Here is an analysis of Indiana's 81-54 victory Tuesday night over Oakland University at Assembly Hall. This analysis is a regular part of our AllHoosiers.com coverage of Indiana basketball this season.
WHAT LOOKED GOOD: Offensively, it was Evan Gordon who is emerging as one of Indiana's biggest offensive threats. In his first eight games the fifth-year senior transfer scored a total of 45 points. In his last two, he has scored 41 more. He had 15 Saturday against North Florida and an Indiana career-high 26 on Tuesday night against Oakland. In Tom Crean's favorite statistic, Gordon also had 13 deflections and was active on the defensive end. What has been particularly impressive though about Gordon's game of late is his ability to hit shots of all varieties. He continues to take the ball to the basket and attack. When he does so, he often splits two defenders and gets right to the rim. But he's also knocking down shots from distance. In the first eight games he was 1-for-9 from 3-point range. In the last two he is 5-for-7 including a 4-for-5 performance Tuesday night. Overall, he has made 17 of his last 21 shot attempts. He also had five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 26 minutes off the bench. Other top individual efforts were turned in by Troy Williams who broke out of a slump where he had scored just 16 points in the last four games to score 13 on 5-of-8 shooting Tuesday night. Noah Vonleh just missed a seventh double-double. He had eight points and 10 rebounds. Jeremy Hollowell had 10 boards. Luke Fischer scored six points and pulled down six rebounds. All three of his baskets were off of offensive rebounds.
WHAT LOOKED GOOD PART 2: Clearly the biggest focus for Indiana coming into the game was to slow down Travis Bader, Oakland's sharp shooter who came into the game leading the nation in 3-point shooting. He not only averages 11 attempts per game but also has hit better than 40 percent of them. Indiana, using several players on him but primarily Will Sheehey, completely shut him down. Bader missed all 10 of his 3-point field goal attempts and was 2-of-15 from the field. By not making a 3-pointer it snapped a 62-game streak where Bader had made at least one 3-point attempt. He had made 40 in the first nine games coming in which was the total that Indiana had made as a team on the season. IU now leads Bader 49-40 after knocking down nine of its own Tuesday night.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE: Indiana looked better handling the ball in the first half in particular. Over the second half of the North Florida game and the first half against Oakland, IU only committed a total of eight turnovers. The first half Tuesday night IU committed five. But in the second half the Hoosiers struggled in that area again. IU turned it over 11 times to reach its season average of nearly 16 turnovers per game. Those 16 turnovers Tuesday night led to 16 Oakland points. Again, I don't mean to keep harping on this statistic but when Big Ten play rolls around Indiana is going to find the going tough if it continues to turn it over 16 times per game.
FOR STARTERS: Crean went with his usual starting lineup of Ferrell, Noah Vonleh, Will Sheehey, Troy Williams and Jeremy Hollowell. That five has now started nine of the 10 Indiana games (Jeff Howard started for Hollowell against Evansville). Tuesday night's starting five combined to score 41 of IU's 81 points. The group picked up 34 of IU's 52 rebounds. In fact, Vonleh (10), Hollowell (10) and Sheehey (8) combined for 28 which was exactly Oakland's team total.
INJURY UPDATE: As was expected, Devin Davis was held out of the game with his nagging ankle injury. He is day-to-day and it's unclear if he can play Saturday against Notre Dame. Troy Williams appeared to injure his hip jumping over a row of seats late in the game. He looked as if he was limping a little bit as the team headed to the locker room but I overheard him tell a collection of fans as he left the building later that was OK.
RECORD SINCE 2011-12 Indiana is now 64-18 since the start of the 2011-12 season including a 42-3 record at Assembly Hall. The 42 wins represent the second most of any team in the nation over that span.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on three Indiana players from Tuesday night's victory over Oakland:
1. TROY WILLIAMS: A confidence boost was exactly what Williams needed and he got it with his 13-point performance. His first shot of the game was a 3-pointer that he knocked down. That was especially important. In the first nine games, Williams was 1-of-11 from 3-point range. It would be the only one he would attempt in this game but the fact that he (a) had the confidence to shoot it and (b) was able to knock it down will only help him down the road. Williams made 5-of-8 shots from the field, his only 3-pointer and both of his free throws. He had three rebounds, an assist and a block in 22 minutes. The one thing that was really clear again though was that Williams continues to be a high hustle and energy guy for the Hoosiers. People want to compare his game to that of Victor Oladipo but as Tom Crean pointed out in the postgame press conference the place to make those comparisons is in the efficiency statistics. Crean said they do compare the hustle statistics to Oladipo because they basically are playing the same position.
2. WILL SHEEHEY: The offense continues to be a struggle for Sheehey but he is making up for it with his defense and his rebounding. Tuesday night he missed all five of his shots from the field including a couple at near point blank range. He was 3-of-6 from the line for his three points. But he had eight rebounds (three on offense and five on defense) and a couple of assists. Most importantly he was the principal defender on Oakland sharpshooter Travis Bader. Bader was limited to 11 points and missed all 10 of his 3-point shots. Bader picked up a frustration foul late in the game when he shoved Sheehey going down the court. Oakland coach Greg Kampe claimed that Indiana didn't do anything differently with Bader than anyone else does but Bader's frustrations at the end may have told a different story.
3. LUKE FISCHER: The fans were having fun with the "Loooooooooooooke" cheer on Tuesday night on the three offensive rebounds that the big freshman picked up and converted into baskets. He had six points and six rebounds. The impressive thing is he continues to make progress and is looking more and more comfortable on the court. He had some catching up to do after missing a lot of time in preseason camp with injuries. There was a time in the first half Tuesday when IU had four freshmen on the floor at the same time (Vonleh, Williams, Fischer and Hartman). I think as the next few games proceed leading IU into Big Ten play you may see more rotations with Fischer and Vonleh both on the floor at the same time.
NEXT UP: IU is back in action Saturday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch