Maybe Archie Miller needs to bring a tape measure with him on road trips.
“Ten feet,” head coach Norman Dale said. “I think you’ll find these exact same measurements at our gym back at Hickory.”
Perhaps if walk-on Cooper Bybee got on the shoulders of Joey Brunk and measured the distance from the rim to the floor at the Value City Arena in Columbus before Saturday’s game it might change what has become a disturbing trend.
When Ohio State and Indiana meet at Noon on Saturday, two of the three teams in the Big Ten that struggle the most to shoot the basketball on the road will be meeting.
And of course it will be the Hoosiers that are away from their friendly confines on Saturday afternoon. Seven times this season Indiana has played in venues other than Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and the drop-off in their shooting numbers has been staggering.
Just how different is IU shooting the ball away from home?
In Bloomington the Hoosiers are the second best field goal percentage team in the Big Ten. On the road, they are the third worst.
In percentage terms, IU is shooting 48.6 percent at home, 38.8 percent on the road. That difference of nearly ten percentage points is the third biggest variance in the league, with only the Buckeyes and Purdue more inconsistent.
Of course shooting the ball better at home is no earth shattering discovery. It has been a fact of life in college basketball since peach baskets.
But the degree to which Indiana varies away from Bloomington, and just how low their percentage is on the road is confounding.
The average Big Ten team is 4.5 percentage points better shooting the ball at home, and that includes Northwestern and Nebraska, who actually shoot the ball better on the road.
Indiana’s struggles are more stark when it comes to shooting three-pointers.
The Hoosiers are making 33.9 percent from long range at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and just 23.7 percent away from Bloomington.
It has become a common refrain after road games for Miller to state some variation of “we just need to make shots.” The eye test seems to support his sentiment. The Hoosiers appear to be getting open looks that they are simply not knocking down.
Compounding the problem on the road is Indiana’s inability to get to the foul line.
IU is one of the top teams in the country at attempting free throws. At one point they were in fact the number one team in the nation in that regard. But the more they play on the road, the more their standing in that category drops.
Again, it should come as no real surprise that teams generally get less free throw attempts on the road. But for a team like IU that has come to rely on the charity stripe for a significant portion of its point production — it is a problem.
The Hoosiers have attempted an average of 28.1 free throws per game at home, and just 16.6 on the road. For a team that shoots 68.2 percent at the stripe, that is nearly eight points per game that Indiana is losing when it ventures away from Bloomington.
Miller was asked about his team’s inability to draw fouls and get to the line after the loss on Wednesday at Penn State, and the third year IU head coach had no answers.
“I have no idea,” Miller said. “We’re the number one team in the league in getting to the foul line, third in America at free throw rate, we generate as many points from the free throw line in college basketball. I have no idea why we’re not getting to the free throw line.”
Some of the other variables that you might expect to fluctuate dramatically on the road do not really stand out. Indiana averages 12.9 turnovers per game at home, and 14.1 on the road.
The head coach appears to be right, this really just comes to knocking down some shots. And whether it is different balls, different shooting backgrounds, opposing crowds, or all of the above, IU isn’t getting it done.
INDIANA’S VETERAN GUARDS HAVE TO STEP UP ON THE ROAD
With IU’s overall and three-point percentages falling off dramatically on the road, it probably comes as no surprise who on Indiana’s roster is struggling the most to make shots away from home.
Senior guard Devonte Green’s percentages drop off significantly when IU travels. The team co-captain is making 44.1 percent of his shots at home and just 30.6 percent away from Bloomington.
But it is two of Green’s fellow veteran guards that have struggled the most when the Hoosiers hit the road.
Fellow captain Al Durham is making nearly 50 percent of his shots at home (49.4 percent) but that number plummets to 25 percent away from Simon Skjodt.
Sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee varies more than anyone when it comes to home vs. road splits.
The Lafayette native is converting on 44.8 percent of his attempts in Bloomington, and just 19.4 percent in all other games.
Miller says that his team just needs to make shots, but this guard trio has only made 38 field goals away from home. That is a total, in seven games, for all three players– combined.
That’s right, Indiana’s three veteran guards are combining to contribute just 5.4 field goals per game away from home.
Needless to say, you aren’t going to win many road games with that kind of production from your veteran guards.
It’s time to get out the tape measure.
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