A season in crisis?
That might be overstating where things stand, but now on their first three game losing streak of the season, Indiana is clearly a team heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
After losing 12 out of 13 during the 2018-19 season, it is impossible to not wonder if things are headed down the same path now.
This is a different team and a different season, but the attributes that gave the Hoosiers an identity early on seem to be fading, and the issues that IU struggled to escape last year seem to be resurfacing.
Perhaps a week off will help.
Indiana (15-7, 5-6) won’t play again until they host Purdue at 2 p.m. next Saturday.
Playing against a team that had lost six of eight, and Indiana had defeated just three weeks earlier, the Hoosiers had a chance to “set the rules” as head coach Archie Miller likes to say.
Instead, right from the start Ohio State controlled the paint and and dominated the glass.
“They imposed their will physically on the boards,” Miller said. “That was the difference in the game, especially early. We could not rebound the ball. It’s the first time all season long that I can really recall our team getting housed on the glass like that.”
Ohio State won the rebounding margin 31-24, and at one point in the second half that margin stood at 26-14.
For several games in a row now Miller has seen the physicality of his team on the decline.
“The physicality of our team has taken a real drop, and it has shown here in our last two games, in particular on the road, but we had it (the issue) at home against Maryland too,” Miller said. “The energy level getting after balls just isn’t there right now.
“Our interior defense, offense, ability on the glass. Those things have to be in tact for us to be successful and they’re not right now. It’s just an odd thing. Teams go through highs and lows and sometimes teams really find their niche, and this team has sort of hit a pothole.”
With his team not stepping up to the challenge, the obvious question is what needs to change?
It isn’t clear whether Miller was hinting at specific changes, but now with a week off, it seems like he recognizes a now or never moment to find answers.
“In every season the story is never written until the end, but we’re going to have to change paths here and change the course of how we’re playing, and you know the only group that can really get themselves out of it is us, Miller said.
“Like every team that goes through it, you find your tough guys, togetherness, and you have to find a way to break through at the moment of truth. And for us, as we get back, our next opportunity is Purdue at home, and nothing is going to mean more than that day.”
Indiana carried over its disastrous offensive effort against Penn State on Wednesday into the first half in Columbus.
“Nine turnovers in the first half,” sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee said. “That really kills you on the road.”
While in Miller’s estimation things got better in the second half, the collective effort shows another sub-60 point game, and a team that continues to generate more turnovers than assists.
“You compound two odd halves offensively for us,” Miller said. “We turned it over again too much in the first half, and in the second half we actually did a pretty good job of running some stuff and playing together and got some baskets to go.”
Peeling back the layers on Indiana’s lack of production, the Hoosiers didn’t do the things that have become part of their identity. More than anything, IU was a non-factor on the offensive glass.
Indiana had just four offensive rebounds, and no second chance points.
“Very telling number,” Miller said of his team being shut out on second chance opportunities. “At half we may have had one offensive rebound. We had four offensive rebounds for the game. That hasn’t happened all season. To me this was a standstill game. We were locked to the ground around the rim. It’s a little concerning. Four offensive rebounds, no second chance points. I’m sure they were blocking out, but they’ve tried to block us out every other game that we’ve played and we found a way to get on the boards.”
Indiana made it very difficult for Buckeye big man Kaleb Wesson to get post touches on the low block in the first meeting.
That wasn’t the case in the rematch in Columbus.
“Our front court is really struggling right now to rebound and defend inside,” Miller said. “I thought very early it was too easy inside (for Ohio State). Kaleb (Wesson) had 15 and 11, but it was much different than the first time we played them. He had an easy time around the basket. He was quicker to the ball.”
While Wesson was free to roam in the paint, Indiana also struggled to defend the perimeter.
The Hoosiers weren’t able to stay in front of the ball most of the day, and that created driving lanes and kickout opportunities to OSU shooters behind the three-point line. Ohio State made 10-of-27 (37 percent) from behind the arc.
Phinisee took the blame for Indiana’s inability to slow the Buckeye attack.
“Really I feel like it’s on me,” Phinisee said. “I’ve got to guard the ball a little bit better. They were getting in the paint and then getting easy kickouts. We really just need to improve the ball pressure on the outside and I feel like that would eliminate a lot more things.”
With Wesson manning the paint and OSU shooters ready on the perimeter, Ohio State had 19 assists on just 10 turnovers.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- Indiana players post-game
- Chris Holtmann post-game comments
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (D) Struggled keeping Kaleb Wesson off the block early and was really a non-factor on both ends of the floor in this one.
- Justin Smith* (C) While no turnovers and no three-point attempts were positives, Smith was unable to produce offensively and had just two rebounds in 27 minutes.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (C+) Finishing in the paint continues to be a problem in the Big Ten but Jackson-Davis did produce seven rebounds and three blocks.
- Al Durham* (C) Durham played a clean game offensively and was efficient. He had two steals, but the junior co-captain hasn’t been strong on the ball defensively.
- Rob Phinisee* (C) Indiana’s best on-the-ball defender wasn’t particularly good against OSU. He was efficient offensively, but IU needs the sophomore point guard to be elite on the other end.
- Devonte Green (D) Don’t let that stat line fool you. Green hit a 40 foot bank shot at the first half buzzer and scored seven more second half points in garbage time. The 0 assist / 2 turnover stat line tells the real story as Green continues to struggle on the road.
- Jerome Hunter (B-) If there is one player that might be working his way into a more prominent role it is Hunter. He looks like a more confident shooter and Hunter’s versatility is something this team is sorely lacking.
- De’Ron Davis (D) Three fouls and three turnovers in nine minutes was not the afternoon IU needed from their senior on the road.
- Armaan Franklin also appeared in the game.
– Redshirt sophomore Race Thompson was not uniform for the game after suffering an injury against Michigan State.
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