Tennessee women’s basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summit once said, "Offense sells tickets and defense wins games." This quote can be connected to No. 4 seed Syracuse's 60-51 victory against No. 1 Indiana on Thursday night. The Orange used their 2-3 zone defense to suffocate the Hoosiers' offense and win the game.
Throughout the season, the Hoosiers have met a variety of defenses that troubled them at times. But nothing prepared this team for the 2-3 zone. The main reason why it was so difficult was because of the Orange's length and athleticism, especially with their guards.
Syracuse's defense troubled Indiana for most of the game. The Orange were able to use their size advantage to take away driving lanes and not allow easy buckets. Their defense resulted in many Indiana turnovers and their worst offensive output of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Head Coach Tom Crean's Lack of Preparation
A majority of the blame has to go to coach Crean for not preparing his offense well enough for head coach Jim Boeheim's well-known 2-3 zone. Indiana's offense looked stagnant out on the court because of a lack of executing their offense.
The ball was getting passed around the perimeter and wasting the shot clock on numerous plays instead of attacking the paint and getting more foul opportunities.
Crean should've made in-game changes to better their chances of winning. Crean needed to develop more plays to spread the zone, which allows for more easy buckets in the game.
Poor Guard Play for the Hoosiers
Some of the blame has to be put on Indiana's guards for not looking sharp in the game. Senior Jordan Hulls and freshman Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell combined for zero points (0-for-8 from the field) and six turnovers. The guards were trapped on numerous occasions, which hurt the flow of the offense.
Hulls and Ferrell are much better players than they looked last night, but their main problem was the size of the Orange's backcourt. Brandon Triche (6'4'') and Michael Carter-Williams (6'6'') did an excellent job of blocking the driving lanes and shutting down the Hoosier guards.
Coach Crean Needs to Improve Game Plan Against Zone Defense
The game certainly showed that Indiana’s kryptonite is the 2-3 zone defense. The Hoosiers won't see the zone defense very often next year, but when they do, they have to be ready.
This means Crean and his coaching staff must figure out plays that breakdown the zone and allows them to run their normal offense. This is a problem that can and should be fixed by next season if the Hoosiers are going to have success.