Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean has always taken great pride in the Hoosiers’ ability to defend the 3-point shot.
Last season, Indiana ranked 12th in Division I, allowing opponents to shoot only 29.9 percent from beyond the arc. In conference play, IU ranked first in three-point defense with Big Ten opponents shooting only 31 percent from long range.
However, on Friday a lack of defending the three almost cost the Hoosiers a second-straight upset loss.
Going up against UNCG, who came into the game ranked No. 301 by KenPom, Indiana narrowly pulled out an 87-79 victory despite allowing 14 3-pointers.
UNCG made 14-of-23 (61 percent) shots from beyond the arc. In the second half, UNCG hit 7-of-9 shots from behind the arc, a staggering 77.8 percent.
“Tonight we got caught up in screens,” Crean said. “Our awareness of guys was not as good. We weren’t as attached as we needed to be defensively. Then when we were needed, we got caught or hung up in some screens. Then it became we needed to switch. So it’s really you just got to continue to make the adjustments.”
Sophomore forward Collin Hartman stressed that talk on the court may be lacking, which allowed for UNCG shooters to get open off of screens due to missed assignment switches.
“We just need to come out there and communicate the game plan better,” Hartman said. “We work on it every day in practice. We just need to strive to get better at it every day. It comes down to our communication.”
It wasn’t a one game struggle either. Indiana hasn’t fared well against the 3-point shot through its first six games. Opponents are making 36 percent of three pointers they take.
In the last two outings, Eastern Washington and UNCG shot a combined 51.3 percent from three.
All of those numbers are above last year’s average.
One factor that could be leading to this is a lack of athleticism. Crean said after the game that the team was consistently a step too late on defending threes. However, Hartman wasn’t so quick to claim that as the issue.
“That’s not always physical,” Hartman said. “It’s just knowing the tendencies of a player, when they’re going to go a certain way, what move is there go-to move. You can kind of guess and play a mental game with that.
“I don’t think it’s so much physical. Coach (Je’Ney) Jackson has gotten us pretty ready for it. We just need to lock into the game plan we’ve been given and communicate and execute.”
One thing is certain: if the Hoosiers can’t figure out how to fight off screens, make defensive switches and stop teams from hitting from deep, it will be a long season ahead.What I’ve learned: IU will be battle tested
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