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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

How IU men's basketball has contained high-scoring guards this season

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The statistics behind IU's 15-point road loss at Purdue last weekend reveal the continuation of a pattern of solid defense against elite scoring guards by the Hoosiers.

While IU's fourth consecutive loss was marked by infrequent scoring and a lack of second-half energy, it also featured a solid defensive showing against Purdue junior guard Carsen Edwards.

For the 2018-19 season, Edwards averages nearly 25 points per contest. Against IU, he scored just 20 points and had an inconsistent shooting game, missing 12 shots including seven 3-pointers.

"He's always moving, so it's kind of difficult to guard him," IU sophomore forward Justin Smith said. "That constant motion is hard to guard off the ball too."

Edwards wasn't the first — and won't be the last — high-scoring guard the Hoosiers play this season.

Of the 18 games IU has played, 11 have featured an opponent with a guard who averages 15 points or more per game. In eight of those 11 contests, IU has limited that guard to less points than his season average. 

The Hoosiers have gone 5-3 in those games.

IU's most notable defensive success came last November against Marquette University junior guard Markus Howard, who scored only 18 points in IU's 96-73 win.

That lockdown defense played on Howard came from IU freshman guard Rob Phinisee, who also contributed to limiting Edwards' performance last Saturday.

Phinisee was also a central figure when IU kept the leading scoring guards from Chicago State University, Montana State University and the University of Arkansas in check earlier this season.

But even in games when IU has limited the scoring from opposing guards, those players have found other ways to contribute. Arkansas sophomore guard Mason Jones scored just 11 points but dished out a season-high seven assists, to help power the Razorbacks to a one-point win against the Hoosiers.

The same scenario played out Jan. 3 as Illinois sophomore guard Trent Frazier scored 11 points, but distributed six assists, as the Fighting Illini rode the strong interior play of freshman forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili to a near-upset win at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“I also thought we did a decent job on him, just keeping him for the most part in front of us,” IU Head Coach Archie Miller said after the Illinois game about defending Frazier. “We stopped him early and didn’t allow him to get to the line.”

Most recently, Edwards' sluggish shooting day against IU came as he matched his season high with seven assists, frequently feeding the ball to Purdue sophomore center Matt Haarms and freshman forward Trevion Williams.

The performance from Edwards came on the heels of similar showings from Maryland junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and Nebraska senior guard James Palmer Jr.

Cowan Jr. had a season-high seven assists along with 24 points in Maryland's win against IU, while Palmer Jr. nearly achieved a triple-double during Nebraska's win in Bloomington.

In short, scoring numbers are down for guards when they play IU because of solid defense from players like Phinisee, redshirt senior guard Zach McRoberts and freshman guard Romeo Langford. 

IU is also an athletic team that can prevent continuous drives to the rim for easy buckets, and the Hoosiers can also close out on three-point attempts as well.

But, because of its lack of size on the interior near the basket, opposing guards are finding success against the Hoosiers by commanding attention with movement, passing the ball inside and having forwards out muscle IU's players for points in the paint.

This approach from Miller's team has had some success this season, but with IU desperate for wins and facing an upcoming Big Ten schedule which does it no favors, it remains to be seen if the wins from limiting opposing guards will continue.

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