Analysis: All eyes on the IU defense

Indiana's defense needs to step up Wednesday at Purdue. And we aren't talking football here. We're talking hoops and IU's dismal defensive effort Sunday in a road loss to Ohio State. That sets up a huge game with the Boilers on Wednesday night where IU will have to contend with Purdue's two 7-foot big men. It could be ugly if IU doesn't respond on the defensive end.

For as long as I can remember, all we ever talk about in the fall is how the Indiana defense needs to get better.

Nate Sudfeld and company can score enough points but the defense has never consistently been able to get enough stops to get opponents off the field.

Sunday, defense was the problem with the rounder ball, too.

Ohio State was able to attack the heart of the Indiana defense and simply score at will. Many times IU had late help and it led to an and-one situation. Other times the ‘and-one’s’ came when the defender simply couldn’t stop the driver himself.

It was really just too easy for the Buckeyes in their 82-70 victory over the Hoosiers that snapped IU’s four game winning streak and knocked IU out of a first place tie in the Big Ten.

Perhaps most troubling is that next up in a matter of days is a Purdue team that will look to pound the ball inside to its two bigs. The Boilermakers are one of the biggest interior teams around with a pair of 7-footers in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

The bottom line is that Indiana has to get better on defense and it needs to do so quickly.

’Go Colts’ made a good point on a message board thread that Collin Hartman was going to have a difficult film session today. He’s probably right but I don’t think it’s just Hartman. If you wanted to point fingers Sunday, you could do so in a lot of directions.

Where was the help defense? Why did IU have such a difficult time cutting off driving lanes? Why was it so easy to make that pass deep into the post? Why did the Hoosiers simply not look committed on the defensive end throughout the game?

There are a lot of questions and not nearly as many answers. Tom Crean said he believed that IU simply never took Ohio State out of its comfort zone. That much was pretty clear.

Ohio State did whatever it wanted to do offensively against Indiana on Sunday. The Hoosiers got pushed around. As IU was trying to make a comeback late and hit a couple of shots in the final 4 minutes, you simply never got the feeling that it was going to matter because of the way IU was playing on the defensive end.

The Buckeyes deserve a lot of credit, too. There’s no question about that. I said going in that I thought it was a must-win for Ohio State. That was before I saw that it had an 0-5 record against the RPI top 50. That just made it even more important.

And Ohio State was a 9-point favorite in a building where it rarely loses. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Ohio State is 102-9 in the Value City Arena. So no one thought it would be easy to come away from there with a season sweep and a victory.

But no one thought IU would simply not show up on defense either.

So now the challenge switches to how can IU bounce back quickly and face an interior laden team in Purdue on Wednesday?

It won’t be easy. It fact it will be a monumental challenge for Crean and his coaching staff to come up with a plan in just two days.

But I honestly believe that we will learn a great deal about this Indiana basketball team with how it is able to perform – especially on defense – Wednesday at Mackey Arena.

Is this team truly a title contender or one that will be contending for the upper tier of the Big Ten standings? We’ll find out shortly.


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