I'm making an executive decision and chopping three things from the list for the Lehigh game. There won't always be nine things I'll be looking for each game but I'll peg the minimum at six for each. Now, after that bit of housekeeping, the Hoos return to the court at high noon Saturday against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at JPJ.
StLouHoo will likely explain that Lehigh is overmatched and detail why in his guaranteed to be excellent game preview. I suspect we'll be able to do what we please. Here's what I'll be looking for.
A Quick Start On Offense
There are no excuses if the Hoos start slowly here. None. I'll be severely disappointed if this one doesn't fall in the quick start row in my counter.
Quick Start Counter
Quick Start: Austin Peay, VCU, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin
Not A Quick Start: UNCG, Monmouth, Rhode Island
Quick Starts: 4 for 7 or 57%
Operation Get Ty On Track
Ty Jerome is having a bit of a problem getting his season on track. Ty missed time during the preseason, reportedly due to a minor foot injury. There are also reports that he tweaked an ankle against Rhode Island which limited his effectiveness against the Rams and then against Wisconsin earlier this week. These minor, nagging injuries are manifesting themselves into premature whispers of a sophomore slump.
Against Wisconsin, Ty was 2 for 11 from the field, including 0 for 4 from three. He had only one assist against three turnovers. He did chip in five rebounds, however.
Against Rhode Island, Ty was 1 for 3 from the field, including 0 for 1 from three. He had only one assist against two turnovers. He also had seven rebounds, second on the team behind Jack Salt's eight.
Vanderbilt and VCU were excellent games for Ty. Monmouth and UNCG were not. I'm going to overlook Austin Peay because he only played fifteen minutes, less than any non walk-on besides Jack Salt.
With a trip to Morgantown looming Tuesday night and conference season quickly approaching, it's imperative that the Hoos feature a confident, efficient, capable Ty Jerome. It appears that confidence could be part of Ty's issues. Against Wisconsin, that really seemed to be the case.
In a game that the Hoos should dominate, if I were Tony Bennett I would call Ty's number early and often with the goal sending his confidence soaring into the matchup with the Mountaineers.
Play The Bench, A Lot
Per the section above, I'd give Ty Jerome as many minutes as he can handle against Lehigh. All the other starters would be on light duty. The Hoos are going to win this game. In the grand scheme of things, the margin of victory is irrelevant. What's not irrelevant is getting players like De'Andre Hunter, Jay Huff, Mamadi Diakite, and Marco Anthony extended court time.
Hunter and Diakite are part of the eight man rotation already but will be counted on to play major minutes beginning next season as the most likely replacements for Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins. Huff and Anthony are getting not much more than spot minutes right now. Time on the court in real games will only enhance their learning curve and reinforce what they learn in practice.
With games against Lehigh, Savannah State, and Hampton coming soon, the Hoos have their last guaranteed chances to get their deep bench major minutes. An added bonus will be limiting the wear and tear on the top of the rotation players. The Hoos must take advantage of the opportunity.
Dominate The Boards
The cliche is that rebounding is all about effort. And against Lehigh that should largely be true. The Hoos are coming off a game where they won the battle of the offensive and defensive boards against Wisconsin.
By design, the Hoos don't crash the offensive boards, instead electing to get back on defense to prevent transition baskets. Wisconsin was also one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country heading into the matchup. That the Hoos won the battle of offensive boards against the Badgers was nearly as surprising as the Badgers 37 points at the final buzzer.
It's also been well documented here that the Hoos have not been a great defensive rebounding team this season. Per TeamRankings, they currently rank 102nd out of 351 Division One teams. That number is certainly improving after a much slower start but there's still some improvement to be squeezed out of the team.
Lehigh is a poor rebounding team. Per TeamRankings, the Mountain Hawks rank 310th in offensive rebounding percentage (20%) and 251st in defensive rebounding percentage (70.2%). The Hoos should look to impose their will on the boards and show that the Wisconsin game was no fluke. If the team wants it, the path to an easy victory is right there in the battles for rebounds.
Get To The Line
A constant refrain among fans last season was lamenting the lack of free throw attempts game after game. During the 2016-2017 season, the Hoos attempted 474 free throws, 344th most in the country. During conference season, the Hoos attempted the fewest free throws in the league. This season, the Hoos have attempted 102 free throws which ranks 311th in the country.
Against Wisconsin, the Hoos did not attempt a free throw. That was a first for a program that dates back to the 1905-1906 season.
For a team that occasionally struggles to score and takes heat in the national media for their offensive output, the Hoos need to find a way to be better at getting to the line. The team is leaving points on the court, especially since they're currently one of the better free throw shooting teams in the country at 81.4% per Sports-Reference. That's good for 4th in the country.
I'm setting the over-under against Lehigh at a twenty attempts. Against UNCG (24), Austin Peay (24), Monmouth (21), and Rhode Island (22) the Hoos hit that benchmark. Against VCU (5), Vanderbilt (6), and Wisconsin (0) they were woefully short.
Three Point Shooting
The Hoos are shooting 37.6% from three on the season, good for 88th in Division 1 per Sports-Reference. It feels like the team is in a bit of a slump though. In their last four games, they are 22 for 61 (36.1%), not far off their season average. In the last four games, Kyle Guy is only 7 for 20 (35.0%) from three. That's definitely a small slump for a career 47.8% three point shooter.
I've already touched on Ty Jerome above. But I'm also looking for Guy, Nigel Johnson, and De'Andre Hunter to have a successful shooting day from deep as they all need a positive outing.
Lehigh's defense should cooperate if that's the gameplan instituted by Coach Bennett. KenPom has their Adjusted Defense Efficiency as 220th in the country. Per TeamRankings, Lehigh allows opponents to make 36.5% of their three point attempts, 227th in the country.
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