Indiana vs. Arkansas State: 5 things Archie Miller said

Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller shouts at his players during the first half of a recent game against Indiana State in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)

The Indiana University men’s basketball squad played its best basketball of the season Sunday in closing out a comfortable victory over South Florida Sunday at Assembly Hall, as the Hoosiers played well at both ends of the court.

“I thought our South Florida performance,” first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller said in a press conference Tuesday, “just in terms of watching the film a couple of times, and communicating with our players, I thought we played pretty hard that game. I thought that we competed.”

Miller met with the media at Assembly Hall Tuesday and touched on a number of topics in advance of the Hoosiers’ game with Arkansas State (2-2) today (7 p.m., BTN). Here are five of those topics.

IN A ZONE

Miller is slowly, but surely, implementing his systems at both ends of the floor, but he said Tuesday that his players will get a lesson over the next few days in their effectiveness against zone defenses.

“We’re probably going to see,” Miller said of both Arkansas State, as well as Eastern Michigan, “probably close to 75 percent or 80 percent of both games playing against zone defenses. So, we’re trying to get organized offensively.”

Following Indiana’s game with Arkansas State, it will tip-off against Eastern Michigan less than 48 hours later (Friday, 4:30 p.m., BTN), and Miller has experience facing the Eagles’ zone defense, of which he isn’t real fond.

“Eastern Michigan plays, I’d say, the second best zone that I’ve ever seen,” Miller said.

Eagle coach Rob Murphy spent seven seasons working under legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Miller explained that that experience has paid dividends with the Eagles.

“Syracuse is clearly one of the most unique defenses that you can go against,” Miller said. “Coach Murphy has instilled that same concept at Eastern. I played against those guys two or three years ago and it is just a bear to go against.”

The Eagles are 4-0 and are holding opponents to less than 40 percent shooting overall.

EVER IMPROVING

Indiana (2-2) showed glimpses of its potential in the first half of a recent loss at Seton Hall, but really broke through in the final 18 minutes of the win against South Florida.

Miller said Tuesday that he is seeing more growth from his players at the defensive end of the floor than offensive.

“We’re getting better,” Miller said. “We have to continue to tighten things up, as much as we can, defensively. Effort can’t be negotiable at all. That is something that we are starting to figure out a bit.”

“Offensively, we just need to continue to get guys to play with confidence.”

The Hoosiers limited South Florida to 24 percent shooting in the final half, while offensively, Miller’s team only committed a couple of turnovers in the second half.

“We saw a lot more carry over (of information) against South Florida,” Miller said, “particularly on defense. I still don’t think that we are getting great trust on offense, just in terms of guys really understanding exactly how we want to play. Whether that is uncharacteristic turnovers, lack of execution, but all in all, I think we’re starting to get there.”

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(UN)HEALTHY HOOSIERS

Indiana veterans Josh Newkirk and Collin Hartman have both been banged up of late and Hartman’s status for this week is fairly certain (he probably won’t play), while the amount of time Newkirk plays remains to be seen.

Newkirk was limited to just 10 minutes against South Florida, while Hartman hasn’t played in a game yet this season.

Newkirk injured his knee two seasons ago, while Hartman missed last year with a knee injury. However, Hartman’s latest issue is a groin injury that he suffered in practice a day before the season opening loss to Indiana State.

“Collin isn’t doing anything live in practice right now,” Miller said. “He’s continuing to sort of do individual work, some 5-on-0, where it’s non-contact in the half-court.”

Miller said a groin injury can be re-aggravated, so the Indiana medical staff is being cautious at this point in the season.

“It can derail a season,” Miller said. “So we’re just trying to keep him moving toward the big part of the season, that he knows that he is going to have to be ready for.”

In the case of Newkirk, Miller is, again, being cautious, but he should play some after practicing “normally” on Tuesday.

“We definitely want to keep him mind,” Miller said, “that he is an older guy that has had some knee issues in the past. I think that we have to take a look at him and every once in a while, take a step back and let his body recover a little bit more.”

NO REST

Giving Newkirk recovery time this week won’t be easy, as there is just about a 43-hour break between the end of one game and the tip of another. However, Miller said this hectic schedule will help prepare the Hoosiers for down the road.

“We knew that we were going to do this several times in the Big 10,” Miller said of the single day of rest schedule, “which is going to be a grind, not just for us, but for our whole league.”

Indiana will find that out quickly.

On Dec. 2, the Hoosiers travel to Michigan, followed by a home game with Iowa on Dec. 4.

Miller’s team will also have to do that twice in January and once in February.

“Being able to prepare and do some of these things will be unique,” Miller said. “It gives us a little bit of a feel for what two games in three days feel like.”

GET READY TO RUN

Indiana and the Red Wolves share a common opponent already in Howard, which is part of the Hoosier Tip-Off Classic field.

Arkansas State is coached by former Louisville assistant Mike Balado, and his team dropped 92 on Howard in its win Monday, so Miller knows his team has to be ready to get up and down the floor.

“Arkansas State plays very fast,” Miller said. “They have a very aggressive, undersized, but quick team. They are mobile and they are using their defense right now to create tempo with pressure.”

The Hoosiers have been plagued by turnovers in their first two games (37 combined throwaways), but settled down in their last two (just 24 miscues).

“They want to run,” Miller said, “so if we don’t take care of the ball, that is going to be a problem. The second thing is handling their push and getting all five guys committed to running back.”

“We’re going to see amazing pace coming up.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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