The Big Ten roller coaster ride continues, and Indiana finds itself headed downhill — and gaining speed in the wrong direction.
For the first time this season the Hoosiers have lost two in a row in league play. In and of itself that isn’t a particularly troubling fact, but the way IU played on Wednesday night at Penn State is no doubt disturbing. And more broadly, Indiana is now just 4-5 in its last nine games.
Plagued once again by a complete lack of perimeter shooting and turnovers on the road, the Hoosiers fell 64-49 at Penn State. With no relief on the schedule in sight, the early markers of a extended downward slide are bubbling to the surface. Indiana needs to find answers fast.
To avoid a third straight conference loss, IU will have to win another game on the road. Indiana (15-6, 5-5) travels to Ohio State next to face the Buckeyes at noon on Saturday in Columbus.
After playing Penn State to a 28-28 tie at the half, Indiana head coach Archie Miller didn’t hold back in the post-game press conference when it came to his impressions of his team’s play in the second session.
The Hoosiers didn’t play particularly well in the first half, but they did enough on both ends to keep things close. That wasn’t the case coming out of the break.
“When you talk to the team after the game, there’s not a whole lot to talk about,” Miller said. “In the second half we just played terrible.
“The turnovers just mounted. We could never get a grip. Turnovers and our inability to score was going to cave us in.”
And they did.
IU was within one point (33-32) with 15:37 remaining in the game, and still within six (41-35) with 12:33 to go. But with the offense producing nothing, Indiana wasn’t going to be able to hold off Penn State all night.
“When your offense lets you down like it did tonight its tough,” Miller said. “It’s going to be hard on the road as it is, but you can’t defend and shut a team out for 40 minutes.”
The Nittany Lions turned that six point advantage into a 20-point lead with a 20-6 knockout run over a key nine minute stretch to put things out of reach.
The Hoosiers were humbled yet again by one of the Big Ten’s historically bad teams. Indiana is looking up in the standings at teams like Penn State and Rutgers halfway into the conference season.. There is a lot of basketball left to be played, but that is at least an uncomfortable big picture fact at the moment.
Miller knows the buck stops with him.
“We didn’t play well,” Miller said. “That’s on me. We’ll have to play a lot better moving forward.”
There is no doubt that the game was lost when Indiana had the basketball.
“Offensively we were bad,” Miller said.
The Indiana head coach gave credit where it was due.
“Penn State does a good job with their pressure defense,” Miller said. “They take away a lot of stuff you normally get. They’re a very good defensive team.”
But this much more about what IU did wrong than what Penn State did right.
“When you turn it over and give a team 15 steals, they will eventually break the game open,” Miller said.
More than just mistakes, PSU generated 21 points off of the Hoosiers’ turnovers with several live ball miscues that led to fast break opportunities going the other way.
12 of Indiana’s 18 turnovers came after halftime, but the Hoosiers might have been able to survive all of those mistakes if they could get any kind of production out of their offense during the clean possessions.
With a road stat line that is becoming all too familiar, IU was just 19-of-57 (33.3 percent) from the field overall, including just 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from three-point range.
“We had some good looks that needed to go down,” Miller said. “You have to make some shots. We didn’t have it. It wasn’t one guy. We couldn’t get anything going. You’ve got to be stronger with the ball.”
Indiana’s guards combined to shoot 3-of-26 from the field.
One staple of the offense that produces points was virtually non-existent on Wednesday night.
Averaging nearly 25 free throws a contest, Indiana had just 10 attempts at Penn State.
“I have no idea,” Miller said when asked about the lack of free-throw opportunities. “We’re the No. 1 team in the league in getting to the foul line. We’re third in America in free throw rate. We generate as many points from the free throw line as any team in college basketball. I have no idea why we’re not getting to the line.”
The leading indicator for the lack of free throws was a lack of ball movement, as IU produced only 9 assists. Coupled with Indiana’s inability to make shots, Penn State’s defense didn’t have to move or rotate, and they weren’t on their heels in recovery mode where most fouls happen.
The Hoosiers probably played good enough to win on the defensive end of the floor. Of course we said the same thing about their offensive effort against Maryland. Clearly IU is not putting together complete efforts on both ends of the floor right now.
“I felt like tonight’s game we played pretty hard for the most part,” Miller said. “We got stops.
“We hung in there defensively. For the most part our first-time defense was good. You look at their shooting percentages at home, and you’d think you would have a chance to hang in there.”
It was not all good on the defensive end. Penn State generated 23 free throw attempts on the night. If they had made more than 11 of those shots from the stripe things could have been much worse.
“Our defense caved in the out foul line,” Miller said. “We fouled them way too much unnecessarily.”
The Hoosiers didn’t help their struggling offense. IU only forced seven Penn State turnovers, meaning that transition opportunities going the other way were limited.
Indiana outrebounded the Nittany Lions, 44-38, and the Hoosier defense held Penn State to only 24-of-64 shooting (37.5 percent).
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- Pat Chambers post-game comments
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (C) Penn State’s big men are the type of players that you would hope that Brunk could have an edge against, but the redshirt junior did not meaningfully impact the game as he struggled with fouls and saw limited action.
- Justin Smith* (B-) Smith once again did a good job defending Penn State’s Lamar Stevens who had an inefficient 17 points. At times he was IU’s only offensive weapon in the second half. Three turnovers is too many for no more than he handles the ball.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (B-) The freshman big man was a force in the first half with 10 points and 6 rebounds, but he faded in the second half.
- Al Durham* (D-) Durham failed to knock down open shots and wasn’t productive facilitating the offense or rebounding. More concerning, the junior guard continues to struggle defensively.
- Rob Phinisee* (D) The sophomore point guard is doing a nice job probing for holes in the defense, but he is struggling to finish at the rim through contact. 4 assists against 2 turnovers is good, but Indiana won’t win many games when Phinisee is shut out.
- Devonte Green (D-) Green’s road woes shooting the basketball continue and he continues to take ill advised shots. It is becoming more and more clear that this team seems to live and die with how Green plays.
- Armaan Franklin (C) Franklin was productive with five rebounds and two steals and he brought energy. But like all of his backcourt mates, he could get nothing to go down from the field.
- De’Ron Davis (C) Davis looks as physically healthy as he has in years and his level of play is trending up, but Indiana needs him to convert better than 1-of-6 at the rim.
- Damezi Anderson (D) The sophomore tried to bring energy on the glass with four rebounds, but there were defensive mistakes and Anderson continues to struggle shooting the basketball.
– Redshirt sophomore Race Thompson was not uniform for the game after suffering an injury against Michigan State. Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter did not play due to an illness. Penn State’s bench outscored Indiana 31-11.
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