On film: the Gophers’ key run

One key stretch defined last night’s game, a 3-minute time span in which Minnesota took a 51-49 deficit and made it a 59-51 lead that it would not relinquish.

I went back to watch that period of the game, and a few plays stood out as particularly ineffective for Indiana.

At the end of a possession where Indiana has defended decently well, Minnesota’s Al Nolen ends up with the ball on the win against Maurice Creek. An obvious mismatch, given Creek’s health. That Nolen got past Creek was to be expected, making help defense so important. It never came.

In essence, Oladipo and Watford both rotated towards Nolen but did not move, giving the guard a clear run to the basket and a layup that made it 54-51.

With it now 56-51, Indiana goes on offense. Its the basic offense — four men along the perimeter, with the five (in this case, Watford) in the high post to set a screen. He does that for Jones, who gets into the midrange area where his jumper is probably his best option. The issue is not the shot, especially since Minnesota is pinching down on him and not allowing an easy kick-out. The problem is after the shot goes up.

Watford and Creek never go towards the basket in anticipation of a rebound, Jones is waving his arms in an apparent effort to ask why the shot did not go in, and Hulls is not even in the picture. Oladipo is in good position if the shot was long, but it goes off the back of the rim and comes back out. The Gophers get the easy board.

The emotional turning point of the game. Again, Indiana has played pretty decent defense for 15 seconds. That’s when the ball comes to Rodney Williams on the wing. Jones, trying to help in the low post, does not come out on Williams (a terrible 3-point shooter at 2-of-18). But because he is so far back on Williams, the latter is able to get his momentum going towards the basket.

Williams gets past with Jones with the latter just putting a hand out there. Watford does the same, leaning on his man. Williams finishes the drive with a very nice dunk that makes it a 59-51 game and, eventually, a fifth-straight loss for Indiana.

If there’s a common element to these plays, its the presence of Watford and Jones. The two are experienced, capable players that have, during the losing streak, made more and more mistakes. Indiana is a flawed team, one full of imperfect players. It can ill afford these kind of mistakes, but especially when it comes from Jones and Watford.


  1. Nicely done, but not pleasant to recall. Pritch seemed to do a pretty good job with help defense last nite!

  2. The dunk by Williams came after our inability to rebound a missed second free throw attempt from Hoffarbor. Jones also had a backbreaking turnover(previous to the dunk) and a very hurried shot in a subsequent possession that added significantly to the quick negative momentum swing.

  3. Great breakdown, I think it’s right on the money. It needs to be shown to the players over and over. I remember even while watching the game that watford completely failed to give vj3 help on that last drive, and he could have slid over and taken a charge and turned things around. Those two in particular are strong enough offensively that they need to be in the game, but their softness hurts us over and over.

  4. Nice job on the breakdown. Much appreciated (your post, not the actual IU deficiencies)

  5. PRECISELY!!! Two supposed key players who do way too much standing around flat footed. They are both a bit fragile mentally when things don’t go their way…especially Jones.
    Can you pull up the last 2:30 or so and count how much time Jones wastes at the top of the circle as he stands, dribbles, and just waves his hand around as if he’s directing traffic. I swear everyone else on the floor just looks at him wondering what hell he is doing….cause it never results in anything resembling a set play. Of course in this instance it ended up in a bad shot and wasted possession in crunch time.
    Don’t forget about the play where Creek forced his man to go right toward the baseline and Rivers failed to rotate over to take the charge. It’s getting real maddening watching a division 1 basketball team blow basic defensive positioning that should be mastered by 8th grade.

  6. no arguement on your assesment of our pitiful help defense. i have a different take on the offensivive rebounding segment. crean’s offense by nature is not very condusive to offensive rebounding. as you said, starting with 4 on the perimeter and your big starting the action with a screen 21′ from the basket.

    hulls is nowhere to be seen because he is the safety and has rotated towards halfcourt to take away any release for an easy basket. first part of any transition defense so no fault there. creek is being asked to spot up for 3’s, you know drive and kick. can’t spot up and offensive rebound because there will be no long rebounds on shots this close to the basket. watford has little chance to rebound for the same reason. now if he would roll to the basket after the screen, that would be a different story. doesn’t appear the bigs are being taught to roll, which is strange considering the guards are standing around 22′ from the basket, apparently back cuts are forbidden.

    so, 1 player retreating on the shot, 2 if your opponent is good on the fast break. if you want better offensive rebounding, your big men have to play near the basket on offense, which as we know, they can’t. hate this offense!

  7. Watford is a sophomore with a lot more body to move up and down the court. I think he’s a great talent. We’re not even beating the cupcakes without his contribution.

    Jones is supposed to be a point guard with the major responsibilities of running the offense and protecting the ball. He does neither. The points he contributes are often nullified by points given back to the opponent through errors not expected a 3rd year player. Shouldn’t a point guard be quicker on his feet than a post player? Shouldn’t a point guard have the abitlity to play with controlled urgency when we’re trying to come from behind? Shouldn’t a point guard have positive leadership qualities and be the backbone of the team? It’s just not there, folks. I don’t know what the best role for Jones is on this team, but I’m not seeing a kid improving or showing any signs a good decision maker in pressure situations. I don’t think he can succeed at the position. He is in his junior year and has been allowed more than a fair shot of loyalty from the head coach to show improvement rather than regression.

    All this in-depth analysis and our earlier studies of the twenty-step perfect shot release is wonderfully scientific and inspiring. Reminds me of a couple years ago when IDS spent about a week on their Basketblog site using diagrams and bell curves to determine some sort of statistical breakdown the location every Hoosier shot attempt. Unfortunately, I think it’s like looking at crap under a microscope. I don’t care who’s coaching on the sideline, it’s never going to look like a team until we get a confident leader bringing the ball up the court. I fear it will be a long and unpleasant continuation our slow Big 10 start if the inevitable macro move is forestalled. What’s a great set of tires if the engine is dead? It’s time for the general in command to place the troops on the field under the direction of Hulls-the quarterback spot is where he belongs.

  8. Great analysis, I made some of the same mental notes while watching the game live. In particular, not getting the rebound on their second missed free throw was critical as it led to another 2 points (a possible 4 pt swing). That alone was the difference in the game.

    These types of things can’t really be coached, at least you can’t put all the blame on the coach. Blocking out on free throws is something you learn in grade school. This is simply a lack of smart play, aggressiveness, leadership, and “fire” in our players. At the college level, you either have it or you don’t — a coach can’t create a great leader. [Did RMK make Isaiah Thomas a great player? No way, in those 2 years RMK just helped an already great player along the way to the NBA]

    I’m optimistic that as we continue to get better players in, our woes will be over, even with the same coach whose decisions we can debate endlessly. Ultimately the players win the game, not the coach. Great coaches are really just great recruiters.

  9. There’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m sure VJ and CW accept theirs. My number 1 question would be where was Will in the second half? Just wondering.

  10. With all of that, if Watford hit two more shots, a three-pointer (he was 0-3) and a two pointer (he was 2-10), we still win the game.

    He was doing much better than that until the last few games.

    I know absolutely nothing, but I think Watford may be hurting more than we know. Do you notice that nothing further has been said about the back issues that mysteriously appeared against Penn State and disappeared eqaully mysteriously thereafter?

    Bottom line? 8 points (on 3 for 16 shooting overall) and 10 rebounds from your bigs is not anybody’s recipe for victory.

    Without Guy, we resemble a doughnut – there’s a hole in the middle.

    Having said that, note that Pritchard played much better offensively – hit a shot and TWO for TWO on free throws!!

    If I read things right, that tripled his free throw makes for the year and took his FT percentage up more than 13% for the year – in one game!!

    Maybe he is snapping out of it? I hope so!!

  11. On those first two pictures that is just basic defensive principals that Oladipo and Watford fails to execute. They were in great position to help but just didn’t react well at all. Oladipo needs to step up and either take a charge, alter the shot, or force Nolan to dish the ball. While at the same time Watford needs to drop and take the man Oladipo left numerous times this year Watford has failed to rotate during help defense which has continually killed our D. These are just basic defense principles that middle schoolers have been taught these guys Ned to step up and play both hard and smart on D.

  12. The game of best basketball is still played by the team with most talent. Otherwise recruiting would not be a priority. At what position do we have the most talent?

  13. The most telling part of this is that when IU went on the run to go up 51-49, they did it with Jones on the bench. Yet when they came back out of a timeout at 51-49, Jones was on the floor. Prompt 10-0 run. It was quite predictable, actually.

  14. I love how so many people are blaming VJ3 for 90% of the team’s problems…yeah, that’s right, he’s to blame for complete lack of production from our big men, for CW’s struggles over the past several weeks, over Creek’s recovery from a fractured kneecap, the coaching staff’s mistakes, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong–VJ3 has alot to work on in terms of running the point and playing better top-of-the-key defense. He IS, though, valuable to this version of the team as a midrange shooter and source of offense.

  15. RMK axiom comes to mind: “Help-side” man-to-man defense …. and “zones are for teams that can’t play defense.” We probably don’t match up well enough to play MM all the time, but it seems like Crean’s defensive schemes, especially in late game situations, could be simplified. And I have to agree with the arguments for giving the point to Jordy full time. But maybe we should lighten up on Watford and VJIII. They are probably their own toughest critics and it’s going to be more of a challenge to develop a tough, winning attitude if they get down on themselves too much. They will grow from this. At some point they will “click” and will break through in a late game win opportunity.

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