BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Even during Indiana's six-game winning streak to start the season, unforced turnovers were an issue at times with the Hoosiers. Even in a 32-point blowout of Louisiana, the Hoosiers turned it over a whopping 27 times.
Despite that, the wins kept coming.
But on Tuesday night, during the Hoosiers' first road trip of the year to Syracuse, the Hoosiers turned the ball over 13 times in the first half alone. They had 26 for the game in a 112-110 double overtime loss, and it made the difference between winning and losing.
Indiana forwards Race Thompson (7) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (6) were the biggest culprits. They struggled inside with some bad passes out of traps, and lost the ball a few times fighting through traffic.
"I thought that was the difference in them winning the ballgame the other night,'' Indiana coach Mike Woodson said Friday. "We made a lot of good plays, but we made a lot of bad plays, too, and those two were on the end of a lot of them, and we've just got to make sure we help them clean it up so we don't go through this again.''
Outside of the Syracuse and Louisiana game, the Hoosiers are averaging 13 turnovers per game, which is right at a tolerable level for Woodson. Actually, 12 is his magic number. But games with turnover numbers in the mid-20s are hard to overcome.
Here's what the turnover situation has been like in all seven games:
Turnovers by game
- Nov. 9 vs. Eastern Michigan (8): Point guard Xavier Johnson had three turnovers in the first five minutes, but then none in the next 20 minutes. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson each had zero turnovers.
- Nov. 12 vs. Northern Illinois (15): Ten different players had a turnover, and Race Thompson led the team with three.
- Nov. 17 vs. St. John's (16): Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson had three each.
- Nov. 21 vs. Louisiana (27): Jordan Geronimo had five turnovers in just 20 minutes of playing time, and Xavier Johnson and Khristian Lander had four each.
- Nov. 23 vs. Jackson State (11): Indiana had eight turnovers at halftime, but had only three in the second half. Race Thompson had three
- Nov. 27 vs. Marshall (15): Khristian Lander had three turnovers in 10 minutes, and Jordan Geronimo had two in just seven minutes.
- Nov. 30 at Syracuse (26): Indiana had 13 turnovers in the first half trying to figure out adjustments to the Syracuse zone. Race Thompson had seven turnovers, and Trayce Jackson-Davis had six.
Jackson-Davis is Indiana's best player and the ball is going to be in his hands often. The same applies to Thompson, too. The pair leads Indiana in minutes played — Jackson-Davis averages 32 minutes a game, Thompson 27 — and getting the ball inside is a priority.
But being efficient with the ball is a priority, too.
"I thought most of the turnovers were really unforced,'' Woodson said. "They were within the zone, and we were trying to make passes that weren't there. I mean, those are things that we can clean up.
"I think we were trying to make the right pass, but it's the next pass. (Syracuse) covers up so quickly that it's the skip pass — where our bigs play together outside of our zone, and then when they draw defenders, they kick the ball out. Most of the turnovers came from Race and Trayce, trying to make plays out of the zone or to each other, or they lost it. These are things that can be cleaned up, but I thought that was the difference in the ballgame. That's kind of how I look at it.''
Cleaning things up is important because Woodson isn't about to limit touches for either one of them. Jackson-Davis is playing at an All-American level and Thompson is much better in looking for good shots. Jackson-Davis is averaging 22.9 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game, and Thompson is at 9.9 and 8.6.
Both of them had double-doubles on Tuesday. Jackson-Davis had 31 points and 16 rebounds and Thompson scored 17 points and grabbed 12. rebounds.
"I'm not going to take the ball out of their hands,'' Woodson said. "When you're playing a zone offense, there are holes in the middle of a zone, and you've got to find those holes. I thought they did an excellent job. Trayce had 31 and Race had 17 points around the rim in that zone. They've just got to realize a lot of times the double-team came down on them, and they threw the ball away. They lost balls trying to make plays after getting an offensive rebound or when it was actually thrown to them in the middle of the zone.
"These are things that they've got to clean up. Last year, Race wouldn't make plays where he's trying to shoot floaters and things of that nature in the middle of the paint against a zone, and vice versa with Trayce, unless it was a dunk or a drop ball pass where he could lay it in. They're trying to do things which I'm comfortable with.''
Thompson nearly had a triple double, posting eight assists. He did find shooters, especially Miller Kopp, who was 4-for-9 from three, and Parker Stewart, who was 6-for-12. Moving the ball is key.
"When you're talking about going against the zone, you've got to have guys that can make shots on the perimeter,'' Woodson said. "But you've also got to have bigs that can draw double teams once they get the ball in there to kick it out to guys to make shots.
"As we go into this Big Ten run, they've got to make shots. That's why we put them in the position. They both are starters, and we brought Miller here for that reason. I thought really the last three games he's starting to find his range. This last game he made a lot of big shots for us to keep us in the ballgame and even giving us an opportunity to win the game.''