[Postgame 3-2-1] What We Learned From Indiana's Win Against Maryland
We break down three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana's win over Maryland on Friday.
Indiana’s win against a solid Harvard squad on Sunday yielded a lot of encouragement. Mackenzie Mgbako had a clear breakout game, Anthony Leal notched promising minutes, and the starting frontcourt continued to be a dominant force.
But one major con was impossible to ignore: Xavier Johnson’s re-aggravated foot injury.
Without their sixth-year point guard in the second half on Sunday and the entire game yesterday against Maryland, the Hoosiers have — for the most part — thrived?
It’s a small sample size, of course, but those three halves of basketball have been some of the most fluid offense and improved backcourt defense that Indiana has played all season.
With a win at home to kick off Big Ten play 1-0, there’s a lot to unpack and a good amount to be optimistic about. Here are three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question coming out of yesterday’s game against Maryland.
Did you miss yesterday's edition of the postgame show?
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3 Meaningful Stats
1. Kel’el Ware is shooting 64% from the field and 56% from deep this season.
Ware has been historically dominant so far this season, and his Big Ten debut was no exception. He finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 67% from the field.
I still don’t think Indiana has firmly established a go-to guy, but Ware has proven that he can do a whole lot with whatever he’s given. It’s pretty impressive how ready and productive he’s been from the start of the year. He looks comfortable everywhere on the court, as shown by his smooth 3-point stroke and ability to finish in the lane through ample contact.
We’ve heard the concept of “buddy ball” a lot with Indiana basketball in recent years, and the Ware-Malik Reneau dynamic has been quite good from the first game. They’ve continued to develop in positive ways that have helped define the rest of the offensive a little bit better.
If he can keep up this level of production, the rest of the country is going to get to know Kel’el Ware’s name very well in the next couple weeks.
2. Indiana’s 24-point lead in the second was eventually chopped down to 12.
Mike Woodson was the first to show concern with his team’s closing stretch of play during in which the Terrapins significantly cut down their deficit.
Before diving into the details of what made those final minutes so rough, it’s important to note two simple things:
It’s a valid concern that the Hoosiers turned it over so much down the stretch against Maryland.
They never truly collapsed, always maintaining a double-digit lead.
Despite the struggles late in the second half, this still felt like a dominant win for Woodson and Co. Indiana built up a big enough lead early on where there was never really a legitimate scare in terms of potentially dropping the game.
With that, though, stringing together a full 40 minutes of solid basketball needs to be an emphasis moving into 2024. A late-game let-up like this could cost the Hoosiers a lot of important games in February and March.
3. The Hoosiers committed 16 turnovers. Eight of those occurred in the final eight minutes of the game.
The lack of a true, experienced point guard seemed to not be a major issue — really, an issue at all — for 32 minutes of this game. But the final stretch of the game in which Maryland upped its pressure caught up to some of Indiana’s best performers, resulting in eight turnovers over a short span.
Woodson took full blame in his postgame interview and presser for the sloppy play. Here’s what he said:
“I've got to do a better job helping this team offensively because I didn't think we executed the last seven, eight minutes of this ballgame, and that's on me. I just thought we got so stagnant…where we didn't move the ball, bodies weren't moving, and that's something that can be corrected and I've got to help them correct it.”
I like this a lot. There have been a lot of issues with disjointed and unstructured offensive sets, but it really does seem like Woodson is working to put all of the pieces together after an educational opening stretch of play.
Still, half of the turnovers coming at the tail-end of the game and committing four more than the team’s game average is a bit of a disappointment. But Woodson seems to be genuinely eager to fix a lot of those offensive woes. That’s encouraging enough for me.