Wisconsin loss is alarming, but no reason to overreact

IUWisITH0002Let’s begin with what matters the most: This is not the end of the world.

There will undoubtedly be people that overreact to No. 2 Indiana’s 64-59 home loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday night. It was an unranked Wisconsin team, after all, and the Hoosiers were playing at home. This isn’t the same Indiana team that had lost 10 consecutive games to the Badgers. This team was supposed to be different.

But when the Hoosiers wake up this morning, they will still be an incredibly talented team. They will still have a good shot to win a Big Ten title and make a run in March’s NCAA Tournament. This mid-January loss doesn’t change any of that.

What it does do, though, is raise a number of critical issues with this team. If the Hoosiers are to make a run and play like a top-five team, they must correct most, if not all, of these issues, and quickly.

One: Indiana must learn to play in the half court. This is not the Hoosiers’ preference, of course, considering their roster is made up of athletic, high-flyers who love to get up and down the floor and get easy baskets. How many times have we heard this season that their defense feeds their offense?

Well, they didn’t have that option on Tuesday night. Wisconsin (13-4, 4-0) slowed the pace, refused to allow the Hoosiers (15-2, 3-1) to run, and forced them to run half-court sets and score that way. Indiana struggled to do so.

“We didn’t make shots like we normally do, and it affected us,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “We weren’t moving the ball like we should have, like we do. I think when we see the film, it’s not as much them as it was us. We missed shots, especially the open ones. You’ve got to shoot the ball well against Wisconsin. When teams play well against them, they shoot the ball well against them. And we didn’t.”

Look, Crean is a great recruiter, a great motivator, and a very good coach. But his teams sometimes struggle in the half court, and that was again the case against Wisconsin. The offense gets stagnant, the Hoosiers rely on screening more than legitimate set plays, and they really struggle. Adjustments just didn’t seem to be there in the second half.

Now the good thing for the Hoosiers is that they won’t play many teams like Wisconsin. Most teams on their schedule are either more willing to run with them or less able to keep them from running. Either way, those matchups favor the Hoosiers much more than this one did.

Two: Will Sheehey and the bench must do something. That’s something many didn’t expect would be a problem when this season began, but it has been lately. The Hoosiers aren’t as deep as Crean expected them to be — Hanner Mosquera-Perea is virtually unplayable at this point in his development — and they aren’t getting the kind of production they need from their experienced bench players.

That means Sheehey and Remy Abell, who did so many good things during the non-conference season. In the last two games, though, both have vanished. The two have combined for just one point on 0-of-12 shooting against Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sheehey’s struggles have been particularly troubling considering he had scored in double figures in eight of his last 10 games entering this two-game stretch.

“I’m not as concerned about the lack of offense from the bench,” Crean said. “I’m concerned about the lack of creating pace of the game with deflections, defense. You need guys to come in and make plays.

“We’ve got to have more talk and more energy from Remy. And Will’s got to get more involved. Will’s an active, engaged player. Will’s the last guy we need when the shot’s not going for him to not be at the same place defensively. He’s got to be way better than that.”

Three: This team has to find its clutch gene. Yes, I know that’s a Skip Bayless term and it hurts me to use it, but it is perfect for this situation. As Wisconsin hit tough shots down the stretch and Indiana wasted key possessions, it just became so clear: the Hoosiers aren’t there yet.

They don’t have that clutch gene. They don’t have that go-to guy that can consistently provide a huge basket in a key situation. When Indiana needed to score late, it didn’t know who to go to. Jordan Hulls had a bad night. Cody Zeller didn’t make a field goal in the second half. Christian Watford missed a shot off the side of the backboard.

Wisconsin has been there time and again, especially against the Hoosiers. Their less-talented players know what it takes to win at the end of close games. Indiana doesn’t yet, but that is something that will come in time. It’s something that will come from playing in more close games.

There are concerns with this team, there’s no doubt about it. Maybe this team’s a bit overrated at No. 2. But if you’re an Indiana fan, this is not the time to overreact. Tuesday’s loss to Wisconsin was a bit alarming, sure. But at the same time, the Badgers have had Indiana’s number during Crean’s tenure.

This loss isn’t any more significant than just that — one loss. If these issues continue to be a problem for multiple games going forward, well, that’s a different story entirely.

  • Geoff_85

    Well I get kind of pissed off when people call us all rednecks because some of us choose to say “ain’t”, but I’m not mad at anyone for it. What makes people think Coach Crean is Mr. Nice Guy? He doesn’t freak out on players in front of cameras ala Bob Knight or “Frightening” Fran McAffery, but I will tell you this, Coach Crean lets his players know that he’s not happy about something. In a game that IU ended up winning handily against UMES or some crap, someone that attended the game told me that in the tunnel at halftime, before the team got into the locker room, Coach Crean grabbed Derek Elston by the jersey and screamed his head off at him for not boxing a guy out. Elston sat the rest of the game. In an airing of something BTN had about Indiana, there was a shot of Coach Crean entering the locker room from the tunnel and as soon as he got in the room you could tell he threw a chair or something. He’s letting them know he’s not happy, he’s just not doing it in such a way that is costing the team anything.

  • tajitj

    We are not much better than last year. Watching that makes me think we have 5 to 7 losses again in the big ten.

  • tajitj

    We are not much better than last year. Watching that makes me think we have 5 to 7 losses again in the big ten.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Thanks for posting this. I can’t believe people think Tom Crean (or any coach) is “Mr. Nice Guy” all the time. Just because he chooses not to nearly have a stroke on the sideline or get a technical foul because he can’t control his temper doesn’t mean he doesn’t criticize his players in the manner he feels works best, IN PRIVATE!

    Then again, any post that begins…. “Do you Indiana faithful remember the coach Bobby Knight and….” is probably best left ignored.

  • plane1972

    Gresh, you have a way with words, my friend. Classic!

  • plane1972

    I haven’t watched the replay, so I don’t know who is responsible for this utter breakdown, but for Brust to get a written invitation down the middle of the lane for an uncontested dunk was sickening. Someone didn’t keep him in front of them and the bigs didn’t tattoo him for even considering such a thing. That one will live in my memory for some time. I can feel the vomit rising in the back of my throat.

  • plane1972

    I haven’t watched the replay, so I don’t know who is responsible for this utter breakdown, but for Brust to get a written invitation down the middle of the lane for an uncontested dunk was sickening. Someone didn’t keep him in front of them and the bigs didn’t tattoo him for even considering such a thing. That one will live in my memory for some time. I can feel the vomit rising in the back of my throat.

  • plane1972

    Ranked or unranked, Wisconsin is good. It hurts to lose at home to anyone, but we lost to a tough and talented team in the toughest conference. We had enough to win, but it didn’t happen. It will happen again.

  • HoosierKen73

    I din’t know where your head was when watching the game…but you must have been watching a different game than I was… Jordy had some shots…he wasn’t hitting them.. He was 2 for 8…two games ago, he was 0 for about 11 or 12…. Not exactly something you want to run a lot of set plays for to get him open…what, so he can toss up another brick? As indicated above, coaches coach, players play. With Jordy 2 for 8, CWat, 3 for 8, Yogi 2 for 8, Sheehey was I think 1 for 8… I mean, Crean can’t go out there and shoot for them… AND all of that great shooting was on our home floor… The Hall… who would’ve thought? They just aren’t showing up this year…the only two that have consistently played well since B1G started, are Zeller and Oladipo..and having only two contributors, will not cut it in this league. Love the Hoosiers, but they have to wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Bob Michaels

    IMO, this is spot on. One other thing to consider is that we are now getting every teams best game – unlike last year when we were probably overlooked. I think that our team has to learn how to play with that target on their backs, which they’ve really never had to do.

    The play of Will and Remy has been perplexing. They’ve shown us what they are capable of, but both have gone into a slump at the same time. That said, I believe they’ll snap out of it (the sooner the better).

  • twarrior87

    I think we are quite a bit better than last year. Yogi alone makes us a lot better than last year. The team has shown glimpses of how they can play (example 1st half vs Minny). Hopefully they will work some things out and get closer to playing that kind of ball for a full 40 on a consistent basis.

  • calbert40

    I do not think a 6 loss season would be a “pitiful showing.” It would not be what most expected, but I predicted a 5 loss team before the season started. The B1G is just SO tough this year that it is going to cannibalize a lot of teams. If IU was in the PAC-12, we probably enter Selection Sunday with 30 wins. I think we will end up around 27 or 28 as it stands, but our resume will be loaded with quality wins (hopefully).

    So far as Hulls is concerned, he’s looked pretty bad lately. I don’t know what it is, but other than the PSU game, he has looked bad in conference. I’d be okay with CTC sending him a message by starting Will or Remy in his spot for a game or two, but we are going to need him to figure things out if we want to be a national contender, IMO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.k.kinney Chuck Kinney

    I agree,but crean is adiment about his uptempo game,so in order to do that against teams like wis,they need a killer press,that would create easy baskets and speed up the game to his liking.If not he needs to do a way better job of half offense and defense,there is no other way.We have the talent to get the job done,its convincing the players that.Hulls needs to sit the bench and become a role player.We have plenty of guys that shoots the three that play better defense and matches up better with the other guards.The lineup needs to be Zeller,Watford,Hollowell,Oladipo and Ferrell.With Sheehey,Hulls,Elston,Perea off the bench.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.k.kinney Chuck Kinney

    Thats the 5 I would start as well.Does anyone agree that crean is trying to be to much of a friend to these players?You guys need to get on twitter and follow crean.He says some real stupid shit.Im not so sure he is our coach we want,just saying he is toooooo soft.

  • twarrior87

    Kelin, thank you for sharing this. I never understand why every time we lose a game its fire CTC, Hulls and Watford stink, etc. Losing is part of the game. I think the preseason hype got to some people here. I’m not condoning a loss on our home court to Wisco, but geez we can still win the B1G and make the tourney which is really all that matters.

  • Bobby

    How did he “out-coach” him? I see this thrown about without much substance.

  • Bobby

    So what you’re saying is that Crean can’t coach and our pre-season schedule was too soft? (sarcasm intended)

  • marcusgresham

    Twitter is PR. Intelligent people make benign comments on Twitter so they don’t cause controversy. If you’re on there expecting him to light into one of his players you should wake up. He’s not John Calipari, throwing his guys under the bus for the world to see.

  • marcusgresham

    He looked horrible against Wisconsin. Honestly, the game he went 0-10 he didn’t play poorly, he just couldn’t hit a shot.
    Remy hasn’t played well for two games, so I don’t know if I want to toss him out there to start the game. Besides, you can play Hulls and Ferrell together because Jordy’s such a good shooter. I know Remy started the year hot, but do you really want him as your 2? You think guys are sagging off to double Cody and Watford now, wait for that.

  • marcusgresham

    I didn’t dispute that it works, it just bores me. My rusty Hyundai Sonata works but I’d sure as hell rather watch a BMW go by.

  • marcusgresham

    Maybe they should get Mitch McConnell to play the point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bruce.kinsey Bruce Kinsey

    Not a game we should have lost. On home court? come on!

  • sloan screen #45

    You need to watch the game again before you start in on me.Count how many times Wisc. ran their offense till we broke down and gave an easy look. A bunch. Rebounding is more than about numbers. Count how many times our chances to make a run were stopped by Wisc. getting that one rebound we had to have. Several times. Its stupid to throw out stats that were put up against the cupcakes we played pre conference.

  • sloan screen #45

    You are right, Kelin no worries here. Just keep drinking that kool-aid as usual.

  • calbert40

    I follow Coach, and I have no problem with what he says. He is uplifting and encouraging to the players. What do you want him to do? Yell and curse at them in a public forum? That’s ridiculous!

  • calbert40

    Agreed. I thought he played a good floor game against Iowa, but just couldn’t get anything to fall. Tuesday night was different. He didn’t play well at all.

  • Jersey Hoosier

    First of all – the outcome of the game – a win with less talent. Second – your point guard contributing 1 assist during the game. Bobby would have sat Yogi down and explained what his job was. Proof enough?

  • Jersey Hoosier

    First of all – the outcome of the game – a win with less talent. Second – your point guard contributing 1 assist during the game. Bobby would have sat Yogi down and explained what his job was. Proof enough?

  • SCHoosier

    No way ..he can only go his right..very easy to defend:)

  • SCHoosier

    Missing that IU couldn’t lose at home this year and get the post season positioning it wanted. On th e other hand..u gotta play everybody in your brackets to win..so..

  • SCHoosier

    Missing that IU couldn’t lose at home this year and get the post season positioning it wanted. On th e other hand..u gotta play everybody in your brackets to win..so..

  • Ole Man

    Wow! 236 comments as of now. The loss sure hit a nerve!
    I love the team, but honestly, sometimes on the court, and even sometimes in interviews, they look tired and dispirited. They seem “lost”.
    It’s almost as if they’re trying to hard and no longer enjoying the game. Maybe the Coach and team need a day off?

  • Geoff_85

    I don’t need to watch the game again to know that Indiana outrebounded Wis by 9. You might not like the dribble drive offense, but even in conference play, Indiana is one of the best and most efficient offensive teams. Perhaps those stats don’t matter either. Indiana struggles with Wisconsin because of pace, and in this particular game, they shot themselves in the foot with untimely turnovers. I’m not saying that the defense didn’t break down in the last 5-7 seconds of the shot clock, but the defense was not bad, and the rebounding was good. The offense shot 37% and you go at the defense and rebounding? If you make your shots, there aren’t any rebounds that you HAVE you get. Count how many shots Indiana missed. Maybe YOU need to watch the game again.

  • paco29715

    My point was all 4 of those teams game planned for and beat Wisconsin… the post I was originally replying to made that sound like it’s impossible to do. You make Brusewitz sound like MJ… He averages 7.4 points per game…against us he had 10 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, and a steal. Not a bad game but to say he’s an anomoly I hope you are only referring to his fire red afro…

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