The disconcerting 2016-2017 IU men’s basketball season is officially over.
It came to an end in the first round of the NIT as the third-seeded Hoosiers went on the road to play the six-seed Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. IU decided not to be host to the first round matchup due to the majority of its student season ticket holders being gone for spring break.
The Hoosiers finished their season Tuesday night with a 2-9 road record after losing 75-63 to the Yellow Jackets, but the loss didn’t come because of the raucous 5,000-plus fans inside McCamish Pavilion. It came from the same mistakes IU made all season long.
3-point struggles, turnovers and defense cost the Hoosiers in close games this season and Tuesday night it was no different.
“Tonight was kind of the tale of the season,” IU Coach Tom Crean said on the postgame radio show on WHCC-FM 105.1. “We got down, we came back."
Ultimately, however, IU's comeback proved fruitless as Georgia Tech pulled away as the second half progressed.
When the Hoosiers dictate the pace of the game and hit 3-pointers early, they can create problems for the opposition. However, on Tuesday, Georgia Tech forced IU to slow down on offense and miss shots, which makes IU extremely susceptible to poor performances.
The Yellow Jackets' zone defense caught the Hoosiers off guard on offense to begin the game with no movement coming out of their half-court sets.
IU tried to find sophomore center Thomas Bryant in the high post when breaking the zone for him to drive to the bucket, but often times the ball got passed around the arc until a shot opened up.
“We didn’t play through the middle enough and then we wanted to flood underneath and a couple of times we did but we just stand too much,” Crean said. “It’s mind boggling to me because we don’t practice that way.”
The Yellow Jacket zone defense took away the driving ability from the Hoosier guards as Georgia Tech held IU to 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half. IU ended up shooting 26 percent from deep in the loss and 38 percent from the field.
IU shot 30.1 percent from 3-point land in losses this season, while shooting 41.2 percent in wins. Tuesday’s 3-point percentage mark was the fifth lowest of the year for the Hoosiers.
“I thought our three-point defense was really good, I just thought overall our entire defense was really good,” Georgia Tech Coach Josh Pastner told reporters after the game. “When you have such a high octane offense like they do, it’s a great credit to our guys defensively.”
After trailing by seven points at the break, IU was able to come back to grab a 39-38 lead with 16 minutes to play. Then the Hoosiers started to make mistakes.
Entering the final game of the season, the Hoosiers were ranked 330 out of 347 Division I teams with 15.2 turnovers per game. IU handled the ball well in the first half and turned it over just six times while holding Georgia Tech to six points off turnovers, but in the second half the miscues returned.
Georgia Tech forced 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes of the game and scored 16 points off those mistakes, which ended any chance of a second half Hoosier comeback.
IU's defense hurt itself too. The Yellow Jackets were the worst shooting team in the ACC this season, yet slow rotations from the Hoosiers all night enabled Georgia Tech to shoot 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range.
“Absolutely no reason to be as late as we were a couple times defensively with coming off the ball and allowing them shots,” Crean said. “But we got back in it like we do, but again the turnovers hurt us.”
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