In the Zone- Split for Indiana at MSG

New York City-A four team tournament means only one finishes with an unblemished record. Given that, Indiana’s split in their recent Empire Classic appearance at Madison Square Garden was positive. On Sunday the Hoosiers could not stay with UConn. The Huskies earned an impressive 77-57 victory. The following day Indiana bounced back, defeating Louisville 74-66 to exit the big Apple on an upbeat note.

The victory over Louisville was made possible by a switch to a zone defense. Yes, a zone defense for the traditionally man to man Hoosiers.

Midway through the second half, Kenny Payne’s Louisville Cardinals appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Then Indiana coach Mike Woodson went to a 2-3 zone and the game changed.

"We couldn’t stop their step up pick and roll," Woodson said. "It (going zone) was the right thing to do." The first half especially saw Indiana late with weak side help against penetration. The zone solved that dilemma and more.

It completely caught Louisville off guard. Their offense became stagnant while the Hoosiers on their end came to life. "Their zone forced us too far out," Payne said. "We became passive and made poor choices against the zone."

The zone was instrumental in Indiana putting together a 13-0 game changing run. Payne admitted it completely threw him off guard. Woodson said, it was something that’s always been in our back pocket. It really helped us tonight."

Woodson was pleased with the tournament overall. He emphasized how his group maintained resiliency. "We got beat by 20 on Sunday," he said. "I tip my hat off to UConn. But we bounced back. After that loss our guys could have folded (the next night) and they didn’t."

Teams should not totally rely on three pointers. In today’s college game it’s a necessity to have some proficiency from beyond the arc. Indiana shot 1 of 11 from downtown. In the two games they were 4 of 24 for a 17% mark. Asked what he plans to do about the three point, Woodson simply responded, "keep working."

Xavier Johnson led Indiana with 14 points in the consolation game.

Malik Reneau gave UConn problems in the semis with a game high 18 points. Against Louisville the 6’9" sophomore was constantly double teamed inside. Reneau that add 12 points, including some big ones at crunch time.

Kel’el Ware, Indiana’s 7-foot sophomore hit for double digits both games. Ware scored 11 against UConn and 12 versus Louisville. Ware was 0-3 at the rim against UConn’s imposing frontcourt. His numbers from that range were 3-4 in the consolation. The IU big man did hit a few mid range shots in that Louisville contest.

Numbers wise….Indiana’s offensive efficiency was 85 against UConn and 115 defensively- a -30 efficiency margin.

Louisville game metrics were much better and the Hoosiers posted a 101 offensive efficiency and 90 on the defensive side for a +11 margin.

Next up for Mike Woodson & co., a home date Sunday against Harvard.

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