Indiana struggles to defend paint in loss

Defending the paint was an issue again, as Indiana gave up 48 points in the paint against Eastern Washington. IU's last three opponents have scored 138 points in the paint.

Indiana’s lack of a dominating presence in the paint will be noticeable all season, but it became a glaring issue again Monday night.

The Hoosiers struggled to contain their opponent’s penetration to the basket again, something that has been a common theme in the first five games. For the second game in a row, IU surrendered 48 points in the paint in an 88-86 loss to Eastern Washington.

”We didn’t match that speed,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “That is what attack basketball looks like.”

In the last three games, Indiana has given up 138 points in the paint. Include the first two games with Mississippi Valley State and Texas Southern in the number and it's 202 points in five games. That's over 40 points per game in the paint.

And this is against what is supposed to be the easier part of IU's schedule. What will happen when it faces teams like Louisville or Georgetown in December, or the every night rigors of the Big Ten?

Monday night, the Hoosiers tried to combat the Eagles’ penetration to the basket by using different zone defenses. Though the zone looks were unsuccessful, Crean said the team is going to have to keep mixing up its defenses.

”This was a team that you do not want to spend a lot of time on the zone,” he said. “We’ve got to get past the point where your best post defender is Yogi Ferrell.”

The Eagles’ post players enjoyed success against Ferrell’s post defending and Indiana’s zone, as junior forward Venky Jois scored 20 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and grabbed 14 rebounds, eight of which were offensive.

Junior guard Tyler Harvey and senior guard Drew Brandon frequently exploited the Hoosiers’ zone defense as well. Harvey finished with 25 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while Brandon had 27 points, making 10-of-16 shots.

All together, the duo shot a combined 52.7 percent from the field.

”Their guards drove the lane and got around us very easily,” Ferrell said. “That was the biggest thing.”

Ferrell also said the team’s communication wasn’t there defensively.

”When we’re out there and someone’s on the ball, I think our team has to let the person on the ball know you’ve got help either way,” he said. “Just so that that teammate knows if I get blown by, at least I’ve got help.”

Eastern Washington’s penetration was largely responsible for how it closed out Indiana. All six of the Eagles’ points in the final 30 seconds of the game came off of free throws.

To fix the communication issues on defense, IU sophomore forward Troy Williams said the team has to bond closer.

”In crunch time, we have to have a better bond with each other,” Williams said. “You’ve got to know where each other is on the court, you’ve got to know where you’re at on defense. Like Yogi said, we lacked communication on defense.”

Over the last two games, that lack of communication and poor defense has been troublesome for the Hoosiers. The players and Crean admitted it’s unacceptable.

“There’s no question over the last few games we’ve got to get better at defending the paint,” Crean said.

“And we will.”

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