It was reality check time in Durham, North Carolina on Tuesday night, as Indiana walked into a buzz saw. The Hoosiers seemed to walk willingly into that buzz saw, with countless mistakes of their own doing that ultimately doomed them.
Duke extended the lead into double figures less than seven minutes into the game, and really never looked back. A combination of IU turnovers, poor shooting, and a slow reacting defense made sure of that.
On the positive side, IU is starting to get healthy again, with Zach McRoberts and Devonte Green returning to action after extended layoffs. Both will be critical over the next four games if they can stay in the lineup.
There will be no time for self pity, as one of the tougher stretches of the season continues on Saturday with Northwestern coming to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for the Big Ten opener at 1:00 p.m.
There is really nothing about this performance that you can reflect on and feel good about. The only reason it isn’t an F is because of the caliber of the opponent. In other words, Duke’s talent and their great home court advantage made a bad performance look worse.
But while Duke and Cameron Indoor Stadium is part of the story, that also makes for part of the frustration. As good as the Blue Devils and their home court are, Indiana in large part beat itself on Tuesday night. If it weren’t for unforced turnovers and poor shooting, IU would have kept it close.
Across the board, the players appeared nervous and intimidated, which led to the Hoosiers reacting rather than being the aggressor. That isn’t just our opinion. Juwan Morgan said after the game that “we let the crowd get to us.”
With road games this year at Michigan, Maryland, Purdue, Michigan State and other tough venues, this team needs to grow up fast.
Too harsh? Consider this. Duke was only forcing an average of 13 turnovers per game coming into this contest. IU hit that mark well before halftime. Duke ended up with a 24-7 points off turnovers advantage for the game. That mark stood at 19-0 at halftime. Game over.
Yes Duke did things to speed IU up like running a 1-2-2 press, but most of Indiana’s turnovers fell into the unforced category. Moreover, Indiana wants to play up tempo. They want to be sped up, or at least that’s what we’ve heard. The reality? A lot of different guys didn’t make good decisions when the game started moving faster, both in the half court and in transition.
Beyond the 20 turnovers (with just 13 assists), the Hoosiers didn’t make good decisions trying to shoot over shot blockers, with 10 Duke blocks on the night. That’s reflected in IU’s 39.1% night from the field. IU could never get comfortable knocking down shots and made bad decisions on the fast break, which prevented them from making any kind of run.
Duke held a 20-4 advantage on fast break points — and much of that was just Indiana not finishing on the opportunities that came up.
On the positive side, and much to our surprise, IU won the offensive rebounding and overall rebounding battles, but they did next to nothing with their second chance opportunities, missing countless layups at the rim.
Indiana forced 10 second half turnovers and held Duke under 50% from the field. But before we get too excited, or excited at all, about that second half, let’s face the reality — Duke started cruising. Give IU some credit for continuing to give effort even when the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt, but no too much. Playing hard for 40 minutes is to be expected.
The first half told the true story. When Duke wanted to put their foot on the gas, Indiana’s pack line defense looked more like swiss cheese. The Blue Devils shot 55% from the field and committed just 4 turnovers in the first session. IU struggled to stay in front of Duke’s admittedly uber-talented players. The Blue Devils spread the floor well, contributing to what seemed like a total lack of help defense once IU was beat off the dribble.
As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. Duke missed 12 free throws.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (C+) Morgan has to figure out a way to stay on the floor. While still negative, his +/- was the best on the team, highlighting his importance. IU needs someone to be an aggressive on the floor team leader. Morgan has to go out of character and be that guy. Rather than saying “it’s on me” after the game, Morgan needs to put it on himself to lead during the game.
- Justin Smith* (D) While Morgan’s +/- was the best, Smith’s was the worst. He had all of those five turnovers before halftime. Somehow, some way, he has to find a toughness and a nastiness. There is too much talent ready to be unleashed, but it isn’t going to happen until Smith finds his edge. With so much attention on Morgan and Langford, the potential is there for him to dominate games. But he has to want it.
- Romeo Langford* (C+) IU won’t win many games with Langford shooting 3 for 15. He is too important to this team. Is the injury to his shooting hand bothering him? It would be hard to imagine that it isn’t. Hopefully this isn’t Eric Gordon 2.0. Led the team in rebounds and continues to be a major presence there.
- Rob Phinisee* (D) Major eye opener here for Phinisee. This was his worst game, and it really wasn’t close. He looked rattled throughout. He absolutely has to be more composed on the road for this team to succeed.
- Al Durham* (C) He had some nice moments in this game, but most of the offensive production was in garbage time. Al has an edge to him that he needs to manifest into floor leadership — because this team desperately needs it.
- Evan Fitzner (C+) There was a strange dichotomy to his game. His three-point shots felt like they might keep IU in it, but otherwise he looked uncomfortable against Duke’s speed and athleticism.
- De’Ron Davis (B-) Davis did some nice things, and perhaps best of all, he looked the best physically that we have seen thus far. IU will need him to contend with Dererk Pardon on Saturday. The technical foul was a blown call. The Duke player clearly hurt his knee and crumpled to the floor. Started 3 for 3 from the line but finished 4 for 8.
- Zach McRoberts (B-) There really isn’t a lot to say here. He didn’t really stand out one way or another in the game which is somewhat to be expected. Hopefully he is back to full strength and can be the McRoberts we know on Saturday. He would be a huge asset against Vic Law.
- Devonte Green (C+) Yes he had three turnovers in just 20 minutes. But of course he is shaking off rust, and he also had three assists, which tells you that he was actually trying to capitalize on opportunities rather than playing in panic mode like many of his teammates. Much like Smith, IU needs big contributions from Green to be successful.
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