Photo Credit: Illinois Sports Information Department

I'm still stuck on the Indiana shot chart. It's hours after the game ended and it's the only thing I'm thinking about. This wasn't just "the other team didn't make any threes." This was "the other team only made one shot longer than 15 feet from the basket." Before I can talk about anything else, I need to talk about that from 19 different angles.

This was... a field goal kicker whose range only extends to 29 yards. 30 or longer, gotta go for it. This was... a gambler who never plays more than the $5 blackjack table. This was... a hockey team that never takes a single slap shot and restricts itself to shots right at the net.

Wait, I've got it.

This was the guy you played in H.O.R.S.E. who never took a single shot longer than eight feet from the basket. You're over there trying your patented "bounced free throw but it has to go in off the backboard" and he's just trying to make 10 straight layups because he thinks you might only go 9-10. His odds of making any other shot are slim to none, so why even attempt something else? Just stick to shots eight feet and in.

I mean, that's this shot chart:

If you're not used to looking at shot charts, white circle means a missed shot, black circle means a made shot. And besides the one made shot inside the key in the first half by Anthony Walker (the black circle with the number "4"), Indiana didn't make a single shot beyond 15 feet. I'm so glad I landed on "this was a game of H.O.R.S.E. against that guy" because this is an exact shot chart from one kid in my neighborhood when we'd play H.O.R.S.E. years ago.

It's so strange to see that from a college basketball team in 2024. This is the era of four-out/one-in and they're saying "but what if we played three post scorers at once?" And by doing that, there's no offensive flow that gets good looks for their three point shooters. So a guy like Trey Galloway, who shot 46.2% from three for Indiana last year, is shooting 28% from three this year.

Maybe I should have been more clear earlier that my actual point here (besides the H.O.R.S.E. thing) is that Indiana didn't appear to be doing any kind of "we'll work the ball inside and if there's nothing there we'll kick it to open shooters" thing. Galloway wasn't getting any looks from three because the only time they could get a three is when they'd force it. Their whole offense appeared to simply be "we have post scorers, so we'll run some stuff to get entry passes or drives to the hoop and then every shot should be taken from eight feet and in."

When I noticed this early in the second half, I started tweeting about it...

...and I thought it was going to be just a first half anomaly. Something that was there after 23 minutes but wasn't going to be there after 40 minutes. Wrong. 23 minutes with only one made shot that wasn't from inside the paint, and in those final seventeen minutes... only one more made shot that wasn't inside the paint.

That's probably another way to look at this. Not just the distance of the shots, but the types of shots. Looking at that shot chart above, that one made shot from about 12 feet in the second half (center of the paint) wasn't even a jump shot. I believe that was the shot where Mgbako went up with a post move but realized he was pretty far from the basket so he flicked it really hard and it went in off the backboard. I do know that the shot from the wing (and the first half shot inside the key) were jumpers, but I think that's the only jump shots made the entire day.

I think I'll remember this game just for that. Indiana tried to play paintball the entire game. They made 25 shots in this game. 15 were layups, 2 were dunks, 6 were other post moves... and 2 jump shots.

You know, the core thing behind the entire game of basketball.

-> Sorry to spend half of this post talking about Indiana. But I still can't get over it. They didn't try to do the basketball part of basketball.

I guess I should note that, um, they almost won? It was tied 62-62 with 1:03 remaining when Terrence Shannon Jr. was fouled and went to the line. We didn't play well at all, we let this 1954 basketball team hang around and hang around, and we needed an 8-0 run in the final 63 seconds to salt it away.

Which probably means that we're officially in a slump. A rough patch in the Big Ten schedule. This week was "lost at Northwestern and then struggled with Indiana for 39 minutes." So yeah, this is not the same feeling as "beat FAU, stand toe-to-toe with Tennessee, and then blow Missouri out of the water." We're in a much rougher patch than December.

Why? I can't put my finger on it. Shots keep rolling off the rim. The "now we've really stepped on their throats" threes just won't fall. We feel confident... and then a team as bad as Indiana goes on a 13-0 run. Remember when I tweeted "let's go get that 2-seed" immediately after the Missouri game? I'm not feeling any of those vibes right now.

Maybe that's the best way to frame today. Missouri and Indiana are decently close on KenPom. As of this exact moment, Indiana is #94 and Missouri is #112. Two really bad teams. We destroyed Missouri on a neutral court; they didn't even belong on the same hardwood. And against a similar bad team in Indiana, we... were tied 62-62 with a minute left.

Hope we can fix the funk.

-> I declared on Twitter that Justin Harmon is MY GUY for this season. Love his game. Even on a day when he wasn't shooting well (2-9 from the floor), meaning he wasn't helping his own plus-minus, here's the full plus-minus listed in the final box score:

Harmon +24
Hawkins +10
Domask +10
Goode +8
Rodgers +8
DGL +3
Dainja -2
Moretti -4
Shannon -6
Guerrier -11

That's my guy!

-> The biggest compliment I can pay Marcus Domask:

He led the team in points, rebounds, and assists today. And no one seems to be talking about it because we expect it at this point. Even felt kind of like a so-so day for him. And he led the team in points, rebounds, and assists.

-> Brad Underwood has mentioned the difficulty of this stretch of games several times, both before this little gauntlet and during. I don't mean difficulty as in strength of opponent. Difficulty as in frequency.

As you might remember, while most Big Ten teams played two games in early December, we only played one. I believe the Jimmy V Classic game + the Tennessee game four days later took away our ability to schedule a second December conference games. This means we have 19 games between January 1 and the conference tournament, not 18.

Which is why we're in this difficult stretch that Underwood has been pointing to. Starting with the Michigan game last week, it's Michigan, then two days off before Rutgers, then two days off before Northwestern, then two days off before Indiana, then two days off before Ohio State (Tuesday evening in Columbus).

After Ohio State, though, we get four days off before Nebraska and then six days off before heading to Michigan State. January 18 to January 30: five games in 13 days. January 31 to February 10: two games in 11 days.

So I'm looking at this Ohio State game as extremely important. Win it (something we couldn't do Wednesday at Northwestern) and we go into that "two games in 11 days" stretch on a high. Lose it and it starts to feel a bit like last year where the road wins continue to evade us. My vote: we should try to win.

Also, we should try to make more than two jump shots because what Indiana did today (or failed to do today) is just insane.