BLOOMINGTON – This game was supposed to be a step up in competition for Indiana. For the first six minutes, it didn't look like it would be. The Hoosiers blitzed Marquette out of the gate, hounding Markus Howard everywhere he went on the floor and forcing four turnovers in those first half-dozen minutes. When some shots started falling from the outside, the Assembly Hall crowd got revved up and it got incredibly loud here. Indiana opened a 19-4 lead and hit six straight shots during one juncture. Marquette crept back into the game as the half wore on, but the first electrifying stretch gave a glimpse of what these Hoosiers are capable of. Indiana is shooting 65 percent from the field.
The revelation in the first half has been forward Evan Fitzner. The transfer from St. Mary's has been Indiana's best threat from the outside, knocking in a trio of 3-pointers. He has 13 points overall. Juwan Morgan and Aljami Durham have also hit from beyond the arc, which is a crucial development after the Hoosiers struggled from deep in their first two games. Marquette has been good at defending on the perimeter this season, but Indiana's drive-and-dish game has been exquisite tonight, with some great passing from several players. The 3-pointers have opened up the lane for Indiana's slashers and Romeo Langford in particular has been able to get to the basket often. He's got 15 in the first half.
The defense has been tremendous for the Hoosiers all night. They're rotating well and not giving Marquette anything easy. The game-plan to shut down Howard has worked extremely well. Facing double teams, Howard turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes and has just seven points on nine shots after averaging 26 points in Marquette's first two games. Indiana has been good in both on-ball defense and at team help, forcing the Golden Eagles into difficult shots. The only Marquette player who has been able to hit with any regularity has been 6-foot-8 forward Sam Hauser, who has 14 points and is draining shots from every angle. Of course, with Howard bottled up, some other Golden Eagle was bound to pick up some of the slack, so it's unlikely Indiana will re-orient its defense around stopping Hauser in the second half.
The Hoosiers have also continued to be prolific in forcing turnovers and creating scoring opportunities from them. Marquette has already turned the ball over seven times, most of which are live-ball turnovers that lead to easy opportunities for the Hoosiers on the other end. Indiana had 53 points off turnovers in its first two games and it seems defense-to-offense chances will continue to be consistent source of points.
The young Hoosiers have not been intimidated in this one, though few thought they would be. If anything, they have played like the more mature, confident team, working the ball around for good shots and pressuring the ball at all times on defense. These Hoosiers have a chance to be really, really good. Right now, we're getting a taste of just how good they can be.