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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU shows renewed dedication to defense

Lost in the chaos of IU’s stunning upset over the nation’s No. 10 team, underneath the steady stream of 3-pointers and raucous Assembly Hall crowd, a Hoosier squad that had seen star opponent after star opponent score almost at will grew up.

Coming into Sunday’s 63-52 victory over Michigan, IU had allowed big points to nearly every opposing star player. Michigan State’s Gary Harris scored 50 in his two games against IU; Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice tallied 49 in his two matchups; Penn State’s D.J. Newbill scored 24 and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford recorded 17 points in Bloomington.

Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III entered Assembly Hall on Sunday averaging 31.8 points per game between them. Stauskas, a sophomore guard from Ontario, Canada, was the third-leading scorer in Big Ten play, tallying an average of 18.6 points per game against conference opponents.

The two had carried Michigan offensively, leading the Wolverines to eight consecutive Big Ten wins and 10 straight overall.

That changed Sunday.

With sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell guarding Stauskas and freshman forward Noah Vonleh on Robinson III, the two Wolverines combined to score only 15 points while shooting 5-15 from the field. As a team, Michigan shot just 40 percent from the field and struggled even more from long range: 3-13 on 3-point attempts.

Michigan Coach John Beilein said IU’s defensive play prevented his team from finding an offensive flow.

“We didn’t get many good shots today and credit their defense,” he said. “They played really good defense. Part plan, part long, athletic kids that were very quick on us.”

The Hoosiers’ performance highlighted their renewed devotion to defense.

After allowing 80, 73, 76 and 72 points in its first four Big Ten games, IU has smothered its last five opponents, allowing 56.6 points per game over that stretch. That defensive performance has allowed IU to go 2-3 in those games despite scoring only 57.4 points per game.

Vonleh said the Hoosiers’ defensive prowess has been a result of a return to fundamentals.

“We’re just trying to go to the best matchups, be sound, move our feet, talk and communicate, and just play defense really well,” he said.

In response to Vonleh, graduate student guard Evan Gordon added that IU’s mental philosophy on the defensive end helped shut down the Wolverine attack.

“I think the key was the communication throughout the game,” Gordon said. “Guys stepped up and made sure that we covered our matchups and did our concepts that we wanted to get to in our game, and you know, we kept our chest in front so they weren’t driving many lanes. I think we did a good job with it.”

As the Hoosiers move deeper into Big Ten play, their commitment to defense will be tested even further. Seven of the conference’s top 10 scorers remain on IU’s regular-season schedule, including a rematch with Stauskas, Robinson III and the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich., March 8.

For IU Coach Tom Crean, his team’s energy and ability to stay committed will prove vital to whether its improvement on the defensive end remains.

“I think energy wears itself a lot of different ways,” he said. “I think it comes in the activity that you have with your hands, I think it’s the moving feet.

“The hardest thing for any of them is that you’ve got to continue to play through it when you’re not having a great game offensively or you’re not getting that confidence from your shot. But the hard part defensively is that every game is different, and you have to understand how that other team wants to win. Today, we understood it for the entire game, and we were successful.”

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