It is easy to overlook potential problems after you win eleven of your first twelve games to start the season.
Could Indiana have just as easily lost to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Connecticut with a few different bounces here and there? Of course they could have.
On Sunday night those “bounces” caught up with IU, and this time it was Arkansas that made the big plays down the stretch to secure a win in Bloomington and spoil Indiana’s quest for an undefeated nonconference slate.
Just how much cause for concern is there after Indiana’s first home loss of the season? It is too soon to say, but with league play coming, one way or another, we are about to find out what these 2019-20 Hoosiers are truly made of.
Indiana (11-2, 1-1) will travel to Maryland as they resume Big Ten play on Saturday afternoon at Noon ET.
Much like last Saturday’s win over Notre Dame, Indiana looked like they might be in control at several points on Sunday night.
The Hoosiers went on a 7-0 run in the first half to give them a 29-22 lead at the 5:41 mark, capped off by two sophomore guard Rob Phinisee free throws, and then Phinisee hit Indiana’s second three-pointer of the game with 25 seconds left in the first half to send the Hoosiers into halftime with a 38-33 lead.
Things got better before they got worse.
Senior guard Devonte Green started the second half by scoring eight of the first 10 points for the Hoosiers as Indiana opened the half on a 12-6 run to take a 50-39 lead. This was Indiana’s largest lead of the game, and things went downhill quickly.
Arkansas closed out the game on a 32-14 run, including a 19-3 advantage over the game’s final 8:08.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller diagnosed a similar performance to last Saturday’s second half collapse at the Crossroads Classic.
“It’s a similar feel to me as the Notre Dame game where our offense kind of leaves us, our defense kind of caves in a little bit transition-wise, or off some runs, we give them some threes, and next thing you’re in a hole,” Miller said. “We were in a similar hole a week ago, came through, tonight we didn’t.”
While the difference between Indiana’s play against Arkansas and Notre Dame is not significant, the outcome was of course.
And now the Hoosiers look like a team a lot less sure of themselves at an inopportune time.
“Tough night for us, just a tough feeling,” Miller said. “Didn’t feel like we played real well there for a stretch. It was disappointing for our team to finish the non-conference that way.
To put it bluntly, Indiana’s offense is a work in process. More brute force than a thing of beauty, the Hoosiers have won games with offensive rebounds and getting to the foul line. Without those elements, you get second half performances like we’ve seen over the last two games.
Miller sees the inconsistency as an extension of moments earlier in the season.
“It wasn’t like something alarming happened today that didn’t happen a week ago against UConn in the Garden,” Miller said. “We’re a team that’s finding a way to consistently run really good offense throughout the course of the game, get quality shots.”
Perhaps it is true that nothing new came to the surface on Sunday night, but it is equally troubling now 13 games into the season that Indiana is still searching for consistency.
Despite scoring 20 points for the game, freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis didn’t score in the final nine minutes as Arkansas seemed content to front the post and force Indiana to beat them from the perimeter.
Miller saw both Arkansas’ defense and missed opportunities as factors in what appeared to be Indiana abandoning post-entry passes late in the game.
“I think they did a good job fronting the post, and we didn’t to throw it enough,” Miller said. “We had opportunities. There are probably four or five clips where you’re going to be able to throw the ball from the top of the key to the rim. Whether it’s Trayce or Joey, we didn’t get enough action.”
IU had just four fast break points for the game, and even secondary points from its transition offense went by the wayside as the game wore on.
“Nothing in transition in the second half, either,” Miller said. “Our transition game gave us offense (in the first half). Most of our touches in the first half, I would say, came off of really good pushes and offense in transition. We didn’t have a transition attack in the second half. It didn’t flow. It didn’t move up the floor fast enough.”
Coming into the game, IU led the nation in free throws made per game at 19.6 and free throws attempted at 27.9 per game. Indiana was just 9-of-18 on the night, including just 3-of-7 in the second half.
“Our struggles at the foul line hurt us a lot tonight, especially in the second half. We stepped up there for a pair a couple times and that was tough,” Miller said.
Another area where IU has been able to dominate at times is the offensive glass. The Hoosiers had just 12 offensive rebounds against a very small Arkansas team, and Indiana lost the second chance points battle 12-9.
Indiana held Arkansas in check in the first half. The Razorbacks shot 34.3 percent overall and 28.6 percent from three-point range.
But the tide started to turn when Arkansas found more space on the perimeter and started to knock down shots from distance.
The game plan going in was to force the Razorbacks off the three-point line, and IU was unable to sustain that as the second half wore on.
“I think one of the things talked a lot about was make them put the ball on the floor inside the line, whether you’re switching the ball screen or closing out,” Miller said. “One of the things with this team is you want them to shoot twos, especially Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe.”
While the offense was problematic, Miller felt the defense could have been the difference maker when the Hoosiers ran out to a double digit lead in the second half.
“I just didn’t feel like we were ramped up enough defensively to start that second half, to be able to go up 13 or 14,” Miller said.
In part, Indiana was dealing with tough matchups as Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk attempted to guard on the perimeter, and at times Arkansas just hit good shots.
“You’re playing against some really good shooters and some guys that can really stretch the floor and put you on islands,” Miller said. “And inevitably they made some timely ones to not only hang in, they also made some big ones to go up and give them some confidence.”
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Arkansas’ Eric Musselman post-game
- Snapshot: Hoosiers drop nonconference finale
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (B-) It was almost surreal watching Brunk guard the perimeter most of the night. The matchups were difficult on the defensive end. He did a nice job on the boards, but had to find a way to get more post touches.
- Justin Smith* (B-) Smith was for the most part strong on the defensive end, but Arkansas’ pressure defense seemed to frustrate him and he struggled to get out in transition where he excels.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (A-) It wasn’t his fault for the most part, but Jackson-Davis cannot go the last nine minutes without a shot. He was that good for the first 31 minutes. Jackson-Davis is so important to this team that he has to find a way to impact the game irrespective of the defensive scheme.
- Devonte Green* (C) You have to credit Green for helping IU extend to their biggest lead early in the second half, but he also had several mistakes and overall did not have a good shooting night.
- Al Durham* (F) It goes without saying, Durham’s moment of bad judgment (a flagrant-two elbow) that led to his early ejection played a major role in the game, and unfortunately that was all on him. Indiana could not afford to play with just three scholarship guards against a team this small. Completely out of character for someone who seems like the nicest player on the team.
- Rob Phinisee (C+) Phinisee doesn’t look like himself right now, and after two badly missed technical foul free throws, he looked like a player lacking confidence. It is worth noting that he was not on the floor for much of Arkansas’ initial big second half run, and his defense was good for the most part.
- Armaan Franklin (C-) A tough game after Franklin’s special moment against Notre Dame. That will happen for freshman. Several of Arkansas’ big shots during their rally came over Franklin. They were long shots, but also shooters that could not be given space.
- Damezi Anderson (C+) Anderson brought some good energy but was unable to get it going from the field.
- Race Thompson (B) Thompson was steady and perhaps could have seen more minutes for better matchups on the defensive end.
- De’Ron Davis also appeared in the game for a brief stint.
Note: Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter was not in uniform for the game with a thigh contusion.
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