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Indiana at Northwestern: The Report Card

This season.  What can you say?

It is truly becoming difficult for Indiana fans to wrap their minds around the seemingly continuous roster news and now accompanying five game losing streak that collectively appear on track to destroy a once promising season.

The torture quotient was taken to the next level on Tuesday night against the Wildcats, as a seldom used Northwestern reserve torched the Hoosiers and completely changed the direction of the game.  After scoring just six points all year, forward Aaron Falzon came off the bench and scored 21 points for Northwestern.

Before the game even started, junior guard Devonte Green was suspended indefinitely.

Yep.  It’s just like that right now.

Indiana (12-7, 3-5) returns to action on Friday night at home against No. 5 Michigan.

Nope, it isn’t going to get easier any time soon.

OVERALL (C)

There are now multiple scripts that IU follows, all with the same ending.  On Tuesday night, it was the Maryland script involving a strong start only to close out the first half and open the second half poorly.

The bottom line here is another incomplete effort.

Indiana held a 20-13 lead at the under-eight minute television timeout.  By halftime, Northwestern led the game 28-24 as Falzon scored all nine of his first half points in that segment.

The second half saw the Wildcats continue to build their lead.  Midway through the second period the lead had swelled to 55-40, reflecting an overall 42-20 run that was too much for IU to overcome.  To their credit, the Hoosiers did continue to play and got the deficit down to three points later in the second half.

While still a story on the season, IU’s energy level was not an issue in this one.  Hoosier players were on the floor, attacking the glass, and seemingly doing everything they could.  It just wasn’t enough.

OFFENSE (D+)

If you have to point a finger at one aspect of the game, it is the IU offense that is leading to the demise of this season.  The bottom line here is that Indiana’s perimeter shooting has been abysmal, and the book is now out on how to shut down IU’s star players.

How bad is the perimeter shooting?  Indiana is just 10 for 55 (18%) in its last three games from long range.  To no one’s surprise, the opposition is now just packing in the defense and daring Indiana to beat them over the top.  And of course it isn’t happening.

For too long in this game, Indiana went through stretches where it was getting nothing out of its halfcourt offense, including an 11 minute drought at the end of the first half and into the second that saw IU score just one basket from the field.  More astute Indiana fans were likely reminded of the immediately prior coaching staff as they watched a perimeter oriented weave produce very little.

To their credit, IU made second half adjustments to spread the floor and push the tempo, but it wasn’t enough to bring them all the way back.  The Hoosiers did some nice things with their inbound plays as well.

DEFENSE (B-)

Indiana was really good at the start of the game, holding Northwestern to around a point a minute through the first 12 minutes.  And then Falzon happened.

It would be understandable that the Northwestern forward was not in the IU game plan.  But he wasn’t a complete unknown either.  Miller indicated after the game that Falzon was “obviously known as a shooter.”  As the game wore on, Northwestern went with his hot hand, running actions to get Falzon looks — and Indiana continued to struggle to find him.

Overall, holding Northwestern a tick under 40% from the field is impressive, but by the same token, only forcing five turnovers for the entire game somewhat neutralizes the impact of the Wildcats’ poor shooting night.  Indiana’s inability to generate turnovers impacts the offensive end as well, forcing the Hoosiers to be that much more reliant on their half court offense.


OTHER GAME COVERAGE


THE PLAYERS

(players with meaningful minutes)

  • Juwan Morgan* (B-) Morgan is getting a lot of attention from defenses right now and it is impacting his efficiency numbers.  Nevertheless his energy was great.  He had a solid night rebounding the basketball and was 4-for-4 from the line.  Pardon is a tough cover but he had another big game against Morgan.
  • Justin Smith* (B-) If Smith put the effort into rebounding every game like he did in this one, big things will happen for him down the road.  The 3-for-12 night from the field illustrates his limitations on offense, particularly on the perimeter and finishing with both hands.
  • Romeo Langford* (C+) Defenses are throwing a lot at him right, effectively making him a passer.  Langford is just 11 for 34 overall from the field in the last three games, and his lack of a three-point shot right now is hurting his production.  The freshman guard is clearly putting in the effort on the defensive end.
  • Zach McRoberts* (C-) Perhaps no player on this team highlights the offensive struggles more than McRoberts.  Defenses are for the most part leaving him open on the perimeter, and he hasn’t been able to make them pay.  His defense is still good, but there is a big trade off right now.
  • Rob Phinisee* (B-) His 4 for 12 stat line from the field looks bad, but IU needs him to be shooting that much right now, if not more.  He’s the third most talented scorer on the team, and he has to be more aggressive both in hunting shots and in breaking down defenses and looking for assists.
  • Al Durham (B-) You could tell that Durham was giving all he had in this one.  He was routinely on the floor and aggressive on both ends.  The free throw bug hit him as it makes its rounds on the team.
  • Evan Fitzner (C) Fitzner showed that he can score in the post and he had a nice block.  A missed assignment on defense led to a crowd energizing put-back dunk from Pardon.
  • Jake Forrester, Clifton Moore and Damezi Anderson also saw action in this game.

*Denotes Starters


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