BLOOMINGTON – Indiana did just what LIU Brooklyn wanted it to during the first half of the Hoosiers' 73-72 win Tuesday at Assembly Hall.
The Blackbirds (1-1) played a compact man-to-man defense and gave IU (2-0) some looks on the outside. LIU Brooklyn coach Jack Perri played the percentages and bet on the Hoosiers missing their jump shots.
And IU missed plenty.
"They had a lot of respect for our driving game. They had a lot of respect for our post game. They didn't have a lot of respect for our outside shooting game," IU coach Tom Crean said. "I don't blame them. And we were giving them the opportunity to gain confidence as the game went on."
The Hoosiers were 1 for 16 on 3-pointers in the first half, and the majority of them weren't taken by young players. Senior forward Will Sheehey (0 for 6), sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell (1 for 5) and graduate transfer Evan Gordon (0 for 4) all got lulled into taking what seemed like open looks.
IU was settling, and the shots weren't falling. The offense didn't have time to establish ball movement and get into a rhythm.
"After watching their film, I thought our best chance was to force them to shoot the 3 and crowd the paint," Perri said. "Their first game, they shot 55 free throws, and their players are so athletic and long that we thought we needed to force them to make shots. We did a really good job of that the first half."
In the second half, Crean and his staff adjusted. The first open shot wasn't always the best shot, they emphasized. Running the offense is priority No. 1.
"We needed to stick with plays," Crean said. "There were things that we wanted to do to get the ball reversed two, three times, get it inside so we can get our paint game established. That frees up more movement offensive rebounding-wise."
That got Sheehey into the flow of the game. He finished with 19 points and was 3 for 5 on 3s after getting just four points and missing all eight of his shots in the first half.
The senior also had six assists, seven rebounds and three steals. He played the entire second half and finished with 37 minutes.
"You got to realize the game plan and what the game's giving you," Sheehey said. "Our team played at a whole different level once we kind of figured out where the game was going. We settled, obviously – including myself – too early on. They were short-closing us, they were daring us to shoot, and we shot it, which isn't what you should do."
Ferrell finished with 17 points, three assists and four rebounds and was 2 for 3 on 3-pointers in the second half. He and Sheehey will likely be the go-to shooters on a team that lost four players who shot 44 percent or better from beyond the arc last season.
There will be other contributors, too, all less proficient in the offense and not as consistent as Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo became.
But Ferrell is not worried. Although the struggles made for a close game Tuesday, this team will improve.
"I'm not concerned with it at all," he said. "This pretty much is just a growing process, and I know these are shots that guys can knock down because in practice, they're knocking them down all the time. Maybe it was just an off night, you know, and that's OK.
"We're all going to get in the gym, get extra shots up."