DEFENSE. INDIANA’S IDENTITY? doubled up the coverage of Friday night’s game against Montana State with both myself (@chriscorley_3) and Ben Malcomson (@malcomsonben) on hand. It was pretty clear early on that Montana State would not be much of a test for the Hoosiers, but still, the opportunity to see how IU would attack their zone was intriguing to me.

Although IU has some guys capable of knocking down some three point shots, at this point in the season it’s not something that they can hang their hat on. So instead, the Hoosiers patiently worked the ball around, found the seams in the zone, and got the ball inside to Juwan Morgan and Justin Smith, and let them go to work.

Rob Phinisee and Evan Fitzner seem to be the most consistent deep threats thus far, but they aren’t limited to just that either. Fitzner, the fifth year transfer from St. Mary’s has also showed, not only a willingness to mix it up in the paint, but also some effectiveness in there. I know there were some questions about him when he signed with Indiana, but he has been a welcome addition early on.

Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan probably have to be considered to be the engine for this team, and rightfully so. Therefore, I believe that Phinisee has to be considered the key that starts that engine. This young man has an amazing amount of poise for a freshman. There isn’t one aspect of being a point guard that he doesn’t do well already, which excites me for the future because he is only going to get better. He defends, he directs the offense, he takes care of the ball, he gets to the rim, and he’s shown the ability to knock down the open shot when it presents itself. His court awareness is at a pretty high level for a freshman as well.

As the game wore on the Hoosiers ability to defend at a high level for an extended period of time stood out to me the most. No, Montana State didn’t come in as an offensive juggernaut, but they did score 71 points in their first game of the season. And anytime you hold a Division I basketball team to 35 points, then you can defend…period. Your offense will struggle at times, it just will. But being a team that makes it extremely hard to score against will keep you in those games and give you a chance to win when it does happen. I personally think that IU’s length, athleticism, depth, and team speed give them all the tools needed to be a very good defensive team, especially with what they’ve shown thus far.

They seem willing to play “D” and seem to understand that they not only have to, but that they can. They are really starting to take on Coach Miller’s personality on that end of the floor and that is a good thing…for them, but not so much for opponents going forward.

The competition ramps up starting next Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against Marquette, and due to Marquette’s offensive ability, that defense will be put to the test. I think it will answer the bell and be up for the challenge. Hoosiers-United (@hoosiers-united) will be there to see if it does.