Why Indiana's offense is so tough to defend

The Hoosiers scored 89 points against the Big Ten's best defense on Thursday night. How were they able to do it?

Indiana's offensive efficiency surged to 7th nationally after its 89-70 win over No. 13 Maryland on Thursday night. In that game, the Hoosiers (15-4, 5-1 Big Ten) shot 60 percent from the field, made 15-of-22 shots from beyond the arc, and did it against the Big Ten's best defense.

So what makes IU's offense so effective?

Simply put: Spacing.

When Indiana starts Collin Hartman at the five, it suddenly has five players that space the floor in different ways (Troy Williams not so much as a shooter, but the other four, yes). When bigger teams are stubborn and stay big, Hartman has proven he can consistently step out and make 3s.

In such a situation, opposing coaches have two choices:

1. Match Indiana and go smaller.
2. Stay big and take your chances.

If the coach chooses option 1, then the Hoosiers now face a defense minus a shot blocker, and they no longer have to worry about being to small to defend the post and rebound. If he chooses option 2, Hartman will either continue to hurt him from the perimeter, or he'll drive to the rim when the bigger player closes out hard.

Either way, it's a win for IU to have Hartman in the game, as long as he can defend the post as well as he has lately. When Hartman stretches his defender to the 3-point line, he opens up gaping driving lanes for Indiana's guards.

That's good, but driving lanes aren't all that important if you can't beat your man off the dribble. That's where shooting comes into play. When Indiana uses a lineup featuring Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson -- all capable shooters -- it becomes easier for any one guy to drive because the defense must respect the jump shot. When shots are falling like they did against Maryland, it's impossible to guard them because you have to give up one or the other.

When Indiana made shots, Maryland closed out harder, and IU got easy layups because there was no help in the lane. When everybody stretches the floor, there can't be any helpers in the lane.

Will Indiana ever shoot the ball like it did on Thursday? No, probably not. But even when it doesn't, the Hoosiers are still very difficult to guard for all the reasons I just outlined.

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