IU Insider Blog: Improvement on the perimeter

If there was one thing I thought Indiana did well Saturday night it was that the Hoosiers established themselves a little more from 3-point range. Now IU needs to take consistent steps in that direction.

The one thing that stood out for me in Saturday night's Indiana victory over North Florida was the simple fact that Indiana was hunting shots from the perimeter.

Perhaps the Ospreys were of the opinion that the more outside shots that Indiana took the better. North Florida came out in a zone and Yogi Ferrell set the tone by ringing up a 3-pointer on IU's first offensive possession.

The Ospreys would never lead in the game and wouldn't stay in the zone too long either.

The question remains though for Indiana when it comes to perimeter shooting: Are the Hoosiers really as bad as they have appeared at times from the perimeter this season or are there a few guys who could step up and knock down some shots?

I thought we got that answered to an extent Saturday night.

Austin Etherington made a pair of 3-point field goals. I've been saying for a while that Etherington is one of the keys. He is a player that I think most Indiana fans will recognize has the ability to hit from long distance. I remember back when Matt Roth left the IU program that there were a lot of people that believed that Etherington could step in and fill Roth's long distance role.

Now when you have guys like Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo and even someone like Remy Abell hitting from distance, you really don't feel the same need that the Hoosiers have experienced this year.

But when all of those guys are gone, now someone needs to step up to bridge the shooting gap that lies in a valley somewhere between Hulls and company and a class that includes James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson in terms of perimeter shooters.

Etherington could provide some of that stop gap measure. He only attempted three 3-point field goals Saturday night but he made two of them. He only scored six points but they were six points from the perimeter.

Then there was Evan Gordon. Gordon hit an early 3-pointer to make it 15-10 but he also hit a pull up 15 footer from the right baseline and another 12-foot jump shot. While those may not seem like big shots, they are with this Indiana team because IU has been getting the majority of its points from inside or from the line.

Jeremy Hollowell made four shots from the field and one was on a 3-pointer and another on a 17-foot jump shot. Again, perimeter production which is a key for Indiana.

So that's three players to go along with Yogi Ferrell and hopefully at some point Will Sheehey. Perhaps Troy Williams joins the hit parade at some point, too, but in the early going I wouldn't have a great expectation there.

I asked Tom Crean in the postgame about if he thought it was important to get different players to hit perimeter shots Saturday night.

He said he thinks Indiana has players that can make the shots and that he's not unhappy as long as IU is getting good shots and he believes the Hoosiers are doing just that. He pointed to Iowa which was 11th in the Big Ten in shooting last season and is second this year – with basically the same personnel.

He pointed again to Oladipo who he said was shooting in the 25 percent range from 3-point distance early in the season and ended up at 44 percent.

Crean said it's all part of IU's practice regime.

"We try go get as much shooting in as we can,'' Crean said. "We try to shoot when we're fresh and in the middle and when we're tired. We try to do all those different things and the same thing with free throws.

"And it's fun to watch guys' confidence go up. But it's like anything else. When they come in with an attitude of impacting the game in an area defensively or with the glass or with their hustle, it's amazing what happens offensively.''

Indiana still only shot 33 percent from 3-point range Saturday night and 1-of-9 from distance in the second half. But the fact that the Hoosiers made six 3-pointers and also hit a few other mid-range perimeter shots is a huge step in the right direction.

IU fans can only that by the time the Big Ten season rolls around Indiana will have made enough strides to be a formidable perimeter shooting team. That would be a huge help going into conference play.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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