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Indiana concludes its nonconference play with Kennesaw State Tuesday

With Big Ten play looming, Indiana will use final nonconference game to test its zone defense and seek further daily improvement

With Indiana set to begin Big Ten play in less than eight days, the focus remains on improvement and playing solid zone defense. 

The Hoosiers get that opportunity with one final nonconference game, a 6 p.m. home matchup Tuesday against Kennesaw State. 

"Kennesaw State is extremely well-coached," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "They run the flex offense at a very high level." 

The flex offense is predicated on passing, screening and discipline. Together, those three elements generate continuous motion which creates shots along the baseline and the free throw line. 

As a result, Kennesaw State state ranks in the top 120 in free throws made and attempted. The Owls have made 171 out of 255 free throw attempts this season, both of which rank 118th and 99th, respectively, out of 351 Division I teams.

However, the Owls own the 34th-worst scoring offense in Division I as a December 20th, and that should allow Indiana to continue to experiment with its zone defense.

Implementing and settling into that defense was instrumental in the Hoosiers' comeback win over Notre Dame Saturday, especially over the final 7 1/2 minutes. 

According to Inside the Hall's Alex Bozich, Indiana spent 25 halfcourt defensive possessions in a zone defense. Notre Dame scored just 12 points across those possessions. 

"We didn't want them to get easy shots, and I felt like in the second half most of their shots were contested," Indiana senior guard Yogi Ferrell said. "The first half, they had a lot of wide open threes, but I think in the second half, when we went zone, it was more of a matchup and I felt like every shot they took was contested." 

Improvement was also evident on an individual level with freshman forward OG Anunoby.

Anunoby finished with just two points, but his biggest impact came through rebounding with four rebounds - three of which were on the offensive glass. 

His second and third offensive rebounds came on the same possesion with 6:14 remaining. The third offensive rebound led to a dunk by him which cut Indiana's deficit to five. 

"When the ball goes in the basket, you get your legs under you a little bit inside of the game, and you feel a little bit of success and it builds your confidence," Crean said. "I think his teammates had confidence in him, and I think that helped as well."

Asked if the team was focused on improving on any particular area before heading into the break and Big Ten play, Crean said his team is just focused on winning the game. 

"The flex offense provides enough to keep us busy, with how good they are with that," Crean said. "It's just a matter of us continuining to improve and building on what we want to get better at... that's the bottom line for us, daily improvment and carrying it out into the game." 


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