The Hoosiers preached about avoiding any big-game hangovers following the Purdue win. They also preached about protecting home court.
Those messages fell flat on Sunday afternoon in a humbling 80-62 loss to Michigan.
Following the wins over then-No. 12 Ohio State and Minnesota, the Hoosiers were riding high and felt they were starting to play some of their best basketball at the most important time. But a road trip to Iowa brought them back to earth.
The performance on Sunday was in many respects a repeat of the game against Iowa, as the Wolverines took advantage and picked apart an at times sub-par effort from the Hoosiers.
“I thought our intensity starting the game, when I look at the stat sheet and look at the plus/minus, everybody had minuses, so that just lets me know we weren’t there tonight, which that’s on me. It’s just unacceptable, especially coming off a great game like the Purdue game,” said head coach Mike Woodson.
The lack of intensity and poor defensive effort made it too easy for the struggling Wolverines to get hot. Michigan got off to a 26-13 lead with seven minutes left in the first half. They shot 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-4 from behind the arc in the opening eight minutes. By the end of the first half, Michigan was shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from deep with six threes.
The pick-and-roll defense of the Hoosiers was a major reason for the Wolverine scoring outbreak. Another was their ineffectiveness doubling the post and Michigan center Hunter Dickinson.
“Defensively when we were doubling him (Hunter Dickinson), we were supposed to wait on his crab when he started to dribble the ball and we weren’t doing that,” explained Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“He was holding the ball, so it was easy for him to look over and watch and see who’s coming instead of when he was posting up and trying to dribble. That’s on us, and we made that mistake, and he made us pay for it.”
Indiana’s anxious doubles helped Dickinson locate open shooters, and this helped Michigan shoot 11-of-17 for 64.7 percent from three. Three of those came from Dickinson–25 points and nine rebounds– on pick-and-pop plays. Five came Caleb Houstan, who ended the game with 19 points.
It was also the second consecutive game where most of the starting unit failed to make an impact. To open the Purdue game, the Hoosiers were trailing by 8-points after the first seven minutes. Luckily, the bench unit came into the game to save the starters. The scenario repeated in the second half Thursday, and then again in both halves Sunday.
Despite the struggles, Woodson has kept true to the lineup. But this time the bench was not able to make enough of a difference. The IU bench only had a combined eight points. However, Woodson decided to roll with Trey Galloway. The Culver, Ind. native played 11 minutes in the second half as opposed to the four minutes from Miller Kopp.
“Well, again, our starting five the last two games has dug a hole. They’ve been pretty good all year, but our bench bailed us out in the Purdue game, but tonight we just — we got down so much,” said Woodson.
The only spark from the starting lineup in both of those games was Xavier Johnson. The starting guard followed up his eight-point first-half performance against Purdue with a ten-point, four rebound, four assist first-half performance against Michigan.
While everyone else was seemingly sleepwalking through the game, Johnson was wide-awake. He came out with a sense of purpose and a little extra juice after a solid, albeit overshadowed, performance over the Boilermakers.
The transfer from Pitt immediately picked up from the last game by opening the scoring with a step-back mid-range jumper. Johnson also showcased his crafty ball-handling ability. After a steal, he crossed over the defender before doing an around-the-back move and driving into the lane to finish the transition layup.
Johnson ended the game with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals, and just two turnovers. The starting guard averages 2.3 turnovers per game this season but has just two in the previous two games. A sign of improvement.
But the success of the starting five ended there.
“It’s honestly on us. That falls on us,” said Jackson-Davis.
“It’s our home court, and the starting five, we need to regroup and we need to figure that out because it’s unacceptable honestly to come out with no emotion and no drive, and like when we were at the Purdue game, that second unit really helped us and got us going with Trey and all of them blowing up ball screens and stuff like that on defense. Our starting five is our starting five for a reason, so we’ve got to figure that out.”
In previous seasons under former head coach Archie Miller, the team would win a big game then follow the performance with a loss.
Last season, the Hoosiers had a late January win against then-No.4 Iowa on the road. They followed it up by going 2-7 in the final eight games of the season. That stretch included a six-game losing streak.
Although this is a different team, and a different coach, Woodson does not want this team to fall back into the same pattern.
“Again, they haven’t had very many big wins here. Their wins have been kind of on a roller coaster. I think when you experience some success, it’s new to us. We’re still learning as a team how to win. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in,” Woodson clarified.
“We’ve done some good things this season, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and hopefully we can learn — it’s my job to make sure we learn from this situation today because I’m not taking anything away from Michigan; they played great. They were fabulous tonight, and we’ve just got to get ready now, and like I said, break the tape down and get ready for Penn State.”
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