Reality check, served. My how things have changed over the course of just a few days.
From unknown, to darling, to disaster, Indiana basketball traveled the complete spectrum this week, and ended up a complete enigma.
Junior guard Al Durham got hit in the mouth in the opening minutes in Madison on Saturday as he ran into a screen set by Wisconsin’s Nate Reuvers. The Badgers continued to deliver figurative shots to the mouth for two long hours, eventually knocking out IU 84-64 in a game that wasn’t even that close.
Indiana (8-1, 0-1) must now get back up, dust off, and get ready for another big test. The Hoosiers travel to New York to face Connecticut in connection with the Jimmy V Classic at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.
IU had two free throws to score the first points of the game, but never led again after that. It was just that kind of day.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller didn’t like what he saw from his offense or defense.
“Our team did not play well on either end of the floor,” Miller said. “Sometimes that happens to groups early in the season – you’re on the road, especially in a conference environment against a conference team, you’re going to run into some of these opportunities where you’re going to have to find out a little bit about yourself.
“That’s the thing I took away most importantly is where we are at from a leadership standpoint and where we’re at from a group standpoint in terms of our resolve.”
When Miller says that leadership was lacking, he seemed to primarily be talking about a recurring challenge with his early Indiana teams — verbal leadership.
The third year head coach didn’t exclude himself from the shortcomings in that regard.
“You can just tell throughout the course of the game that we had a quiet group today – all the way around,” Miller said. “I have to do a better job of finding ways to continue to get them to use their voices to each other and continue to use each other as they talk to one another – it’s all you have on the road.”
Indiana trailed 5-4 with 17:47 remaining in the first half before Wisconsin mounted a 14 point run to set the tone for the game.
It was at that moment that Indiana need strong voices. It never happened. And the rout was on.
Miller’s offense had shown exceptional pace in early games against inferior competition.
But how would his Hoosiers perform in a half court slug fest?
The offense was not the primary issue on this day, but IU did little to help themselves when they had the ball.
“Our offense didn’t help the cause, especially early in the game,” Miller said. “We had some tough possessions, some tough shots and turnovers and weren’t able to get some clean ones. When you do get the clean ones, you have to make the ones that are easier around the basket or get a couple free throws to hang in there, which we didn’t do.”
Coaches like to say that defense can lead to offense, but on this day IU’s struggles on the defensive end actually hurt the offense.
“Them making us work on the defensive side of the ball and us starting to get pressed and frustrated with not being able to stop them definitely carried over to a lack of execution in the first half, in terms of our movement, our ability to run good offense, Miller said.
“Our running game is something that we take a lot of pride in. A lot of teams are going to take you out of that. But one of the reasons that we were taken out of our running game today is because a big component of that is good defense. And our defense wasn’t good enough at all to be able to play in transition in this game. They were running back on defense after they scored about 85% of the time. Our defense created zero opportunities for us to get out and play with the bodies that we have.”
Forced into a half court game, Miller watched the Badger offensive effort with a bit of envy.
“In a very similar fashion, we should have been cutting hard like them. In a very similar fashion, we should have been moving that ball in and around like them, Miller continued.
“But we were too quick to try to make an interior play when it’s not there. We were too quick to take a tough shot when on the road you’re going to have to figure a way out to get an easier one. ”
Yes, Wisconsin was knocking down shots. If it was just one guy with a hot hand, you tip your cap. But Indiana had a complete system-wide failure on Saturday afternoon in Madison.
“I thought they were very confident and we weren’t really able to punch back and throw resistance. That was probably the most disappointing thing was the defensive resistance,” Miller said. “Our effort level has been pretty good, it’s been growing and I thought we got frustrated with them making shots and didn’t continue to stay with it possession after possession.”
Wisconsin had 13 assists on the day against just 4 turnovers as they shot 54.6% from the field, including 62.5% in the first half.
Whether it was a lack of ball pressure or getting beat on cuts and screens, there was plenty of blame to go around.
“They did a great job of cutting and screening and moving and working the possession,” Miller said. … “Our ball pressure one through five on the perimeter allowed their team to move it easily. They saw people easily, and they got clean looks even from inside the line, uncontested, or at least quality face up shots that were too easy. They got into a very comfortable rhythm running their stuff. There wasn’t a whole lot of physicality from us, and there wasn’t a whole lot of tenaciousness on the ball.”
Tactically speaking, the coaching decision to have anyone other than Trayce Jackson-Davis guard Nate Reuvers backfired. Reuvers was too athletic and quick for Joey Brunk and De’Ron Davis, and he exposed Indiana’s big men on several occasions.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Snapshot: Wisconsin Woes continue for IU
- Miller post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (D) Did a good job with 6 rebounds in 17 minutes, but the matchups were just not there defensively for Brunk and he struggled at times with the ball in his hands.
- Justin Smith* (D) Probably no one on the team is more adversely impacted than Smith when IU is forced into being a half court team. Just 2 rebounds in 24 minutes is not up to his ability.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (D) Lots of freshman moments, especially on post defense, and like Smith, the rebounding numbers aren’t good enough.
- Armaan Franklin* (D+) Considering the circumstances Franklin didn’t have an altogether terrible day, but he was heavily involved in some of the worst defensive stretches.
- Al Durham* (D) Durham had 2 points at halftime before knocking down some garbage time buckets. Like his fellow starters, he was not effective on the defensive end, and as a co-captain, he had to find a way to stem the tide.
- Devonte Green (C-) Some good moments from Green but sadly IU needed another unrealistic 30 point day, and it needed more leadership. Miller indicated the Green once again missed practice time as he deals with minor bumps and bruises.
- Jerome Hunter (C-) Gave IU some decent minutes but until his shot starts falling it is going to be difficult to keep Hunter in for long stretches.
- Race Thompson (C-) Probably should have played longer as IU looked for matchups and more intensity.
- De’Ron Davis (D-) An airball on a free throw attempt was part of an 0-for-4 game from the line. Perhaps the positive is that he drew the fouls? Davis can’t get anything going and he isn’t an asset on defense right now, especially not with the matchups in this one.
- Damezi Anderson (C-) Continues to show signs and played with decent energy. Miller is giving him a good look right now.
Note: Sophomore starting point guard Rob Phinisee missed his fourth straight game.
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