Game MVP - D.J. White. There was little question who was the best player on the floor for the Hoosiers. White finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, keeping IU in a game that saw the Hoosiers miss 21 of 25 attempts from behind the 3-point arc. White was dominant throughout, particularly in the first half when he scored 11 straight for the Hoosiers during one stretch and 15 of the team's final 18 points of the period. White did this against Kentucky's Randolph Morris, a player with NBA-caliber size at 6-11 and 256 pounds. But White was able to establish position on the block and also did plenty of damage with a mid-range jumper that was falling more often than not. This is an extremely good sign for an Indiana team that needs White to dominate in the paint and command the sort of attention that will free up its perimeter players fro open looks. Those shots weren't falling Saturday at Rupp Arena, but those numbers figure to improve in future contests.
Biggest Surprise… Lance Stemler's 0-point, 0-for-7 shooting effort. Stemler has been one of the team's most consistent offensive performers this season. Entering the game he had reached double figures in all but one of the games he'd played in, which was better than even D.J. White (5 of 7) and Roderick Wilmont (4 of 7). Stemler's consistency has been a product of generally always taking good shots, and he generally did that again against Kentucky. But in his first true road game of his IU career, Stemler struggled from the floor. He did contribute eight rebounds, two assists and two steals to the Hoosiers' cause, but the Hoosiers need his outside shooting to be successful. In the early going, it's pretty clear how important Stemler is to IU's success – in its three losses Stemler missed the Duke game with a concussion and is averaging 3.0 points/game in the other two setbacks, and he's scoring 13.6 points/game in the Hoosiers' five victories.
What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana shot 31 percent from the field and 16 percent from 3-point range, but still had a chance to win a road game against a good team in the closing minutes. A year ago, Indiana had six games where it shot 38 percent or less from the floor and it lost those six games by an average of 12 points/game. The only one of those games that went down to the final minute was IU's 52-51 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament when the Hoosiers shot 33.3 percent from the field. While Indiana can't afford to miss seven out of every 10 shots it takes and have a successful season, there's something to said for still being in position to win a game when you struggle shooting the ball. That's a testament to Indiana's improved effort on the defensive end and in rebounding the basketball, areas that Indiana wasn't very good in a year ago.
What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana needs to do a better job of getting to the free-throw line. Indian was just 6-of-9 from the charity stripe, while Kentucky was 14-of-20. That's nothing new for the Hoosiers, who have seen their foes shoot 33 more free throws in the season's first eight games. One of the primary reasons for that is the make-up of the team – Rod Wilmont, A.J. Ratliff and Lance Stemler are primarily perimeter shooters on the offensive end, and D.J. White often prefers the turnaround jump shot over attacking the basket when he gets the ball in the paint. While you can't take a perimeter shooter and make him a penetrator, IU needs to find a way to get to the free-throw line more often. Earl Calloway and Joey Shaw are probably the best on the team in attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line, and White is more than capable of getting to the line more often than he has.
Turning Point: Earl Calloway came up with a couple of huge plays to give IU a 39-36 lead at the 12:44 mark. Calloway drive from the wing for a layup to put IU up 37-36, and then stole the in-bounds pass, missed a layup, but A.J. Ratliff followed up the miss with a tip-in to put IU up three. Kentucky called a 30-second timeout, though, and responded. Randolph Morris hit a couple of free throws to cut the lead to one, Bobby Perry had a tip-in and then a dunk after an IU turnover, and Joe Crawford capped an 8-0 Kentucky run with a conventional 3-point play. IU would eventually tie the game a couple of minutes later, but it would never lead again.
Quotable: "To win on the road – we did two of the three things we needed to do to get a win – you have to defend, you have to rebound, and you have to make shots. I thought we defended okay, probably good enough to win. I thought we rebounded well enough to win, but we just didn't make shots." - IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"Yeah, the plan (on the last play) was set for Rod. If you go back and look at it the kid refused the screen on purpose. The screener came back and got Rod and got him off the screen. (Joe) Crawford did a good job of recovering. But that was what we were looking for." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"One of the things that got wrote on the board today was that we are 13 points away from being 8-0. You get to choose who you are. One of the things you learn in this profession is don't ever let someone else define you. You define yourself. Given Butler hit a bank shot from about 30 feet, we lose by five. Duke we lost by three and Kentucky we lose by five. We are competing. This team is growing too. I'm disappointed we lost, I wanted to win the game. I wanted to beat Kentucky every bit as bad as Tubby and his kids wanted to beat us." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
Random Thoughts: One player who continues to impress is Joey Shaw. Shaw scored only two points, but those came after a huge steal at the 2:00 mark when he stole the ball on the in-bounds pass and converted a layup to cut Kentucky's lead to three. On the season, Shaw has actually attempted more free throws (29) and field goals (27) thanks to his ability to slash to the basket and draw contact…Kentucky was whistled for only eight fouls in the game compared to 17 for the Hoosiers.
Upon Futher Review - Kentucky
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