BLOOMINGTON – Archie Miller wanted Indiana to be better on defense. After the South Dakota State game, he said that was his biggest area of concern at this point in the season. The Hoosiers seem to have taken his criticism to heart. Against Florida State, a good-if-not-great offensive team, Indiana had one of its best defensive stretches of the season to this point in the first half tonight.
Miller had specificially wanted the Hoosiers to be better at on-ball defense, an area where Indiana has been handicapped because of the absence of its best backcourt defender, Robert Phinisee. Phinisee is out again tonight and in a walking boot, but the Hoosiers have done the job on the perimeter without him, keeping Florida State out of the lane for the most part and forcing some extremely difficult shots. The Seminoles are shooting 50% at halftime, but are only 2 for 8 from 3 and few of their baskets have been easy. What has been impressive for Indiana is that the defense has been solid on the ball and in help. Indiana's rotations were impeccable for most of the half and whoever was handling the ball for Florida State always seemed to have 1 1/2 defenders to deal with. The key stretch was a 5:36 span early in the game in which FSU had a string of eight possessions that ended in five missed field goals and three turnovers while Indiana went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. The Assembly Hall crowd is known for recognizing defensive effort and it was in mid-season form tonight, sending up several sustained roars when Florida State was forced to pass the ball around for 25 seconds because the Hoosiers were so disciplined defensively.
The Indiana offense has been pretty impressive, as well. It's not really the number of points the Hoosiers have scored that is encouraging, it's how they've scored those points: nearly all of them have come in the half-court. Indiana has made a living in transition this season, getting out and running off of turnovers. That's fine when it works, but the Hoosiers have struggled at times to come up with points when opponents do a better job of taking care of the ball and force Indiana to run some sets. Tonight, the Hoosiers have just nine points in transition and have moved the ball well in the half-court. Florida State's aggressive perimeter defense has been a little too aggressive at times, picking up some silly fouls and helping put the Hoosiers at the foul line, but when Indiana has had to run half-court offense, it hasn't looked quite as disjointed as it has in previous games. Armaan Franklin has been better with the ball in his hands after Miller said the freshman had lost a little bit of confidence and Devonte Green has been a sparkplug as always with 14 points, hitting three 3s in a row during one outstanding stretch. Even better, the Hoosiers have only turned the ball over six times (despite a bad pass turnover on the very first possession of the night). Green, who has had a rough couple of games taking care of the ball is at three assists and zero turnovers.
This hasn't been a dominant performance from the Hoosiers, but in their first game against a ranked opponent this young team – with an assist from veterans Green and Joey Brunk – has gone toe-to-toe with the Seminoles and made life difficult for the visitors. Assembly Hall is rocking again and Archie Miller is seeing a lot of what he's been asking for all season. Now the task is to sustain this intensity after halftime, which the Hoosiers were unable to do against South Dakota State and Louisiana Tech.