Morehead State's visit to Assembly Hall will offer Indiana an exhibition on defense following the Hoosiers' lackluster effort at Duke, as the Eagles bring a scoring defense tied with Louisville for best in the nation into Bloomington for Saturday's 7 p.m. game.
"They're the real deal," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "They lost to Illinois State by one, and winning against Saint Louis is a big thing. It's going to be a big test for us."
So far, Morehead State has limited its opponents to 54.5 points per game. That one point loss to Illinois State? The Redbirds put up 67 points, and since then the Eagles have held opponents under 61 points in each of their last four games. In the last two games, the Saint Louis game included, opponents managed just 46 points in each.
Defense is Morehead State's strong suit, but the same cannot be said of Indiana.
The Hoosiers have one of the top offenses in the country - its scoring offense of 86.8 points per game ranks sixth in Division I - but it isn't always good enough to overcome its defensive deficiences.
Despite committing a season-low nine turnovers and shooting 51.5 percent from the field, IU allowed Duke to get 1.53 points per possession. According to Jeff of Basketball Predictions, it was the best offensive performance by Duke across 20 years of data.
It did not matter which defense Indiana ran either, as Duke was effective against both. When our Justin Albers broke down the film:
- Duke faced a man-to-man defense on 35 of its 62 possesions, shooting 22-of-41 from the field with 53 points, 3 turnovers, and 7 possessions with multiple shots.
- It faced a zone defense on the other 27 possessions, shooting 15-of-27 from the field with 39 points and 3 turnovers.
When was asked if correcting those issues was a matter of simplying defensive concepts and moving away from switching between and zone defense, Crean emphasized the Hoosiers have not done that very often this year and explained how the Hoosiers instead llimit the team's strengths. For Duke, it was limiting opportunites its at the foul line.
"One time in particular, there's nobody in the corner and we end up bumping to nobody," Crean said. "That's an awareness issue and it's also a communications issue. Those things can't happen whether you're (in) man or zone. I don't know if it's a matter of simplying, it's a matter of being better at what we're doing."
Morehead State's scoring offense of 70.5 points per game ranks 240th out of 351 Division I teams. However, nearly half of those points (33) have come in the paint.
The attacking-style offense also creates opportunties for extra possesions - the Eagles grab 15.67 offensive rebounds per game, 15th-best in the country. Indiana's 24.88 defensive rebounds per game rank 230th out of 351 Division I teams.
"To me, it's like the dribble-drive offense on steroids," Crean said.
Crean said the Hoosiers were ready to play again, even Thursday night. He also said they are focused on getting better defensively and offensively, with better personal awareness, personal connectivity and communication. Saturday's game serves as a good opportunity to measure what Indiana has worked on since the Duke game.
"It's going to be a challenge," Crean said. "This is the kind of the team (that) at the end of the year, they end up winning their league and nobody's surprised once they see them play," Crean said.