Let’s call it what it is. Indiana’s offense is a complete mess right now.
One field goal in the final 9:25 of the first half on Saturday afternoon at Maryland. A 1-for-17 shooting performance from three-point range until the Terrapins put in the walk-ons in the final four minutes.
There is plenty of blame to go around — both players and coaches. The bottom line is that IU head coach Archie Miller has got to crack the code of inept play on the offensive end — or we will be talking about a fourth straight season with no NCAA Tournament in March.
It is more than two months until Selection Sunday, and Miller knows better than anyone that a lot can change between now and then.
“Teams change throughout the course of the season,” Miller said after the loss at Maryland. “Our team is going through one right now. We’ve got to find a way to get back out of it, and we’ll do that. You’ve got to navigate the road, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
An early identity forged by Miller’s team was the ability to get to the free throw line, and knock down those attempts at a respectable rate.
The Hoosiers had averaged more than 29 free throw attempts over their first 11 games but have managed just 16 per contest over the last three. Worse yet, IU has made just 56 percent of those attempts in the last three games.
The inability to knock down shots from the field or the line was eventually too much for what was at times a respectable defensive effort.
“Not being able to score eventually overwhelmed us,” Miller said. “We weren’t able to make anything happen offensively to hang in there.
“The ball is not going in the basket. Whether it’s a layup, a free throw, or a wide open shot. Our backcourt has got to be able to create more quality threes off the dribble.
“You are not going to be able to hold teams down and shut teams down. You’re going to have to make some of those open ones and make some of the tough ones.”
IU is now just 26-of-108 (24 percent) shooting three-pointers over its last six games. and its shooting woes on Saturday were particularly unfortunate because Indiana was able to slow down Maryland’s offense on the other end.
The Hoosiers held Maryland to just 38.7 percent shooting from the field overall including 25 percent by the Terrapins from three-point range.
Despite the poor shooting day by Maryland, the Terps were still able to run out to as much as a 71-41 lead late in the game before head coach Mark Turgeon cleared his bench.
“Do you know how bad you have to be on offense, Miller said in reference to Maryland be able to extend out to a 30 point lead despite shooting so poorly.
“If you had told me coming in that Maryland would shoot those percentages I’d probably so we had a chance to hang in there a little bit today.”
The Hoosiers did hang around — a little bit. Indiana trailed 46-38 in the second half, before yet another prolonged scoring drought doomed IU.
This time the Hoosiers were outscored 25-3 over a 7:22 span to put the game away.
Now it is back to the drawing board for Miller as Indiana is on its first losing streak of the season.
Will he continue with a big lineup that puts Justin Smith out on the wing and has both Joey Brunk and Trayce Jackson-Davis — traditional centers from a skillset perspective — all on the floor at the same time? Or will Miller go smaller with more skilled perimeter players?
Will Miller find a way to get more transition opportunities — his preferred offensive attack?
Or will he find a way to create more motion, spacing and dribble penetration to break down defenses and manufacture better looks?
Perhaps all of the above is in order, and Miller believes he and his team have time to transform.
“There is a lot of room for this team to grow up and figure things out, Miller said.
“In this league you’re in a deep ocean. There’s a lot of waves. You’re going to have to ride them out, figure out how your group can survive it and keep moving forward.”
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