Notes: Hoosiers hope extra work helps solve road woes

Indiana’s first two trips away from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall turned out poorly for the Hoosiers.

When he thinks about IU’s 16-point loss at Seton Hall and its 14-point defeat at Michigan, one word comes to mind for Indiana coach Archie Miller.

Clunkers.

“We’re 0-for-2 right now on the road, and we haven’t played well in either game, really,” Miller said. “I think the goal is to regroup.”

With four days in between Monday’s win over Iowa and Saturday’s short trip to Louisville, Miller hopes extra practice time does the trick. The Hoosiers had half as much time to cram for each of their first two road tests.

So in the midst of a quiet week, Miller and Indiana are taking time to review some base fundamentals ahead of this weekend’s game against the Cardinals.

“It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve had some space in between game to game where we can get to practice and really focus in on cleaning some things up and improving on some things,” Miller said.

Halfcourt defense is at the top of Miller’s to-do list.

Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 53.3 through nine games this season, while hitting 40.8 percent of their 3-point attempts.

“It starts in transition,” Miller said. “We have been working on that daily. Getting back is always a challenge. In the halfcourt, how can we become more disciplined? How can we become more aware of positioning and some of the things that I think are really hurting our team, in terms of giving up 3-point shots?

“It’s not just that teams are getting wide open looks, it’s why are they getting them? And part of it being a better halfcourt defensive team, a principled team, a disciplined team.”

Instilling discipline takes time, Miller acknowledges, and poor defensive positioning is one of the bad habits the IU coach has sought to break during his first season running the program.

The Hoosiers’ play during Monday’s win over the Hawkeyes, followed by a spirited practice on Wednesday, however, give Miller hope.

“Players grow defensively with repetition in practice and drill work and being able to compete in one-on-one or two-on-two or three-on-three drills where they’re exposed,” Miller said.

“You put them on islands and they have to compete and play and play without fouling, things like that. So you get better on defense with repetition. I think seeing yourself on film is also a good thing. I think there’s some things from the Iowa game that we were much better than some of the previous games, so we took a step in the right direction, I think, coming off the Michigan loss.”

McRoberts finding niche
During the first few weeks of the season, as he initally felt his way through various lineup combinations, Archie Miller often lamented the lack of playing time for Zach McRoberts.

Miller wanted to get the walk-on more involved in early-November games, but struggled to find space.
During the past week, McRoberts has forced his coach’s hand.

McRoberts has played more minutes (24) in games against Iowa and Michigan than he had in his first four games combined (16).

“He stays with it pretty much every day,” McRoberts said. “He brings his hard hat to practice. Just in studying our practice films, studying our practice statistics, Zach has climbed the ladder. And he’s earned the minutes in the game and probably should have earned them a few games earlier, to be quite honest with you. That’s on us as a staff.”

Beyond the hustle plays McRoberts often supplies, Miller likes the length that the 6-foot-6 junior brings, particularly on the perimeter.

As he looks at the development of IU’s season, Miller sees a world where McRoberts continues to expand his role approaching the bulk of Big Ten play next month.

“He’s put himself in a situation where he’s earned the minutes,” Miller said, “and he’ll continue to earn more minutes as well, I think, because his effort level, his understanding of some of the things we’re trying to do is winning basketball.”

No restrictions on Jones’ transfer
After deciding Sunday that he will transfer from Indiana at the conclusion of the fall semester, Curtis Jones will do so without any restrictions.

The sophomore guard is free to go wherever he wants, Archie Miller confirmed Thursday. Although Miller said he never wants to lose a player at the semester break, the coach said he accepted the player’s personal decision and will not restrict where the Richmond, Va. native lands next.

“It’s never a positive thing,” Miller said, “but I think Curtis, being here for over a year and a half, he made his own decision. And we support him with that and wherever he ends up, I think he’ll be successful.”