The Hoosiers, a young, undersized team that the Big Ten Network had ranked 12th in its conference power rankings this week, hung right with one of the nation’s very best teams. And they did so on a night when the Cardinals, a horrific 3-point shooting team, shot the ball well from the perimeter.
The No. 4 Cardinals (8-0) eventually knocked Indiana (7-2) out with one last haymaker late, winning 94-74 on a neutral floor at Madison Square Garden. But make no mistake about it: This game was much closer than the final score might indicate.
The Hoosiers didn’t win, no. But I can’t help but come away from Tuesday night’s game with more positive thoughts about IU’s future than negative ones. Here’s why:
1. Hanner Mosquera-Perea played like nobody has ever seen him play before. It was by far his best performance in his two-plus years in Bloomington, and it shows everybody what Mosquera-Perea is capable of doing.
Mosquera-Perea opened the game by making a beautiful baseline move with a reverse layup finish on Indiana’s first possession, and following it up with a ferocious dunk in the face of 6-foot-10 shot blocker Chinanu Onuaku two trips later. He also made two hook shots and took two charges against Harrell in the first half.
Mosquera-Perea finished with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Mirage, or sign of things to come? Regardless, it gives Indiana fans some hope for the rest of the season.
2. Indiana was unafraid of the big moment on Tuesday night, despite its youth. Every time Harrell hit Indiana with a powerful dunk — and there were a lot of them — the Hoosiers answered with a big basket of their own.
James Blackmon Jr. had 18 points. Nick Zeisloft hit three 3s in the first half, including back-to-back ones that got IU back in the game. Yogi Ferrell seemed calm amidst Louisville’s hectic pressure defense. Max Hoetzel knocked down a big 3-pointer. Emmitt Holt held his own in 14 minutes.
There were a lot of negatives. too — I’ll get to those in a second — but it was a promising sign that the Hoosiers didn’t shy away from the bright lights against a big-time opponent in their first game away from Assembly Hall.
Now, the negatives:
1. While Mosquera-Perea played the best game of his career and Holt was solid again, the Hoosiers were still dominated inside. Louisville had 26 offensive rebounds, 48 points in the paint, and attempted 18 more shots than the Hoosiers. The Cardinals too easily got to the middle of IU’s defense and got easy baskets, many of them coming on Harrell dunks.
One qualifier: Louisville has not been a good jump shooting team this year, but the Cardinals made a lot of big jump shots on Tuesday night. Were some of them open shots? Sure. But you have to credit Louisville more than you blame the Hoosiers for the shotmaking. Indiana saw the a very good version of the Cardinals. They haven’t always been that good this season.
2. Some guys were ready for the big moments on Tuesday, and some weren’t. It’s just that simple. Blackmon, Mosquera-Perea, Ferrell, Zeisloft, Hoetzel and Holt all seemed to handle it well. Others — specifically Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson and Robert Johnson — did not.
Williams was out of control from the beginning and tried to do too much. He had 10 points in the game, but was just 3-of-8 and had three turnovers.
Robinson was even worse, turning the ball over five times in only nine minutes. He made a nice move to the basket in the second half, but really struggled against Louisville’s press. He’s been a hard player to figure out through nine games.
And Johnson, who did some really good things on the defensive end, looked like a freshman a times offensively. He got caught in the air trying to make a pass a couple times and ended up throwing the ball away. He also missed both of his free-throw attempts.
"We lost the game because we didn't take care of the glass and the turnovers," Indiana coach Tom Crean said afterward. "We've got a lot of growth potential to get better, but the toughness level certainly and the glass level was hit tonight. We weren't ready for that."
Indiana didn’t win on Tuesday night, and because it’s Indiana, that’s disappointing. But nobody expected the Hoosiers to beat this Louisville team, and they were right there with less than 10 minutes to go. That’s an encouraging development for this Indiana team. The Hoosiers will only get better as the season goes on.
If Tuesday night’s game was a barometer for the Hoosiers, this is what we learned: If IU plays like it did against Louisville, it can beat a lot of teams.