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Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of this body of work.
Despite a loss on the road to Illinois on Thursday, Indiana’s basketball team is putting together a solid case that it might be around on April 8 at the Georgia Dome.
The win Sunday at Ohio State was the Hoosiers’ first road win against a Top 10 team since Dec. 5, 2000, when they beat Notre Dame 86-78.
Indiana leads the country with five wins against Top 25 teams (North Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State).
Victor Oladipo, who has 56, is chasing the team’s single-season steals record. He is chasing a guy you might have heard of, Isiah Thomas, who had 74 during the 1980-81 season.
Perhaps all of that explains why Indiana stayed in the No. 1 spot Monday despite that 74-72 loss to Illinois. Even so, people are grumbling about the in-bounds play with nine-tenths of a second remaining as Illinois’ Tyler Griffey worked free all alone under the basket to score a game-winning layup.
That defensive gaffe is easy to explain. Captain Kirk beamed Griffey to that open spot on the floor.
You’re not laughing?
OK, there is reason to worry, since Butler beat the Hoosiers in the final second when walk-on Alex Barlow dribbled into the paint and scored on a jumper. That’s an area that needs some work.
That being said, Indiana’s troubles late in games has more to do with offense.
Yes, you read that right. Offense.
Illinois cut the gap on Indiana on Thursday with some ridiculous outside shooting, throwing up 3-pointers that went down from NBA distance with a hand in the face. It happens.
The disconcerting side of that equation was that the Hoosiers, the nation’s best offensive team, stopped scoring. Illinois went on a 13-2 run during the final 3:36.
You don’t have to be Bobby Knight to understand that Indiana’s offense changes in the final minutes of close games.
With a tip of the hat to the “prevent victory defense” used primarily by NFL teams, we can call this the “prevent victory offense.”
The concept is much the same. In the NFL’s “prevent victory defense,” you throw out the plan you have utilized the rest of the day to hold the opponent to nine points and 160 total yards. You move your defensive backs way off the line of scrimmage, and you rush fewer defensive linemen so guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have lots of time to pick a target.
In basketball’s “prevent victory offense,” you have a lead late in the game because your ball motion on offense has been outstanding. You have whipped it around from the player to player until the opponent gambles and leaves you with a lane right to the rim. In the final minutes, though, it’s time for a guard to dribble just inside half-court until 25 seconds of the 35-second shot clock have ticked away.
The result of this is that now you have 10 seconds to run your offense, which means the guard is likely to dribble into the teeth of the defense and force up a shot. At the most, you might get one pass off before somebody fires an ill-advised shot.
The opponent gets a stop, grows in confidence and drills a 3 at the other end. Your bench players watch their bench players jump to their feet and wave towels over their heads. I’m not really sure what role the towel part plays, but it is repeated all across the country, so it must be important.
It takes a strong will to buck the “prevent victory offense” trend.
The advice, therefore, is rather simple for this very special Hoosiers team. Grow some muscles, Indiana. Do what you do best ... to the buzzer.
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