Two years ago, this might have been acceptable.
Two years ago, when Indiana was talent-deprived and had no idea how to handle most Big Ten road atmospheres, when the Hoosiers were little more than a patchwork squad of freshmen and transfers and walk-ons and hope.
When Illinois came to Bloomington in February, Indiana shut the Illini down offensively thanks to a strong night from Jeremiah Rivers on Demetri McCamey. That night, the Hoosiers held Illinois scoreless for a combined 10 minutes en route to winning 52-49. In the first half of Saturday’s game, a porous defensive effort allowed 46 points — or three less than Illinois scored in twice as much time a month ago.
Put simply, the effort Indiana gave Saturday afternoon wasn’t good enough. The hustle, the focus, the energy, the intensity, none of it was close to where it needed to be Saturday afternoon. Consider the following statistical comparisons:
Final score: 76-45 vs. 72-48.
Shooting percentages: 39.2 from field, 33.3 from 3-point range vs. 31.6 from field, 17.3 from 3-point range.
Rebounding margin: plus-12 vs. minus-13.
Turnovers: 19 vs. 10.
The first set of numbers comes from Indiana’s loss at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill., in 2009, when Verdell Jones, Matt Roth and Tom Pritchard were freshmen. The second, you might have guessed, were totals on Saturday.
This is not (IS NOT) to suggest Indiana has not progressed significantly or significantly enough in the last two years. The problem, really, is that Indiana has progressed, and should be beyond this.
Two years ago, deficiencies in intangibles were understandable, if exponential. But this Indiana team has too often shown itself to be too many of the things it once was not. Close losses at Michigan State and Wisconsin, a comeback in the Barn against Minnesota, wins over the Gophers and Illini at home — these are proof of an evolved squad, one that should have been above the absolutely mailed-in performance it gave at the other Assembly Hall.
And make no mistake, this is a team problem, a team mistake. It’s not just on the players, and it’s not just on the coaches. When a performance is so thoroughly lacking, everyone involved is responsible.
Indiana has four days to decide if it has anything left to give this season. Saturday’s performance was born of team-wide failure. Pulling anything more from a season that has yet to see a win away from Assembly Hall will require an equally complete effort in the other direction. Or the season will end Thursday night.
Filed to: Illinois Fighting Illini