FORT WAYNE – Indiana needs to finish when it takes the ball to the basket.
The Hoosiers (12-7, 2-4 Big Ten) enter today’s home game against Illinois (13-7, 2-5) on a two-game losing streak in part because they failed to make layups against No. 3 Michigan State and Northwestern.
We work harder and harder on that, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said during a teleconference Friday. We concentrate on the fundamentals as much as possible on that; nothing has changed on that from the beginning of the season. I think what happens is, because of the length and athleticism in this league, it is a lot easier said than done.
We are the same team that made a ton of layups and close shots in the Wisconsin game a little over a week ago. But it is all part of the game and all you can do is continue to build their skills and help them build their concentration.
IU feasted on going to the basket when it upset then-No. 3 Wisconsin 75-72 at home Jan. 14. The Hoosiers connected on 18 of 31 layups, and they also had four dunks and a tip-in against the Badgers.
But in a 54-47 loss to Northwestern at home last Saturday, the Hoosiers made only eight of 29 layups and had a tip-in.
IU struggled with layups again in a 71-67 loss at No. 3 Michigan State on Tuesday, making 11 of 26. The Hoosiers did have two dunks against the Spartans.
Crean said a lot of the layup woes for his team, as well as others in the Big Ten, can be solved by players taking one more dribble to create the best angle possible.
For us, so many times it has been taking one more dribble, Crean said. We had a couple of tough shots at the basket the other day. The one thing you can’t do is throw the ball at the rim or the backboard and hope that it goes in. We had a couple of those moves in that span in the second half where Michigan State was getting a bunch of great looks and we were taking a couple of tough ones. Our intention of getting to the basket was good, but the fundamental of making the shot or making the next pass wasn’t as good. We have to outgrow that. That is youth and inexperience to be honest with you. It is really nothing more than that.
While the Hoosiers’ ability to make layups has come under scrutiny, Crean said he has seen plenty of growth from his team after opening Big Ten play with an 83-80 overtime loss at Illinois on Dec. 31.
We are trying to get across to them are two things: the best teams and best players make you pay for mistakes and the margin of error that you have in this league is so small, that’s why you have to keep your mistakes as minimal as possible and treat every possession as the most important possession in the game, Crean said.
Now that is very hard for a young team to get to, but I do think we are making strides in that area. I think our desire to compete to win, understanding more and more has been very strong and a lot better.