limited.
On Sunday against UConn, Indiana was outscored 16-0 for second-chance points.
Indiana’s performance on the boards was much better against Louisville, which entered the game as one of the top 20 offensive rebounding teams in the country.
The Cardinals made just 20 percent of their missed shots against Indiana and scored just eight second-chance points.
Indiana still needs several guys – Malik Reneau and Mackenzie Mgbako, notably – to start rebounding at a much higher level. Reneau grabbed just three rebounds in 20 minutes in Monday’s win. But the guard’s rebounding was better against Louisville, with Johnson grabbing four and Galloway also gathering four rebounds.
Indiana’s distance deficit continues to grow
Indiana won Monday’s game despite another porous perimeter shooting performance.
The Hoosiers attempted just 11 3-pointers in the win and connected only once from distance.
In five games, Indiana has made just 15 3-pointers and is shooting a dismal 23.4 percent from deep.
Indiana has been outscored by an average of 20.4 points on 3-pointers in five games. This is an unsustainable margin in the face of better competition. In five games, Galloway is 3 of 14 from 3 and Mgbako is 1 of 13.
Rim shooting is unlikely to become an asset for IU until the issue is addressed through recruiting. But in the short term, Indiana needs to do better than just three 3-pointers per game and a shooting percentage below 25.
(Photo credit: IU Athletics)
Filed to: Anthony Walker, Kaleb Banks, Louisville Cardinals, Payton Sparks, Xavier Johnson