IU talking points: Tempo and substitutions

Two talking points from Thursday’s game with excerpt from our follow-up stories for Saturday’s H-T.

First up, Dustin talks tempo:

In his post-game press conference on Thursday night in Lincoln, Indiana coach Tom Crean was asked whether he had made a strategic decision to slow down the pace in Big Ten play.

It was a reasonable question considering that the Hoosiers still average 75.3 points per game on the season and broke the 80-point mark seven times in non-conference play, but are scoring just 64.2 points per game in Big Ten play and have now scored in the mid-50s in back-to-back games with their opponents scoring 46 and 60 points in the last two contests.

Crean was somewhat testy with his answer, but also accurate. “You think we’ve slowed it down?” Crean said. “Or do you think the defense had something to do with that? What do you think? I think the defense had a lot to do with that.”

He meant Nebraska’s defense, but his defense had a fair bit to do with it as well. Indiana and Nebraska both played a substantial amount of 2-3 zone defense in Thursday’s game, which by its very nature slows pace. While scoring points against the man-to-man might sometimes mean just beating one defender to a spot or to the rim, scoring against the zone requires more probing and more ball movement, which takes time off the clock.

For that reason, it might not have been the lowest-scoring game Indiana played all season, but it was the second-slowest in terms of total possessions. The Hoosiers and Cornhuskers had 60 possessions each according to the college basketball statistics website KenPom.com. The only other game Indiana has played in in which each team has had fewer possessions was the Hoosiers’ game at Syracuse on Dec. 3 when each team had 58 possessions. Syracuse, of course, is famous for its 2-3 zone.

Conference play slows tempo by its very nature, even among teams who play almost entirely man-to-man. In league play, especially in the Big Ten, they’re more stingy about allowing transition opportunities. The Hoosiers averaged 73.7 possessions per game in non-conference play and had fewer than 70 just twice, but in league play, they’ve broken the 70-possession mark just once — the overtime 83-80 loss to Illinois — and are averaging 66.5 possessions per game.

“We’re not trying to slow it down,” Crean said.

Second, I talk substitutions:

Depth appeared to be a big advantage for the Hoosiers heading into Thursday night’s game against the Cornhuskers. The visitors had more bodies and more fouls to give, as evidenced by the 13 IU players who saw the floor. Nebraska countered with 10 players, but the minutes were anything but evenly distributed. Three Cornhusker starters played 34 or more minutes, another 28 and the fewest was the 23 minutes of big man Walter Pitchford.

Indiana, on the other hand, saw both Troy Williams and Stan Robinson play less than Pitchford, with 22 and 21 minutes, respectively. Noah Vonleh logged 27 minutes, while only Yogi Ferrell (37) and Will Sheehey (34) were fixtures on the floor. Six players off the Indiana bench played at least five minutes, led by Evan Gordon’s 14.

As a matter of fact, Indiana’s first substitution of the game didn’t come until the 13:11 mark of the first half, by which time the Hoosiers held a 14-7 lead. Then it was practically a carousel to the scorer’s table. The longest amount of time IU went without a substitution after that was three minutes and 16 seconds at the beginning of the second half. The next longest continuous lineup was on the floor for just 2:27 together.

Perhaps this is an indication of why the Hoosiers struggled to find any consistency, particularly as Nebraska charged back from a 13-point halftime deficit.
That and the lack of bench productivity. In a combined 59 minutes, the IU bench produced just seven points, seven fouls and six rebounds.

This comes on the heels of Sunday’s win over Illinois, where Indiana essentially played an eight-man rotation, including 14 minutes for Jeff Howard, who logged just two minutes in Lincoln.


  1. Dustin, I thought the past few games Crean had gotten away from the constant subbing and strange lineups but all of that came back in the Nebraska game. As you pointed out in the earlier post on pace, the need for so much subbing wasn’t a result of the speed of the game or foul issue so it was a mystery to me. The starting lineup seemed to be dialed in. Frankly they never looked that good for most of the rest of the game. Nebraska played awful in the first half and IU was banking threes that kind of masked how the game was really going for IU.

    This is not a good coaching performance at all. I am fine with trying different lineups when things aren’t going well but this was a very strange pattern to me. It is like everyone else in the arena can see things that Coach can’t during the game.

  2. dustin

    I think you should use the phrase “by its very nature” a couple more times. can’t get enough of that.

  3. How does one amass “talking points?” I’ve never really understood the term…Is it just a nice way of saying BS?

    For some reason, the phrase just irritates me…Something about it sounds very East Coast, Establishment, snubby-nosed, too cool for cool, unimaginative, journalism. I picture a bunch of preppy anal dudes sitting in a ghastly decorated meeting room with paintings of JoPa everywhere…They’re all wearing their matching navy v-neck Izod sweaters sharing their brilliant “talking points” grounded in furts into brown leather wing chairs filled with 100-year-old rancid cigar odor.

  4. Funny, when I think of Northern Indiana fans watching Michigan games, I picture a bunch of middle-aged chubbies sitting/lying in a kerosine heated garage with Polaroids of Mitch McGary everywhere…they are all sitting in their matching cigarette stained underwear with Local 6787 hats, taking turns smearing each other Crisco, bonded together by the heart of a lion and the smell of multiple cat-litter boxes.

  5. Chesterton High School
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Speech and debate

    Chesterton High School has a strong history in Speech and Debate. Since its founding in 1971, Chesterton has had over 100 students qualify to compete at the National Tournament and won the National Tournament in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. (After 1993, the National Forensics League stopped recognizing team national championships.) Individually, seven people have won a national title, most recently at the 2010 National Tournament, where Tyler Fabbri won first place in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking.[14] The debate team won its fifth straight state title in 2012. The Speech and Debate team is co-directed by Chris Lowery and Robert Kelly.

    And let’s keep in mind that Mitch never graduated from Chesterton High School….

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