It hasn’t been pressed yet, but there is an itchy trigger finger dangerously close to the panic button after a 75-59 loss to Maryland that was much, much worse than the score indicates.
A simple examination of Indiana’s won/loss record doesn’t suggest the need for such elevated levels of concern this early in the season, but Hoosier fans have seen this story before.
And with a Big Ten conference that has 12 of its 14 teams in the KenPom top 50, it will be sink or swim, with almost no opportunities for the faint of heart to gain confidence and gather momentum.
For better or worse, perhaps the only game remaining on the schedule that IU should be able to handle comfortably is up next.
The Hoosiers (11-3, 1-2) will host Northwestern on Wednesday night at 7 p.m in Bloomington.
Indiana showed promise early in this one. The Hoosiers jumped out to an early 16-11 lead at the 9:30 point in the first half on a Devonte Green three-pointer. This was the largest lead for the Hoosiers in the game, but IU would only score one more field goal the rest of the first half. Maryland led 28-20 at the break, but IU was still in it to that point.
After trailing 33-22, the Hoosiers went on an 11-3 run that was capped off by a Joey Brunk layup at the 14:17 point of the second half to cut the deficit to 36-33.
Things fell apart quickly on a grand scale from there. Maryland went on a 35-8 run to completely pull away by as many as 30 points before the Terrapins cleared their bench over the last four minutes and IU scored during garbage time.
A ten minute stretch in each half that saw the Hoosiers score a grand total of just 12 points was more than enough to provide for another embarrassing Big Ten road loss.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller acknowledged plenty of things that went wrong, but more than anything else it came down to the most simple to comprehend aspect of the game — scoring, and especially in the prolonged droughts of each half.
“I can’t complain about our guys in their approach and what we’re doing,” Miller said. “We just got really, really stuck at one stage of the game not being able to score.”
It is really difficult to remember a worse offensive effort during the Archie Miller era. Indiana had 41 points with 3:44 left in the game before the Hoosiers took out their frustrations on the Terrapin walk-ons.
There were a number of things that went wrong on the offensive end, but at the most basic level, IU was simply just not putting the ball in the basket.
“The ball is not going in the basket,” Miller said. “Whether it’s a layup, a free throw or a wide open shot. At some point you have to be able to put it in the basket. We have enough guys that can do that.”
One recurring theme with this Indiana team is that they are not getting enough dribble penetration to collapse defenses and allow for uncontested shots. IU was 1-of-15 from long range before they hit three in a row in the final few minutes, and the Hoosiers had only seven assists against 14 turnovers.
“We have to get a more quality three in the game,” Miller said. “Our back court has to be able to create more off the dribble on those threes. They have to be able to get assists, those are the ones you’re going to make when you draw the defense. Not challenged twos. Not 50-50 plays at the basket. It’s the ones that break the defense down and your guards are able to create and get more threes that way. We have to go to the line more, and we have to keep going to the line and making it.”
Another area that Miller highlighted was a need to play through contact.
“Around the basket, in this league moving forward, from January to February there’s not going to be one easy one,” Miller said. “Okay, there’s no calls. That’s not happening. So, you have to be able to finish through contact and put some down. We didn’t have that for the most part.”
Indiana only shot 26 percent in the first half, including just 7-of-23 from two-point range which highlights the fact that IU was not taking good shots and not playing through contact..
IU was able to crash the boards with 15 offensive rebounds, but of course there were plenty of misses to be had and the Hoosiers scored just 13 second chance points.
Indiana only got to the foul line 18 times after averaging more than 29 attempts per game over the first 11 contests, and their shooting percentage is plummeting at the stripe as well.
Through about the first 25 minutes of the game Indiana’s defense was good.
And then the avalanche came and left a path of destruction that made it difficult to feel positive about much of anything.
But a look at Maryland’s numbers on the day suggest that IU played good enough defense to be right there until the end.
“Maryland’s field goal percentage wasn’t very good today,” Miller said. “When you think about playing at home at 38 percent and 25 from three. If you told me coming into the game that Maryland would shoot these percentages at home, you’d probably say, ‘We might have a chance to hang in there today.’ We did for a while, then it caved in.”
It was far from a perfect effort. The Hoosiers only forced seven turnovers and gave Maryland 25 free throw attempts.
IU also allowed 11 offensive rebounds including a few that felt like back breakers to Miller.
“Our defense kind of hung in there, but some long rebounds and some loose plays really changed the game,” he said.
Perhaps most discouraging, when Maryland pulled away in the second half, the Hoosiers seemed to let up on the defensive end and got beat to rebounds.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Three keys, final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- Joey Brunk and Al Durham post-game
- Maryland’s Mark Turgeon post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (C) One of the few bright spots when it came to finishing around the basked, Brunk nearly had a double-double.
- Justin Smith* (D) Smith is being put in a position to fail right now on the wing where he doesn’t have the offensive repertoire to score against teams that are packing their defenses in the paint.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (D) He had a nice early sequence with two blocks and a layup, but for the second straight Big Ten road game Jackson-Davis has been brought back down to earth. His footwork got him in trouble with a couple turnovers, and he seemed to struggle against physical defenders.
- Devonte Green* (D) Green had a field day against Maryland’s walk-ons in the closing minutes, but it was a different story the rest of the game. To his credit, the senior guard did take better care of the ball in this one.
- Al Durham* (D) He was unable to get anything going offensively, but on the plus side Durham seems like the one guard that is consistently committed to pushing the pace to the level that Miller wants to play.
- Rob Phinisee (D) It is time for Phinisee to assert himself offensively. A gifted scorer, IU needs more than three shots in 22 minutes. Phinisee did a nice job on Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan defensively.
- Armaan Franklin (D-) The freshman blues continue for Franklin who is back to his shooting woes and struggled with ball security.
- Damezi Anderson (D) He didn’t score, but Anderson contributed a couple rebounds and assists. IU needs him to score.
- Race Thompson (D) Thompson put forth some good effort on the glass but he hasn’t been nearly as impactful as he was early in the season.
- De’Ron Davis (D) Davis was able to provide a few productive moments but also took several bad shots and he isn’t able to be a defensive force.
- Jerome Hunter also made a brief appearance in the game.
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