In the weeks following the season-ending injury to sophomore forward De’Ron Davis, IU had survived reasonably well down low without their big man.
Shifting to a quicker, more mobile defensive unit left the Hoosiers susceptible to being attacked by size in the post. With the injury to senior forward Collin Hartman in practice Saturday, IU’s frontcourt became even further depleted just as IU was set to face Purdue.
With one of the top big men in the country in senior forward Isaac Haas, Purdue would pose a threat to IU’s lack of size. In Sunday’s game, Haas terrorized IU and scored 26 points, a career-high, helping Purdue defeat IU, 74-67.
“We're in a catch-22 there with the big fella, he's a tough cover, especially for our guys in terms of the size differential,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “But, we battled, we gave ourselves a chance to win the game and like I told the team afterwards, I'm very disappointed we didn't come through.”
In place of Davis, IU has played a smaller lineup with junior forward Juwan Morgan sliding into the role of the five.
The Hoosiers’ look hasn’t been traditional but has become their last resort due to personnel.
Effective for most of the month, the unit got shredded by Haas as the Hoosiers seemed powerless to stop him.
“Going into the game, we just knew that with the size disadvantage we knew that we couldn't panic,” Morgan said. “We couldn't just foul them, didn't want to give them 3-point plays.”
Haas, a protyptical big man, doesn’t stretch the floor as his primary role is to camp out in the post. With an array of post moves, he attacked the basket relentlessly Sunday with the rest of Purdue’s offense not as spectacular as it normally was. For most of the game, IU held Purdue’s prolific 3-point shooting under control but failed to neutralize Haas.
No matter what the Hoosiers did to try to stop him, it didn’t work. With the game in the balance late, the Boilermakers turned to him and he delivered. In just over the last six minutes of the game, Haas had eight points, and many of those baskets were demoralizing for the Hoosiers.
IU’s approach to stopping Haas proved to be ineffective.
“We just knew that if we could just wall up between him and the basket and try to get as many as we can rebounded, and then we just tightened up as far as everywhere else,” Morgan said.
No matter who IU threw at Haas, he would bully them and find a way to score. Senior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. was asked to play a bigger role in defending Haas with Hartman out, but he had limited success. However, Miller was pleased with what he saw out of McSwain.
“Freddie did a really good job,” Miller said. “He played strong. Obviously I thought he battled. I thought he really competed. He battled."
While McSwain, Morgan and others had their hands full with Haas, IU nearly pulled off the upset victory, but poor execution late cost the Hoosiers. The details came back to hurt them on offense late, but they affected them on defense the entire game.
“We didn't do a good enough job in our post coverages,” Miller said. “At times, we had to stay in between him and the basket and make him earn tough baskets at times when we trapped."
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