Indiana opened up the Big Ten season with two road wins. A close one at Iowa, and a beat down at Iowa. No. 5 IU,14-1 (2-0), will return home in time to host No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday.
There are some questions to be asked about 74-51 win over Penn State. Like why was this team so dominant in the first half but so sloppy in the second? What happened to Cody Zeller's recently improved free throw shooting? And where was this aggressive Christian Watford earlier in the season?
Here is what we can take away from the game:
- Jordan Hulls' shooting slump was short lived. The senior failed to score a point and missed ten shots against Iowa. Against Penn State, Hulls connected on four of his six shots for 14 points. Perhaps the best attribute that Hulls possess is his uncanny ability to shut up a crowd with a timely three. It's not just that he hits the shot, its the way he does it too. He swaggers down the court and then takes a shot that at least five feet behind the three point line, where no sane man would take a shot from, and then gives a look of utter contempt towards the opposing team. Hulls is going to be very difficult to replace after this season.
- Christian Watford needs to be more aggressive every game. He scored eight of IU's first 10 points. He was less of a spot up shooter and took the ball to the rim more often. Watford has often played as if he is disinterested and too willing to settle for an ill-advised jumper. He needs to use his size to his advantage as he often doesn't have an adequate defender. It seemed as if someone told him that he wouldn't go pro if he didn't up his aggression. If this level of play continues, and it needs to, then IU might be more dangerous than we previously thought.
- IU can score a lot of points in a very short amount of time. Over a 90 second stretch, Hulls nailed a three, then a steal led to a Zeller dunk, and Victor Oladipo capped it off with a steal and a dunk. Seven points in that short amount of time and it all started with defense. This is the type of thing that IU has done all season. They put up points with such ferocity that the opposing team can't help but fold.
- IU led 44-27 at the end of the first half. They did it with amazing defense and outstanding ball movement. At one point they were up 24-8. They weren't doing anything too complicated or trying to move the ball too fast. They were very much in control of the pace, only pushing when they had a clear advantage and it worked incredibly well for the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers forced eight turnovers in the first half. IU was averaging 1.33 points per possession and holding Penn State to .84ppp. That all changed very quickly in the second half.
- IU completely lost its game for the first seven minutes of the second half. They turned the ball over six times in that span and only because they were still playing excellent defense did Penn State not fight it's way back into the game. The Hoosiers seemed to turn the ball over at every chance they got and coughed it up 11 times in the second half (only six in the first). It was pretty much the sloppy play of a team that had a big lead and had checked out of the game. It's the type of play that IU will really only be able to get away with against a team like Penn State (and probably a few others [looking at you Purdue]).
This was another quality win in a hostile environment (although you couldn't tell by watching the game as the stands were empty). IU needs to be tested early and often by teams like Iowa and Penn State if the Hoosiers are going to have any hope of defeating a team like No. 2 Michigan on the road.
For now, IU will prepare to host No. 8 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers, 15-1 (3-0), will come to Assembly Hall on Saturday for a noon tip-off. We'll have more on that game later in the week.
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