With Indiana's exhibition opener now just two days away, IU Assistant Head Coach Donnie Marsh is just as defensive as he's always been.
Why? That's his role on Mike Davis' staff. The second-year Hoosier assistant will once again oversee Indiana's efforts and schemes on the defensive end of the floor, after having a great deal of success in a similar role a year ago.
Indiana limited foes to 42 percent shooting and 63.6 points per game a year ago, ranking among the league leaders in both categories. With more depth, experience and talent on the 2005-06 roster, Marsh will have even more flexibility this season.
"Coach (Mike Davis) has given me a great deal of freedom to put some things in and do some things," Marsh said Tuesday. "We try to get a little better each day at things that we want to do without giving away too much. We want to be able to mix it up, but still be solid in the halfcourt."
Indiana fans saw more traps and zones and presses than they have in recent years, and that figures to be the case once again this season. While being solid in the halfcourt is first and foremost in Marsh's mind, he also wants to try to create opportunities for easy baskets and headaches for opponents with some different looks defensively.
"We want to be a push it up, a fast paced team," said Marsh. "But you have to get some things done at this end of the floor in order to make that happen. We don't want to be a team that trades baskets. That's not what we're about. We want to be a team that says, ‘okay, we want to score, but at the same time we're going to make it difficult for you to do what you want to do.'"
With the additions of players like Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway, Marsh will have a lot more to work with this season as well. Marsh talked with HoosierNation.com Tuesday about a host of defensive topics, including the sort of impact the newcomers to the lineup can make.
With the added talent and depth, what can this team do on the defensive end?
We want to do more than we did a year ago.
We kind of cracked the bag a little bit last year with some 1-3-1 and a couple of other presses, but I think we want to be even a little more innovative with our defense this time, because I think these kids can feed off of what we do defensively and get us some easy looks on the other end.
That said, you can run and jump and trap and do all those things all you want, but it eventually comes down to being able to defend your goal in the halfcourt.
Were there any particular limitations that last year's team had that kept you from doing everything you wanted to do on the defensive end?
Last year, I think it was more we didn't want to overload our guys.
I think we were doing a really solid job most of the year, and then at the end it kind of fell off a little bit. Against Minnesota (in the Big Ten Tournament), against Vanderbilt, we really didn't defend the way we had defended all year.
We wanted to be careful to not overload that group and have them thinking about too many different things. It was also about building a solid foundation knowing that Marco (Killingsworth) and Lewis (Monroe) and those other guys were coming in.
Now your foundation is in place, and it gives you the freedom and the flexibility to be able to do some different things and not lose your base, not lose your foundation.
With last year's freshman class, how long did it take for them to pick up some of the defensive concepts at the collegiate level?
We had their attention right away. Those kids gobbled up everything we put in front of them last year. That's paying off now.
It's nice now because I can just say a term or a phrase, and Robert (Vaden) knows it, A.J. (Ratliff) knows it, all those guys know it. Now it's a matter of okay, reacting, teach us where you want us to go, what you want us to do, but we understand the concept behind what it is you're saying.
It's going to take Ben (Allen) a little while, it's going to take Joey (Shaw) a little while, it's taking Earl (Calloway) a little while, it's going to take those guys a little while to catch up, but they see it, they understand the philosophy behind it, and we have enough guys that have done it before, they can help them along.
That's when you really start to build a program – when you have veteran guys leading your young guys.
What does the addition of Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway do for the team defensively?
We can do a lot of things with those two guys. Lewis, he's probably our toughest defender. That's hard for me to say, because Vaden is a pretty tough defender. But Lewis is tenacious, he's dogged. He understands positioning. Vaden is really smart. Vaden can take chances at places where others can't and not hurt the foundation of what you're doing.
What Earl does for you, he changes that whole pace. He can really pressure you 94 feet. He's quick, he gets hands in the passing lane. I'll be shocked if he doesn't get at least two steals per game.
What Earl has to understand now is we want to be aggressive and be physical, but we don't want to lose the integrity of our defense. So we can't be 90 feet from the basket and take a chance on something and then put us in a 5-on-4 situation at the other end. We are going to eventually trap and do some of those other things when we get to the other end of the floor, so don't take us out of it here on that end.
The one thing he has that we can't teach is he's quick as lightning.
There's a lot of attention on Marco and what he can do for the team offensively, but what will he give this team on the other end?
I'll tell you what he does -he has the ability to stay up front and keep a guard in front of him, or go down into the paint and front a big guy down there and bang with a big guy. He gives you so much flexibility because he can do that.
Where we have to reign Marco in a little bit is he's so smart as a player, he'll see something happen, and he'll want to cheat it, as opposed to just anticipating it.
When you cheat, the other four guys on the floor don't really know – so you're a renegade defensively, and that won't work for you. But when you anticipate that action, the other four guys on the floor understand that anticipation and now they can adjust and get that feel. We won't lose something because the other four guys are on the same page.
Because he's so smart and he sees so many things, he allows us to put a lot more pressure on people. We can run the trap with him, and not learn the integrity of our defense. He really gives you some flexibility.
And you also know this – he's going to go to that glass and rebound the ball every time it goes up.
With two upcoming exhibition games, what do you want to see come out of those two contests?
For us, we have to understand our identity is what we do at the defensive end, and that creates the identity that we want to have on the offensive end.
We want to be a push it up, a fast paced team. You have to get some things done at this end of the floor in order to make that happen.
We don't want to be a team that trades baskets. That's not what we're about. We want to be a team that says, ‘okay, we want to score, but at the same time we're going to make it difficult for you to do what you want to do.'
In these two exhibition games, that's what we want to see. Do we really have that defensive mentality that it takes to do what we want to do, and kind of go where we want to go.
Marsh Remains Defensive
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