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COLUMN: IU has finally turned the corner


Freshman forward Clifton Moore blocks a shot against Northwestern on Sunday evening in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU defeated Northwestern, 66-46, to move to 11-7 on the season. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

The mentality has officially changed for IU after its lockdown defensive effort against Northwestern.

The Hoosiers held the Wildcats to just 26.8-percent shooting, forced 17 turnovers and only trailed for 20 seconds on Sunday evening.

Long gone are the days where the Hoosiers relied solely on offensive production to win games, and it feels like this team has finally turned the corner in working out its kinks on defense.

At the end of the offseason, we expected IU to be a stout defensive unit, or at least resemble any sort of that when it faced Indiana State. The biggest issue that was supposed to be addressed by IU Coach Archie Miller and his staff was on the defensive side of the ball, and he had to do it with most of Tom Crean's unit from last season. 

That idea fell flat fast after the embarrassment against Indiana State and the second half collapse at Seton Hall as well.

Obviously, this team wasn’t going to have all of its problems solved from day one, but the excitement was so high coming into the season that IU was expected to already have all of its problems fixed within a few months.

Now IU has shown what they are capable of. A strong, defensive unit that has multiple ball hawks on the floor at any given stretch. It took some time, but this team has it figured out defensively, and it has shown within the past three games.

The Hoosiers shot just 30-percent from the field in the first half, yet IU was able to go into the break with the lead because of hustle, defensive rotations and on-ball pressure.

IU played without its best player, junior forward Juwan Morgan, for 18 of the total 20 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

Freshman forward Justin Smith only played six minutes in the first period because of the same issue, but yet IU still found a way to hold the lead going into the halftime break.

Two key pieces down low for IU were forced out of most of the first period, yet the rest of the crew filled the void, and kept a consistent performance on defense.

The scoring production wasn’t there for the Hoosiers initially, but they did all of the right things outside of that. IU still played a hard, defensive game for its entirety and stayed consistent on that end until shots started to fall in the second half.

That is what fans are going to expect from here on out, and that’s what they are going to get as long as IU stays mentally strong. Even against more prominent teams, the Hoosiers have shown this defensive prowess and have proven that they can stick with the best.

Take IU’s meeting with Duke back on November 29 for example. Sophomore forward De’Ron Davis picked up two fouls quickly into the start of that game, and Morgan was forced to be the playmaker down low without his usual compatriot.

He played exceptionally, especially on defense.

The signs of improvement were there early in the season, but now this team has a different feel around it. You can no longer say this team has almost reached its potential because they’ve already fulfilled that expectation. The only thing left for this team to prove is identical performances like these against ranked teams.

IU couldn’t have picked a better time to step up its defensive productivity either with a tough six-game stretch coming up. A pair of matchups with Michigan State are on the horizon for IU, and other tough games against Ohio State and Purdue await the Hoosiers as well. In order to come out of that gauntlet without too many scratches, IU will have to play with an identical mindset as today.

The Hoosiers are going to have to feed off its defense in order to get the most out of its offense on the other side of the court. They showed why this is the case against Northwestern, with multiple baskets coming off of transition baskets, which were opened up by forced turnovers. Plain and simple.

IU played the best defensive game of the season against Northwestern, and it finally looks like it has turned the corner.

It’s time to stop saying that IU is a terrible defensive unit. You could've said that at the beginning of the season, but adjustments throughout the year have changed that. This team has a different identity than past seasons, and that’s a good thing.

Shooting can be off on some nights, but a team's defensive drive should be there every game. That has to be the case for the Hoosiers from here on out.


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