[Postgame 3-2-1] What We Learned From Indiana's Win Against Morehead State
Jerod breaks down three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana's close-shave of a victory over Morehead State on Tuesday evening.
Indiana won the game.
Ultimately, that is the most important point to be made about last night’s performance. Indiana won. Some how, some way.
Single digits? Inconsistent play? Narrowly avoiding catastrophe? Sure. But it was a W. Just like they did against FGCU … and Army … and Wright State … and Louisville.
And so the Hoosiers maintained one of only two bullet points currently on their NCAA Tournament resume: they don’t have a bad loss, plus they have that road win at Michigan.
Of all the close shaves this season, that one was the closest — and to a team that has played only three other top-200 teams (including lowly Penn State) and lost to all of them by at least 23 points.
And while you can certainly send some plaudits Morehead State’s way, especially in the direction of Jordan Lathon, who scored 30 points, there is no denying that Indiana spent most of the night playing basketball with low levels of effort and execution.
For fans who were hoping to see this young IU team take some positive steps forward after a (mostly) good performance against Kansas, they’ll have to wait until Thursday to see signs of it.
Indiana wasn’t ready to play last night, and they didn’t get ready until it was almost too late … but they did once again find a way to win.
And I can’t decide if that’s a positive (because we have confidence we’ll win close games!) or a negative (because we’ll think we can start slow and just do enough at the end to pull it out).
So maybe let’s try to work it out a little bit more through three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana’s win over Morehead State.
Did you miss yesterday's edition of the postgame show?
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3 Meaningful Stats
1. Indiana accumulated a paltry four “stocks”
Indiana entered the game averaging 9.9 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game as a team.
This seemed to be a game where they’d accumulate a bunch, given Morehead State’s ridiculous turnover rate of 21.2% (335th nationally).
But that didn’t happen. Morehead State turned it over just seven times, well below their season average.
Again, give some credit to Morehead State. It takes two to tango. They delivered a fairly poised performance (until the end).
But the biggest reason for Indiana accumulating just four stocks in a home game against a smaller and less athletic opponent is simply because Indiana didn’t come to play with enough competitive focus.
Don’t take my word for it. You watched it. So did Coach Woodson, who said after the game, “I thought at the start of the game we were flat, and like we didn't even want to be out there.”
We said early in the season that with the length and athleticism on this roster, and Woodson’s focus on aggressive defense, that the steal + block numbers each game would tell a pretty compelling story. For the most part that has proven true.
It just wasn’t a very positive story last night.
2. Indiana gave up six offensive rebounds before the second media timeout … then just three more the rest of the game
The earliest indication that Indiana wasn’t prepared to play last night was the rebounding.
Morehead State was jacking up 3s, as we knew they’d do, and chasing down every rebound. They had a whopping six offensive rebounds before the second media timeout.
But to Indiana’s credit, the Hoosiers really tightened up on the boards thereafter. It’s the only way they were able to eek out the victory.
Morehead State finished with just nine offensive rebounds, meaning they grabbed just three of them over the game’s final 31ish minutes. Meanwhile, on the other end, Indiana did major work on the glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and turning them into 16 second-chance points.
In a game where Indiana once again got outscored from the 3-point line (by 21 points), gaining an eight-point advantage on second-chance points was huge.
3. Indiana trailed for 32:19 minutes
What an odd couplet of games.
Indiana plays Kansas and leads for roughly 35 minutes before faltering down the stretch to a team ranked 75 spots higher in KenPom.
Indiana plays Morehead State and trails for roughly 32 minutes before storming back to steal a victory over a team ranked 60 spots lower in KenPom.
Ultimately, the favored team won in each instance, just by less than expected and certainly through a different game flow than anyone would have predicted.
And yet again, Indiana wins … but in a way that doesn’t really allow you to enjoy it.
This now marks the fifth game against teams ranked 142nd or lower that Indiana has underperformed the analytical expectation. (In the other game, against #157 Harvard, Indiana hit the expectation by claiming a 13-point victory.)
And while anyone is free to poo-poo the value of analytics, the reality is that analytics are quite useful for comparing per-possession performances across different qualities of schedules, and analytics are definitely useful for tracking and identifying trends.
Well, the trend is clear with this Indiana basketball team: they play down to the level of their worst non-conference competition. (Unfortunately, this hasn’t been balanced by playing up to the level of their best non-conference competition, at least away from home.)
It’s worth noting that the Hoosiers do have those two Big Ten wins in their back pocket. That’s no small December achievement and shouldn’t be forgotten.
And perhaps it bodes well for Indiana’s chances in conference play, if the reason Indiana struggled so much with FGCU, Army, Wright State, Louisville, and Morehead State was related to overlooking weaker competition.
Personally, I don’t buy that. I just think this is a young, struggling team. But time will tell.
Indiana now has two additional non-conference games remaining to try to over-perform the analytical expectation and lift their severely lagging metrics. North Alabama and Kennesaw State currently represent the third and fourth worst teams on Indiana’s schedule.
It goes without saying that Indiana simply has to win those two games. But finally putting together a truly dominant 40-minute performance sure would be nice to see.
Now let’s jump in to two important observations and one lingering question, which absolutely will include some discussion of Anthony Walker and his season-saving performance last night.