So far this season, the Hoosiers have had mixed success defending the 3-point shot.
As a whole, the team’s numbers look pretty solid. Opponents have only averaged 28.6 percent shooting from behind the arc thus far, but the Hoosiers are allowing an average of more than 20 attempts from long range per game.
Monday evening, IU Coach Tom Crean said defending the 3-pointer against one of the best 3-point threats in the nation will be his team’s pivotal focus on defense.
As the Hoosiers take on Oakland and senior guard Travis Bader at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall, Crean said he hopes his players can limit Bader to fewer than his nearly 11 attempts per game from beyond the arc.
“He never stops moving. He’s the top returning 3-point shooter in the country, let alone the top one right now,” Crean said. “He does a great job using his body. He pushes off to get open. He shot fakes. He definitely knows how to set you up.
“He’s one of those guys, if you relax for a second, it’s going up.”
A few weeks ago, the Hoosiers managed to shut down Evansville’s vaunted 3-point threat D.J. Balentine to just 5-of-17 shooting from the floor and an 0-for-5 mark from behind the arc. Outside of that game, Balentine is shooting 50 percent from 3-point land this season.
But against Syracuse, Crean said the Hoosiers struggled to keep track of the Orange’s long-range threat, Trevor Cooney, in transition. Cooney put up nine 3-point attempts, sinking five of them and leading Syracuse to victory with a game-high 21 points.
Crean said his players can’t let that happen again tonight.
“This is a little bit of a better-moving Cooney. The number one thing we didn’t want to let Cooney do is get lost in transition, and he got lost in transition twice,” Crean said. “You can’t let great shooters get lost in the game.
“He (Bader) moves so well without the ball, and he doesn’t have to have the ball in his hand to create.”
Crean said he was also impressed watching Bader shoot comfortably off of either foot, whether he was squared up or not before his quick release. As long as his teammates can find him, Crean said, Bader will be a constant threat.
“That one time you don’t find him, and you just give him a little bit of space, he doesn’t need much time, and he doesn’t need much space, and he can shoot it off either foot.”
Sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell said he’s been impressed while watching game tape of Bader at how quickly he manages to get his shot up. The Oakland senior leads the country this season with 4.4 3-pointers per game and is tied for the lead with 11 attempts per game.
For his career, Bader is the active leader in college basketball in both makes and attempts from behind the arc, with a career mark of 397-for-984, making him a career 40.3 percent long-range shooter.
“There can’t be any air space when we’re guarding him ‘cause he can fire it up from NBA range or anywhere,” Ferrell said. “We’ve just got to limit his touches, and that’s just going to be our key defensively in transition, just limiting his touches and taking away their offense.”
Follow reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.