BOZICH | Indiana uses defense -- Yes, Defense! -- to rally past - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana uses defense -- Yes, Defense! -- to rally past Notre Dame

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IU's Troy Williams (5) drives around Zach Auguste in IU's 80-73 win over Notre Dame. (Jamie Owens photo.) IU's Troy Williams (5) drives around Zach Auguste in IU's 80-73 win over Notre Dame. (Jamie Owens photo.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) – You could hear the fans grumble about the Indiana University basketball team Saturday afternoon at Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse.

When Notre Dame guards crackled past IU defenders for layups, dunks, cookies and milk. When Troy Williams launched one of his trademark degree of difficulty-added, contested, stumbling, off-balance shots.

When the Hoosiers mostly watched the Fighting Irish score on their first seven possessions of the second half and surge to a 16-point lead.

“There were probably some people at home that turned the game off,” said Indiana guard Robert Johnson.

Probably?

If you were one of those people, this is what you missed: The grandest comeback of the eight-season Tom Crean Era.

The Hoosiers (9-3) played an effective, determined and active 2-3 zone defense that enabled them to outscore Notre Dame 17-2 over the final 6 ½ minutes.

Behind 56-40, Indiana won 80-73.

Pigs flew. The nation's 107th most efficient defense shut down the third most efficient offense..

For most of the second half, it appeared that Crean’s team was determined to wobble into Big Ten play with their most impressive victory recorded as a moral victory.

Not now.

They whipped Notre Dame on the glass, pounding the offensive end for 20 boards. They defended the three-point line. They made half of their 20 three-point attempts. They eliminated turnovers in the second half.

They beat a Top 40 opponent that returns three starters from Mike Brey’s Elite Eight team of a year ago, a Notre Dame squad that beat Iowa on a neutral floor earlier this season.

Before Crean’s team climbed on the bus for the ride to Bloomington, the Hoosiers had jumped from 26th to 23th in Ken Pomeroy’s national computer power rankings. That’s only fifth in the Big Ten, but it’s progress.

“It’s hard to stop them in man-to-man because they come at you so hard,” Brey said. “I thought Indiana earned it.”

“We’ve been really focused on being aggressive on defense,” said IU forward Collin Hartman. “You can’t do that if you don’t get stops.”

For 25 minutes, Indiana wasn’t getting stops. Late in the first half, the Irish were making nearly 70 percent of their field-goal attempts. The grumbling inside the IU fan sections was audible at halftime even after Notre Dame missed a layup at the buzzer that would have put the Irish up 12.

This is how Notre Dame started the second half: Zach Auguste layup; V.J. Beachem three-pointer; Beachem dunk; Auguste layup; Auguste layup; Bonzie Colson jumper; Auguste layup.

Seven shots. Seven baskets.

There are many ways to win a basketball game, but I’ve never seen a team succeed when the opposing team makes 100 percent of its shots.

“That’s how you get better,” Crean said. “You learn how to get better inside the game. It usually comes the old-fashioned way, on the defensive end.”

After making 24 of their first 39 shots (61.5 percent), Notre Dame missed 18 of its final 26 (30.8). Crean has never been gaga about playing a zone defense. The Hoosiers failed to play a zone effectively when they lost a pair of games in Maui.

But the zone, a 2-3 that looked like a 1-3-1 at times, worked against Notre Dame, especially when Crean subbed Troy Williams, James Blackmon and Thomas Bryant, replacing them with freshman O.G. Anunoby, Nick Zeisloft and Hartman.

“The zone kind of slowed us down a little bit,” said Beachem.

“It was the rotations and the communication that made it look different,” Hartman said.

The offense took care of itself. It usually does for the Hoosiers.

Anunoby had a thunderous put back of an offensive rebound that Williams described as the play of the game. That cut the Notre Dame lead to 71-66.

Williams attacked the glass for a layup. Ferrell made a three. After trailing for more than 28 minutes, the Hoosiers were finally tied with 4:13 play.

After that, Notre Dame looked like an exhausted team that only got three points from its bench and Indiana closed like a team that burned away the summer conditioning in a sand pit that was constructed outside Assembly Hall.

Credit Williams with another double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds), his second in the last three games. ESPN analyst Dan Dakich congratulated him after the game, calling him the best player on the floor. Johnson ignored a tender ankle to score 17, his season high.

Somebody asked Williams if the comeback win eased the bile created by Indiana’s losses to Wake Forest, UNLV or Duke.

“I would say, ‘No,’ “ Williams said. “Those are still Ls for us. But it’s a step forward.”

The Hoosiers will play their final non-league game Tuesday night against Kennesaw State, the team Louisville blasted by 37 last week. If you look at the Big Ten schedule, Pomeroy projects the Hoosiers to win their first seven games in the Big Ten.

“You can bottle it up and it becomes who you are or you can forget about it and it becomes a one-game win,” Crean said.

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