IU gets toughest test yet vs. La Tech

Scanning the early returns of Ken Pomeroy’s predictive ratings, they bear out the obvious.

Indiana hasn’t played the toughest non-conference slate.

Western Illinois ranks at No. 314. Portland State, 265. North Alabama, 281. Troy, 289. Princeton, 229.

But with the arrival of the Hoosiers’ next opponent comes a noticeable difference: Louisiana Tech, 86.

Of the Hoosiers’ eight-game home slate to open the season, the Bulldogs (4-1) should offer the toughest challenge thus far in an 8:30 p.m. tip Monday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. And they could test some of IU’s early strengths.

Despite injuries in the backcourt, the Hoosiers have taken care of the ball, ranking 33rd nationally with a 1.47 assist-to-turnover ratio. Louisiana Tech is not only 33rd in turnovers forced at 18.6 per game but also 12th in turnover margin, averaging a plus-8.2.

These teams are also well-matched when it comes to shooting marks. IU, currently the No. 27 team in Pomeroy’s ratings, has hit 54 percent of its shots, the fourth-best mark in the country. The Bulldogs have held opponents to 35 percent shooting, which ranks 17th.

What these early-season numbers actually mean will play itself out on the court. But what’s clear is the makeup of the visitors from Ruston, La. The Bulldogs are experienced.

They have leaned on a four-guard lineup consisting of three seniors and two juniors. That’s a stark contrast from IU’s three-forward starting five, which has included two freshmen and three juniors.

“We’ve got to keep getting better, keep getting more of an experience level,” IU coach Archie Miller said following last week’s win over Princeton. “And we need to work through what I would call inconsistency of guys coming into the game. Guys coming into the game have to be ready to roll.

“If they’re not, it stands out and then we have to go to another guy.”

IU (5-0) has found itself in some tight games at half. Aside from a blowout of Troy, which was 52-38 at half, the Hoosiers have held halftime leads of four, seven, and 10 points on Princeton, North Alabama, and Portland State, respectively.

While Portland State battled the entire way through, IU outscored Princeton and North Alabama by a combined second-half margin of 40 points. Miller believes that’s a function of a team still trying to mesh its pieces.

“That symmetry, that chemistry of knowing what to do and playing together, that’s the thing that we’re trying to figure out the most,” Miller said, “in terms of the speed of the game and pace of play.

“But to me, we have a team that, I think, as it sinks in, as the year goes on, we’ll be a better second-half team because we have so much inexperience in terms of the guys knowing what to do or how to do it and step up.”

Before the Hoosiers close out their early home slate with Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, defense is an area they have to continue to improve.

IU is currently the No. 111 team in the country in points allowed per game, at 64. At times, the 3-point line has been the biggest issue, but the Hoosiers were able to hold Princeton to 22 percent shooting from deep last time out.

“I think over the course of the game … we get better,” Miller said. “Hopefully we continue to shrink that percentage down. It’s a huge part of the game. We have a big team in the way that we play.

“If we’re giving up 3s, we’re either not getting back or we’re getting beat off the dribble. If we’re not getting beat off the dribble, we’re getting back and getting set, we should be a tough team to defend the 3.”

If the Bulldogs start hitting 3s, IU should be concerned. Thus far, Louisiana Tech ranks 270th in 3-point shooting at 29.6 percent.

IU isn’t shooting the lights out from 3, either, hitting 35.4 percent (103rd). But the Hoosiers have been judicious in the number they take. The Hoosiers make 5.6 shots per game from deep, which is 293rd nationally.

“If we take good shots and the guys that are supposed to shoot the 3s shoot them, we’ll make a good percentage,” Miller said. “If we take a ton of 3s and a lot of guys shooting them, in my opinion, we won’t be a good percentage team.

“I have confidence in all the guys right now that are shooting them. If we take good ones, I have no problem with it. But we’re clearly a team that aspires to play the break, movement inside-out, and play off of that.”

5 comments

  1. Vividseats has tickets starting at $2.00 each for tonight’s game ($3.00 for non-balcony). True, there’s a $10.00 Taxes and Fees addition, but….still…..$2.00 and $3.00 to go see I.U. vs. LSU? Could be too good to pass up! And yet, when I look for discussion prior to the game, I see NO comments that can fire me up and get me off of my yoga mat, in my Eco-house.

  2. Wow! I have to admit our Hoosiers look Very Good this evening! Great start…makes me think H4h pegged it. Time will tell…….so far so good…a Very Good November!

  3. Actually think things looked a bit sloppier tonight…Louisiana Tech has some ballers and speed. They exposed us a bit.

    I knew Jackson-Davis was good…but I didn’t know he was this good. Doesn’t force anything. Plays a mature game way beyond his freshman status. Wow….He’s gonna be fun to watch once he finds his stride.

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