Here is an analysis of Friday's dramatic 59-58 loss to No. 18 Connecticut in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. This analysis will be a regular part of our AllHoosiers.com coverage of Indiana basketball this season.
WHAT LOOKED GOOD: It wasn't really a game where when you looked at the statistics you'd find a lot that you liked. IU turned it over 19 times. The Hoosiers had 35 rebounds, which was 17 under their average. IU got to the foul line 22 times, which was 18 under its average. IU shot 40.8 percent from the field, only blocked one shot, hit just 3-of-12 3-point shots. Indiana scored 58 points, which was 36 points under its average. So what could be good? Well, Noah Vonleh was held scoreless and Troy Williams, one game after scoring 22 points against Washington, was limited to two points. OK, but what's the good part? The good part is that Indiana went down to the wire against the No. 18 ranked team in the nation without two of its top three scorers for the season. Another positive is that Indiana played a little better in most categories in the second half after managing just 24 first-half points. IU shot 44 percent from the field in the second half after going 37.5 percent in the first half. IU made one more 3-pointer in the second half than the first so that one is not such a big deal. But IU shot 76.9 percent from the free throw line in the second half after a dismal 55.6 percent in the first half. Also, after committing 12 first-half turnovers, IU only had seven in the second half. So those were all encouraging points. Plus, Indiana played a November game that had a March-like feel to it. And that has to be something that helps this team long term.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE: Those things were all pretty much addressed above. Consistency is probably the one area that needs to improve the most. Unfortunately, with young players the one constant early on will be that inconsistency. Thursday night, Williams had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He played 29 minutes. Friday, he had two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 24 minutes. His one basket was a two-handed slam. But he simply didn't have the same level of consistency from one night to the next. Vonleh was a little different story because he was in foul trouble all night starting right from the beginning when he had a pair of illegal screens whistled on him in the first 2 minutes. But Vonleh needs to learn to be less aggressive when he has those two fouls. Vonleh was limited to 10 minutes because of fouls and he had a total of two shots – one from the field and one from the foul line. His last shot just after the buzzer did not count as it would have been waved off.
FOR STARTERS: Indiana has now used the same starting lineup in all six games: Will Sheehey, Jeremy Hollowell, Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell. Against Washington, the starters scored 82 of IU's 102 points. Against Connecticut, the total was 40 of 58. The starters also had 21 rebounds, seven assists, 14 turnovers, one block and all four IU steals. The five starting players made 13-of-39 shots from the field. The starters had all the 3-point statistics, 3-for-12, and also were 11-for-16 from the foul line.
CONNECTICUT LEADS ALL-TIME SERIES: The Huskies lead the all time series between the two schools 6-3, and have lost five of the last six meetings with UConn. IU's only win against Connecticut since 1997 was a 77-73 win in Hartford in January of 2007.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Friday's loss to Connecticut:
1. Evan Gordon or Stanford Robinson?: IU coach Tom Crean gave the impression in the postgame interview that is what an either/or scenario in the rotation between Gordon and Robinson at this point. And because Gordon was playing at a high level he went in that direction. Gordon played 19 minutes, hit all three of his field goal attempts including a couple of tough shots, had two rebounds, an assist and two turnovers. He scored six points. Robinson only played 3 minutes and managed one rebound. I've been saying for a while now that I think Robinson is the kind of player that ultimately could find his way into the starting lineup. But Crean and his staff obviously aren't to the point of being that comfortable with the freshman guard just yet.
2. Devin Davis or JEREMY HOLLOWELL?: I understand that Hollowell has started all six games and played 31 minutes Friday compared to 21 off the bench for Davis. But I continue to be amazed at the number of minutes Hollowell gets. He must do a lot of little things that show up on film that I don't see the first time around. I'm not a Hollowell basher or anything like that. I believe that in time Hollowell could be a good player and a major contributor for IU. But I just think right now, Davis does more to help you when he's on the floor. He just has a nose for the ball and seems to always be around it. Hollowell scored seven points in his extra 10 minutes over Davis and made 2-of-7 shots from the field. He had four rebounds. Davis also had seven points and led all Hoosier players with seven rebounds. He made 3-of-6 shots from the field. Perhaps this is just Hollowell's time to start but I have to think at some point a player like Davis can overtake some of Hollowell's minutes if the sophomore continues to struggle as he has.
NEXT UP: Indiana (5-1) will face Evansville on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at Assembly Hall and then won't play another game until the following Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Syracuse. The Evansville game is an 8 p.m. start on the Big Ten Network.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch