At the base of IU’s defensive communication is a system IU Coach Tom Crean calls “echoing” When a Hoosier calls a play or a defensive switch, everyone that hears the call repeats it. That way, everyone knows who’s accounted for on defense.
Heading into tonight’s matchup against Pittsburgh, the echo hasn’t been there, and it’s causing IU’s defense to struggle.
“Nobody is doing a good job of that,” Crean said. “Our echo and communication is not good enough. We have to get it fixed quickly.”
IU (5-1) will have its chance to fix its defensive problems tonight when the Hoosiers play the Pittsburgh Panthers at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall as part of the 16th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Pittsburgh (4-2) provides IU with another opportunity to put an upset loss to Eastern Washington behind, while adding a marquee win against a Pittsburgh program ranked No. 110 in ESPN’s RPI projections.
The game marks Pittsburgh’s first visit to Bloomington in 73 years, but Crean doesn’t need playing history to know what to expect out of Pittsburgh tonight.
“They get up in you,” Crean said. “They’re very aggressive defensively. It’s going to be different, to say the least, for our young guards on this team the way that they’ll be pressured especially in the half court with the defensive abilities that they have.”
But Indiana’s offense hasn’t been the problem. IU’s 88.5 points per game is the sixth best in the country.
Where IU has struggled early on is on the defensive end, which Crean has repeatedly said needs to improve.
Through six games, IU is allowing 72.7 points per game, ranking 269th in the nation. In the last three contests, IU has allowed just shy of 80 points per outing.
What’s bothered Crean the most about his defense, he said, is the way IU has been beat. The Hoosiers haven’t been able to keep up with its opponents’ tendencies, allowing teams to beat them multiple ways.
After allowing 98 points in the paint against Lamar and Eastern Washington, IU allowed 42 points to UNCG off of 14 3-pointers.
Sophomore forward Collin Hartman blamed communication. The players know what to say, but echoes aren’t always being heard.
“I think our coaches do a good job of getting us prepared mentally with the game plan, what guys tendencies are,” Hartman said. “I think we just need to carry it out more on the court by communicating more, just more definitive ?communication.”
The Panthers are led by sophomore Michael Young who is averaging a team-leading 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot-9 forward will be up against an IU frontcourt facing questions of its own with junior Hanner Mosquera-Perea having mixed success early on.
Crean admitted that it isn’t realistic to believe the team, which is 60 percent first-year IU players, will immediately be able to become a better ?defensively.
The tests are only going to become more frequent after tonight with Louisville, Butler and Georgetown all on the horizon for IU. But tonight will be another challenge.
“For us right now, we’ve got some freshmen that we need their sophomore year to come a little bit quicker,” Crean said. “Like, tomorrow.”