Indiana finds success against the zone

It was nothing close to the kind of haunting zone that Indiana saw against Syracuse over the last two seasons, but the Hoosiers handled Pittsburgh’s 2-3 with confidence and consistency in Tuesday’s 81-69 win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Pitt went almost exclusively with the zone in the second half, including an early eight-minute stretch that saw IU boost its lead to 15 points. Over that period, Yogi Ferrell, Nick Zeisloft and Collin Hartman flashed to the soft spot of the zone for easy shots or passes that led to points or, at the very least, good looks at the basket.

Although IU went 4-of-11 against Pitt’s zone in the first eight minutes of the second half, many of those attempts were quality, unchallenged attempts off of feeds from the middle. Two of those misses during that stretch turned into putback opportunities for Hartman and James Blackmon Jr.

“We definitely try to get the ball in the middle of a 2‑3 whenever we see it,” Zeisloft said. “We find Hanner (Mosquera-Perea) in the alley, or whether it’s Collin flashing in there or me or Yogi tonight, pretty much whenever we got the ball in the middle successfully, we found something good out of it. It’s a big emphasis of ours. We did that tonight.”

For the game, Indiana went 7-for-15 when Pitt set itself in its 2-3, including 3s from Zeisloft (two) and Max Hoetzel. Zeisloft had eight points against the zone — two 3-pointers and a jumper from the middle — and Mosquera-Perea had four points against it on easy feeds to the baseline.

“We want to get into the zone by slashing it, screening it or slipping it off the screen,” Crean said. “I thought they did a really good job. The ball never stopped. The ball never stopped all night. At the end of the game when we’re trying to take some air out of the clock, make the clock our ally, not our enemy, we went a little too fast. Instead of taking it back out, we’ve got to continue to work on that. I thought they showed great patience against the zone, but we weren’t stagnant. We were moving, we were trying to get the best shot. For the most part we got it.”