Indiana is now 8-1 in Big Ten play after a close home win over Minnesota. It's the Hoosiers' Big Ten start since the 2012-13 season. IU is 18-4 overall. Here are five things you need to know following IU's bounceback win over Minnesota.
1. INDIANA CAN SCORE IN THE PAINT, TOO: Normally a dangerous 3-point team, perimeter shots just would not fall for Indiana. In fact, it didn't have one until 5:40 left in the first half when Robert Johnson scored from the top of the key.
Indiana overall shot a season-low 2 of 18 from 3-point range, far below its season average of 44.4 percent entering Saturday's game. While the Hoosiers try to get easy shots in the paint at the start of the game, they were essentially forced to go inside with the poor perimeter shooting.
Bielfeldt and Bryant answered the call, scoring a combined 31 points. Indiana finished with 42 in the paint, the first time it had at least 40 points in the paint since the Ohio State game.
It's important for the Hoosiers to be able to go through the paint when the 3-point shot won't fall. Seven times this season they've scored at least 40 points in the paint in a single game, and each of those times the final result was a win. When those 3-pointers do fall, Indiana's play in the paint will compliment that and makes its offense even deadlier.
2. BRYANT STEPS UP: After fouling out against Wisconsin, Bryant bounced back and became a much-needed presence in the paint for Indiana. With the previously documented perimeter struggles, Indiana fed Bryant often.
The result? A career-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds.
"I'm always confident with our without the ball in my hands," Bryant said. "This team isn't just around me."
Selflessness aside, Bryant had 11 of Indiana's first 22 points by the eight minute mark of the first half. More importantly, he committed just two fouls after having five against Wisconsin.
"He kept that poise for us and to start the game he had that push for us with a few points in the paint," Indiana senior guard Yogi Ferrell said.
In five home Big Ten games, all wins, Bryant has averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. In four road Big Ten games - three wins and one loss - he's averaged 12 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Is it a huge difference? No. But it - and Saturday afternoon - shows the impact he can have on a game when he's aggressive both offensively and defensively in the paint.
"I felt like Thomas stayed with it, even when calls didn't go his way," Ferrell said. "He kept his head. He played great defense. He rebounded well for us... that's just what's so special about our team. Different guys are going to step up different nights, and tonight it was Thomas."
3. TRANSITION DEFENSE STRUGGLES: After the game, Ferrell did not mince words about Indiana's efforts on transition defense and for good reason.
Fifteen of Minnesota's 17 second-half field goals were either dunks or layups. The easy shots allowed the Gophers to climb back into the game even when that seemed somewhat improbable in facing a 12-point halftime deficit.
"Our transition defense was terrible," Ferrell said. "We were not getting back at all, and we had bad matchups in transition."
Minnesota had 16 fast break points, exceeding the previous high of 10 by Ohio State on Jan. 10. Those are the only two instances in conference play in which Indiana has allowed opponents to finished with double-digit fast break points.
So one game against Minnesota isn't characteristic of Indiana's transition defense as a whole, considering it's only happened twice in nine conference games. But it's something Indiana has to limit if it wants to push the tempo on offense like it normally does.
"Them running out in transition kind of took away our legs, we got tired, and when we got tired we didn't talk," Ferrell said. "When you have five tired, quiet players on the court it gets hards to play defense."
4. ANUNOBY BOUNCES BACK: Freshman forward OG Anunoby appeared to be under the weather against Wisconsin last Tuesday. Crean mentioned on his pregame radio show prior to facing that some of the IU players were feeling that way, but did not specifiy who.
Anunoby had two points, two steals and two turnovers in 13 minutes of playing time that game. Saturday, his minutes went back to normal and he chipped in eight points and six rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes off the bench.
It's been obvious how big of a contributor and difference maker he can be on the bench, and that's the kind of effort Indiana needs from him each game. He's been able to do as much, if not more, with less playing time, but it's an encouraging sign to see him bounce back the way he did Saturday.
5. NO RUNNING 17s (FOR NEXT PRACTICE, AT LEAST): When Indiana head coach Tom Crean implemented his policy of running 17s - having players run from sideline to sideline 17 times in less than 65 seconds for each turnover after 12 - it became an effective tool to limit the Hoosiers' turnovers.
However, they relapsed against Wisconsin and committed 19. They must've been tired of running them, because on Saturday the Hoosiers had just 11. It's the fourth time in Big Ten play they've committed 12 or fewer turnovers in a single game.
Ferrell said it was a result of not playing fast.
"We are pretty excited about (not having to run 17s)," Ferrell said. "But we just wantd to take better care of it. I did not feel like we played as fast. At Wisconsin, I felt like we played pretty fast, and maybe that is what caused the turnovers. We did not play as fast this game, and that is probably because they took our legs."
Whatever the reason, Indiana - like any team - plays better when it commits fewer turnovers. Saturday was another example of that.