Not on the road. Not against a team this good.
No, the fun loving fall behind early and rally for a win Hoosier narrative fell flat on its face in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon.
After trailing by five or more in each of their last eight wins, IU saw their seven-game winning streak snapped as they fell to 3-1 in the Big Ten as a result of a 74-63 loss to Michigan.
The sold-out crowd at Crisler Center saw yet another game where the Hoosiers were short handed. Rob Phinisee missed his third straight game with a concussion, and forwards De’Ron Davis and Jake Forrester were also unavailable with injuries. Of course you already know about Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter, who have both been out virtually the entire season.
Indiana will have time to rest up and get healthier. The Hoosier resume action on Friday night at Maryland.
This game was won during the first 12 minutes of the first half. Michigan shot the ball at nearly a 70% clip, and Indiana was missing shots at a much higher rate than has been the norm this season.
IU trailed by as many as 19 (32-13) and could get no closer than a 57-50 deficit with with just under 11 minutes to go in the game.
While the Hoosiers played better the rest of the game, Michigan is just too good of a team to overcome that kind of deficit against — especially on their home court.
And unfortunately, Indiana can’t seem to get past this trend of falling behind early. After the game Archie Miller attributed the issue primarily to a lack of toughness. Can a team find toughness midway through a season? We are about to find out. They’ll face another challenging road environment on Friday night.
It wasn’t that Indiana turned the ball over. In fact, they had a season low seven turnovers on the day.
No, the issue against Michigan was just an inability to knock down shots. Miller discussed the early game challenges with missing shots that the team normally makes —
“Offensively we missed a ton of easy ones early. Ones that we’ve been knocking in here for a good 13 games, two point baskets which we’ve made a living on here early but we weren’t able to convert and got into the hole.”
We might take issue with characterizing the missed shots as easy. Michigan played excellent defense, and as a result, IU had very few uncontested looks.
It was a bizarre stat line with IU having just six assists and the seven turnovers on the game. That’s a sign of a defense with excellent positioning just grinding you into submission. The result was IU shooting 42.6% from the field, which isn’t terrible, but 10% below their season average.
The Hoosiers got zero points from their bench.
If only IU could figure out how to defend for 40 minutes. When they are defending well, they can be elite on that end of the floor. But unfortunately, it takes the Hoosiers a while in virtually every game to get warmed up. Miller alluded to the defensive struggles at the beginning of games —
“Our defense wasn’t up to snuff. We weren’t tough enough on the ball. And just our ability defensively early to get stops early. We’ve got to be better out of the gates.”
IU held Michigan without a three-pointer in the second half, and the Wolverines shot just 25% from long range for the game. After being a thorn in their side in Archie Miller’s first year, the Hoosiers are holding opponents below 30% from distance in 2018-19.
While Indiana’s defense improved in this game, they still only forced three turnovers in total. Needless to say, that’s not a number that will be associated with winning very many ballgames. And while IU defended the three-point shot better, Michigan still shot 50% overall.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Three keys, final box score, specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- John Beilein and Michigan players post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (B+) His offensive efficiency wasn’t where it normally is, but Morgan once again put this team on his back and tried to will the comeback. As a senior co-captain, he is going to have to will this team before the tip-off and get them playing from the start.
- Justin Smith* (B+) Smith had a very strong defensive effort against Brazdeikis, who was held to six points below his average. He also had a team leading nine rebounds while exhibiting differential effort in hunting down missed shots.
- Romeo Langford* (B) Just another quiet 17 point, 6 rebound game. His defense continues to improve and Langford has been improving from the free throw line as well after a slow start to the season. He has made 17 of his last 21.
- Al Durham* (B-) Durham played fine, but IU needs more energy from him. There are times when you don’t know he’s on the floor. If the toughness is going to appear on this team, Durham seems like a guy that could lead the charge.
- Devonte Green* (B-) Green managed to play 34 minutes on the road with zero turnovers. That’s impressive. His first half defense wasn’t where it needed to be.
- Evan Fitzner (C) It has been a while since Fitzner has given IU productive minutes. He put the ball on the floor against Michigan, perhaps indicating that he has been working on the glaring void in his game.
- Zach McRoberts (C) It’s a rarity for McRoberts to get a grade this low, but he seemed a step slow and made several head scratching mistakes. Either the back flared up again, or he just had an off day.
- Clifton Moore (B-) Duty called and Moore stepped in. He’s clearly not ready to be a major contributor, but he isn’t a major liability on the floor either.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier