Photo credit - Purdue Athletics

Hoosiers’ close but no cigar results must change now; Ray Tolbert gives pep talk

Wednesday night was the third time in the last five games that the Hoosiers lost in heartbreaking fashion.

Against Ohio State, the Hoosiers had a chance to win the game with under three minutes left in a two-score game. However, they went 1-for-11 in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime and lost that game. Many of those shots, including a wild Tamar Bates three-point attempt that would have cemented the game, were forced or late shot clock.

While playing Wisconsin, the team had not one but two chances to tie up the game with a minute left. The plan was to give the ball to Trayce Jackson-Davis, which they did, but double teams forced his hand. The forward had to kick the ball out both times. The Hoosiers received great looks, but Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway were unable to connect on their shots.

Then came the Ron Harper Jr. dagger that potentially ended any chance of an NCAA Tournament appearance for the Hoosiers.

“It’s definitely the little things. After each one of those losses, we watch film on six, seven minutes of the game, it’s always the little things where one guy either he messes up a play where the timing’s messed up on offense where we don’t execute the right plays,” said Rob Phinisee on Friday as Indiana gets set to travel to Purdue (2 p.m. Eastern / ESPN).

The offense hasn’t been the only problem down the stretch. The normally stout defense has been anything but. That is the other half of the recipe for disaster for the Hoosiers.

Against Wisconsin, the Badgers ended the game on an 8-0 run and were able to convert their last three shot attempts. The Hoosiers also had no answer for Johnny Davis, who scored the last 13 points of the game.

Coming down the stretch against Ohio State, due to a miscommunication by the defense, E.J Liddell found his way under the basket for an easy dunk to tie the game.  Then in overtime, the Buckeyes finished the game on a 10-0 run albeit most of those points were due to late-game fouling.

In the Rutgers game, the Hoosiers also ran out to a 10-point lead in the second half. However, on two separate occasions, they allowed the Scarlet Knights to get back into the game with a pair of 7-0 runs.

“We always do a really good job in the first half, maybe the first 30 minutes of the game on defense, and then once those last 10 minutes of the game go on we don’t execute our coverages like we need to,” added Phinisee.

“And, I feel like teams are scoring a lot better like the last 10 minutes of the game.”

Despite the results, the team should be encouraged to be competing against the best of the Big Ten. Now, comes the hardest part: turning those L’s into W’s. 

Still, the team has seen enough film to know what they need to improve on and do down the stretch. They just need to execute.

“So, whether it’s talking on defense when guys are getting tired or just making sure guys are in the right spots on rotations and everything, I feel like if we do that, we’ll finish games off,” said Phinisee.

Ray Tolbert motivates the Hoosiers

With the season on the line, head coach Mike Woodson brought in a former player to breathe new life into the team.

Ray Tolbert spoke to the team in practice on Friday, a day before they take on their rivals in Purdue. Nearing the NCAA Tournament, he urged the team to stay together and not fold. His message was simple yet just what the team needed to hear.

“Just blocking out the noise and standing together and just being one team. That’s the biggest we need to do right now is stay together and believe in each other,” said Phinisee of Tolbert’s message.

Tolbert was an IU teammate of Woodson and played for the Hoosiers from 1977-1981. He was a crucial piece for the 1981 team that won the NCAA Tournament and won the Big Ten Player of the Year that season. The forward averaged 12.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while starting in all 35 games. 

The Anderson, Ind. native was the No. 20 leading scorer in program history to begin the season with 1,427 points but was surpassed by Trayce Jackson-Davis this season. Tolbert is also ranked sixth with 874 career rebounds.

After his Indiana career, Tolbert was drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the No. 18 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft and played in the NBA for five seasons.

The pep talk seemed to ignite a new fire for the Hoosiers. Hopefully, that transfers over to the matchup against Purdue.

“Honestly, we just had a pretty good hype-up speech right before we came out. So, everyone is in good spirits right now, and we’re just looking forward to going back and getting a win tomorrow,” Phinisee said.

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