Here is an analysis of Tuesday night's 69-52 loss to No. 4 Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. This analysis is a regular part of our AllHoosiers.com coverage of Indiana basketball this season.
WHAT LOOKED GOOD: Indiana had a stretch from about the 15-mark of the first half into the few minute or two of the second where it looked like it could play with a team like Syracuse. Indiana feel behind 10-0 early but bounced back and actually took a one-point lead at 27-26 on a 3-pointer by Yogi Ferrell with 3:28 to play in the half. At that point, Ferrell looked to be feeling his outside jumper. He had made a trio of 3's at that point and the Hoosiers looked confident. Even when Trevor Cooney hit a 3 late in the half to put the Orange up by four at halftime, Indiana appeared to be right there in the game. When the Hoosiers scored the first four points of the second half the game was tied. But any goodwill that Indiana had generated to that point quickly evaporated. Beyond that early stretch, the only other real positive was the ability of Noah Vonleh to get to the foul line. He had been averaging about seven free throw attempts per game through the first seven games. Tuesday night, he got to the line 16 times and converted on 13 of them.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:This could be a long list. Instead of attacking the basket in the second half, Indiana made one poor decision after another. Sometimes IU was settling for jump shots. Other times Indiana would have balls stripped in the interior. Another time, Stanford Robinson had no awareness of the shot clock and IU got a 35-second shot clock violation. In the first half IU turned the ball over six times, which was less than its season average. IN the second half the Hoosiers turned it over 10 times. Those 16 turnovers resulted in 19 Syracuse points. Another problem was a dry spell on field goals that was one of the longest in recent memory. Indiana got a bucket with 17:51 to play in the game when Vonleh scored on a drive. The Hoosiers then didn't get another field goal until a total of 12 minutes and 46 seconds had elapsed off the clock. By that time a tie game had turned into an 18-point Syracuse lead. IU's perimeter shooting also has to improve. It doesn't have to be at the level it was at last year but Indiana needs to get to the point where it can count on a few players to knock down open shots. Tuesday, Yogi Ferrell was 4-of-7 from 3-point range. The rest of the team was 0-for-7. That is a statistic that has to improve quickly.
FOR STARTERS: Crean returned to his starting lineup that had been used most of the season with Ferrell, Vonleh, Will Sheehey, Troy Williams and Jeremy Hollowell. That five combined to score 43 of Indiana's 52 points. The starters didn't shoot it very well, going 11-for-32 from the field and 4-of-13 from 3-point range. Only one other player attempted a three for Indiana and that was Collin Hartman late in the game. p>
INJURY UPDATE: Devin Davis injured his ankle in the first half and tried to go in the second half but was ineffective. He only played two second half minutes after playing five in the first half.
FLAGRANT FOULS: Vonleh was whistled for a Flagrant 1 in the first half and Austin Etherington was called for a Flagrant 2 which included an ejection when he was whistled for an intentional foul against Trevor Cooney in the second half. No replay was ever shown in the arena which was probably a good thing with 26,000 plus angry fans in attendance. But many who watched the replay on television believed the officials may have gotten the call wrong. The consensus was that the Flagrant 2 was not warranted. Both Tom Crean and Jim Boeheim both said in the postgame that Etherington was not trying to hurt anyone.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on three Indiana players from Tuesday night's loss to Syracuse:
1. NOAH VONLEH: When you see 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks you think Vonleh probably was pretty active. The truth is that 13 of his points came at the foul line. Yes, many of those were the result of attacking the basket but the freshman forward also needs to do a better job of demanding the ball in the post. He only took five shots in the game. Another issue for Vonleh is ball security. He had the ball stripped a couple of times and ended up with a team-high four turnovers.
2. YOGI FERRELL: Yogi scored 12 points which is 12 more than he scored against Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen in March. He hit four 3-point field goals. But he didn't attack the basket as much as he needed to and instead settled for passing the ball around the perimeter. Ferrell played 36 minutes and attempted seven shots. But all seven were 3-point field goals. He also only had two assists. The sophomore guard needs more shots inside the 3-point range and three or four more assists. He needed to attack the zone more than he did.
3. WILL SHEEHEY: Bottom line with Sheehey is that the Hoosiers need more production from him. He scored three points on 1-of-7 shooting Tuesday. That one basket was on a drive where Syracuse was called for goal-tending and Sheehey hit a free throw for the three-point play. That was the extent of his scoring. He played 23 minutes. But even more than the fact he wasn't hitting shots was the rest of his statistical line. No rebounds, no assists, no blocks, no turnovers and one steal. He missed his only 3-point shot and made his only free throw. Sheehey needs to initiate the action more and be more involved for Indiana to be the team it hopes to be by conference play.
NEXT UP: IU is back in action Saturday against North Florida at Assembly Hall. It's a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch