Second-half collapse dooms Indiana in 69-52 loss to Syracuse

  • 12/04/2013 7:14 am in

After the game, Indiana coach Tom Crean opened his press conference with the blunt words that summed up the night.

“I’ve never been involved in a game where a team was as different in one half as they were in the other today,” he said.

He was angry, disappointed, embarrassed. In the Hoosiers’ true lone away game of the non-conference season, his team was within four points at halftime against the No. 5 Syracuse Orange.

By the final buzzer, Indiana had lost, 69-52.

From the start of that second half, Indiana had gone from potentially upsetting the team that knocked them out in last year’s NCAA tournament to going back to the drawing board. What changed?

“I just felt like we got away from what was working for us in the first half and that’s why they got the lead and stretched it out,” freshman Noah Vonleh said. “In the first half, we were establishing it in the post, catching it in the high post, looking for guys in the corners, the wings, attacking, everybody was getting fouled. We were in the bonus early.

“But when the second half started, we just started settling for 3-pointers, and that’s not where our game plan is.”

Crean could sense by the time his team left the locker room for the second half that something was wrong. His team was quiet. Too quiet.

After Indiana came back from a 10-0 deficit to start the game and even led, 27-26, near the end of the first half, Syracuse pulled away late and had a 33-29 lead at the break. It could have been worse, but C.J. Fair missed a 3-pointer before the buzzer.

And when the Hoosiers started the second half, they did what Crean had pleaded for them not to do: settle for shots. Three of their first five attempts were from behind the arc. But it got worse.

Indiana started turning the ball over, too. From the 17:51 mark of the second half to 5:08, the Hoosiers lost the ball on nine possessions. In that same span, Indiana did not score on a single basket. In fact, it only had four shot attempts.

Syracuse had gone on a 20-7 run, and the game was out of reach. Indiana had fallen into the trap it never wanted to be in, in the first place.

“I don’t know if it’s the inexperience, I don’t know if it’s the anxiety, I don’t know if we had too many guys that didn’t believe they could win the game, I don’t know if we had some guys that were shocked that we were in the game, but that was as poor of a second half performance spirit-wise, game plan-wise and sticktoitiveness that I’ve been a part of in a long time,” Crean said.

“These guys aren’t going to get this opportunity again. We’ll never find out where we could have been. There’s no measuring stick for us in this game other than the fact that we came out and we did not have the proper spirit to compete with Syracuse in the second half.”

By the time Vonleh ended the drought with a slam dunk, Syracuse had already extended the score to 60-42. Though Indiana would score 10 more points in the final 5:08, by no means was it enough to overcome the deficit.

Overall in the second half, the Orange shot 63.2 percent and even left eight points on the board with missed free throws. After the Hoosiers had 10 first half offensive rebounds that led to eight second chance points, they only had two in each category in the second half. After turning the ball over only six times in the first half, they had 10 in the second.

“I felt like guys didn’t think we could win this game,” sophomore Yogi Ferrell said. “We weren’t really fighting that hard and not competing. So we’re just going back to the drawing board.”

With shaken confidence, though, Indiana has plenty of time to rebound. The team does not play next until Dec. 7, against North Florida, and won’t play another BCS-level team until Dec. 14, against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.

But Indiana won’t take many positive aspects from Tuesday’s game. Crean said he was “disgusted with the lack of leadership,” while he thought his team had “one of the poorest displays of fight and communication” he has ever seen.

After all the progress he thought his team has made through their first seven games, Crean saw them take a step back.

“I would have really liked to been able to have this team have a measuring stick of what it means to play against a top-five, national championship contender and really have a view of where we are,” he said. “The view we have tonight, I don’t like very much. I hope it’s not very accurate.”

Etherington ejected

With 9:19 remaining in the second half and Indiana already trailing, 53-36, Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney was driving to the basket off a steal and was fouled from behind by Indiana’s Austin Etherington as he was rising for a layup.

Officials immediately called Etherington for an intentional foul, and following the official review referees declared it was a Flagrant 2 foul, resulting in the sophomore’s immediate disqualification.

“Austin was the most shocked guy,” Crean said. “Like I said to Jim Boeheim afterwards, there’s no way Austin Etherington meant to hit Trevor Cooney like that. He made a play on the ball. I never saw the left hand. They said it, I’m not going to have any argument with it, but as I said to Jim, he’s not that kind of player. He would have never done that on purpose.”

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  • Tom

    Lot of work to be done in Bloomington. These guys need to run the stairs at AH until they puke.

  • G-Rob

    I agree, losing is one thing but playing with little to no heart is another. Very sad effort from our young team in the 2nd half. I was very disappointed with our effort accross the board. If your going to lose a fight go down swinging just dont take it. Thats what was really sad out of our team, several players looked like they didnt care in the 2nd half and a national audience noticed.

  • Kenneth234

    Before this comes to yet another thread of bashing the team, individual players, and the coach, I want to make a positive comment.

    This team in my opinion showed a lot more conviction against Syracuse in the first half than I seen out of last years veteran laden-ed team. If anything, I think this team needs to play big. Its time to take more advantage of our length by starting Fischer, Vonleh, Hollowell, either Will or Troy, and Yogi. Play inside out and get the young post players involved and play off of them. We need to be a half court team that looks to take advantage when opportunities arise to get transition baskets, and force the other team to battle in the post against size and do so without fouling. Vonleh has began to show the ability to knock down a good percentage of free throws, and should be the emphasis game in and game out.

  • IUED

    Along with Crean.

  • SCHoosier

    I know a lot of posters predicted a victory..IU controlling the glass etc..but geez people..if the Hoosiers couldn’t bust that zone with four 1,000 point scorers..a 7 ft center and great D specialist last year…how was that young wide-eyed bunch we have this year gonna accomplish anything? I expected that IU would get beat..just hoped for a competitive game which the Hoosiers provided in the first half. 6 straight horrible possessions in the second half involving quick shots and TO’s sealed their doom . Could have happened to start that game. Time to realize that while this team has potential ..it is a LONG way from a top 20 college b-ball TEAM.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Complete meltdown in the 2nd half. From where I was sitting, our “experienced” players (Yogi, JH, WS) all played terribly. Sure, Yogi hit 4 threes but they were mostly forced and he was lucky they fell. Our best players last night were Vonleh, Troy, and Devin Davis (until he got hurt). That is disappointing for this season but promising for next year…

  • Hoosier Hall

    I will say this, last year’s team vs. Syracuse – 50 points. This years team – 52 points… at that rate we will out score them in 2025.

  • CreamandCrimson

    For those who haven’t watched Tom Crean’s post game press conference (I advise you to do so)….he appears to be pretty angry with his team’s second half performance and with the “leadership” of the team. It’s going to be interesting to see how they respond over the next three games (North Florida, Oakland and then a good Notre Dame team).

  • Steve Fischer

    Although before the season I would have been ok had I known we were going to have a 6-2 start, I can still feel depressed and deflated after the game. I don’t really need reminding that this is a young team – I’ve been a fan since ’74. Some want to blame Coach Crean and they should have that right without being attacked. I’m not blaming our coach for this game but we know he isn’t perfect. Our coach defines depth as “no fall off in quality’ A lofty goal, however its becoming clear that certain of our recruits would be better off at lower tier schools like Evansville, Ball State or Purdue. LOl

  • fivetimechampsiu

    Crean contributed to this loss with his horrible substitution patterns. He needs to take plenty of blame himself. Why does he constantly play Gordon when all he does is pass up open shots and Fischer over Hanner…. Really?

  • 5_Banners

    Weird. Vonleh said they went away from the game plan in the second half. funny how players don’t follow game plans sometimes.

  • Indiana_Banners

    Crean has to reign that in some too. The thing is, the loss isn’t 100% on the players nor is it 100% on Crean.

  • Indiana_Banners

    Last night we struggled with turnovers… it made sense to play more guards considering. Fischer has more size than Hanner, which may have been a consideration against Syracuse’s taller line. Hanner did look good when he did come in, but we ended up needing to play larger so Luke came back.

    Luke wasn’t awful. He rebounded well but had some bad turnovers. He hasn’t had much burn this year and I hope he’ll learn from that game.

  • TedHightowerSucks

    “Complete lack of leadership” has to be on the coach too, right? Loved Vonleh’s nastiness last night. Really hope we can have him for another year….

  • TokyoSteve

    I know you didn’t say this, but I don’t think 7 minutes for Luke is too many. I think he is going to be a good player and needs minutes to develop. However, like you, I don’t understand Hanner’s lack of playing time in this game. I know that in some recent games the hands issue came up a bit,
    but in his mere 3 minutes in this game he was 1 for 1 on field goals, had 2
    boards and 1 block with 0 turnovers. Admittedly, I couldn’t watch the
    game (I listened to snippets of Don and Royce calling the game as I sat
    on the can in my office in Tokyo and then later listened to the entire
    game archived); so, here are my honest questions. Did Hanner look lost?
    Was his bucket lucky? From Don’s play-by-play it didn’t sound like he
    hurt us on defense (I recall hearing of one shot he challenged that was
    missed and both Royce and Don said that one of his fouls was smart and
    stopped an easy bucket). I don’t understand why he can’t play along side
    Noah for stretches. Someone clue me in here.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Agree. There’s a big difference between losing and losing LIKE THIS.

  • 5_Banners

    Don’t disagree with that. I do think he should use more timeouts when teams make runs. But I understand why he doesn’t…he trusts his team.

  • MillaRed

    Is it me or does Coach always throw the team under the bus when we get whipped like this? Where is the “leadership” in that? I’m not saying there isn’t truth to his statements. But to go public like that every time? Isn’t he part of the team?

    Was this a “stellar coaching performance?” Not at all. He has to shoulder some (yes I said some) of the blame and I am not seeing a grain of it in these statements.

    I’m a Coach Crean fan but this is not a great display of leadership IMO.

  • Michael

    finally someone gets it.

  • Michael

    You realize luke was getting quick fouls right and also turned the ball over?

    Like I’ve said before, you can only replace so many players who are making mistakes for others who are doing the same thing.

    Syracuse is good.

  • TokyoSteve

    Thanks for the reply but I guess I should have omitted the first 2 lines of my post, because I was primarily wondering about Hanner only getting 3 minutes. Again, I wasn’t able to watch the game; and based on my reading of your post, it seems you are saying that Hanner was making mistakes. I am wondering if you or someone else who saw the game could tell me what mistakes Hanner was making in this game?

  • nwin iu fan

    amen ive been saying this since day one move fisher into starting lineup hes probably the most fundamentally sound player we have

  • inLinE6

    Gordon has to sit. If he’s not going to shoot open looks, he’s not supposed to be on the court. I hardly see any Eric in him.

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    IMO, he wasn’t necessarily making “mistakes”……but in the couple of opportunities he got, he seemed to be nervous. That led to Hanner’s usual issues with his hands and being in control with the basketball.

    I’m not saying he couldn’t have settled in with more minutes, but my take was he was showing signs of what has troubled him up to this point – lack of hands and discipline with the basketball.

  • Paul

    To suggest that stiff criticism is not a possible means of leadership is rather strange to me. Sometimes getting mad is the right thing to do.

  • kris

    I just try to keep things in perspective. This is a team that is learning how to play together, very young and we all had to expect ups and downs this year. On the way to becoming an elite team (this year, next year, etc), we’re going to fail at times, like we did in the 2nd half. Failure is part of life. They’ll learn from it and get better. It’s just one game.

  • wesmont

    Could not agree more.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    don’t mind the loss as much as the way we lost, which was pretty darn embarrassing at times. but to me the steep 2nd half drop-off isn’t that mysterious. it was obvious we were exerting A LOT of energy to keep up. seriously, did we ever look comfortable the entire night? other than the 3 seconds it took TW to dunk off that steal? i just think if you’re not experienced and poised enough to handle a defense of that caliber (and if your midrange shot isn’t going in), it’s going to eventually break your will. louisville did it to teams over and over last season (syracuse, wichita st, michigan, etc…).

    still, i’m so ticked i can’t stand it. hate to see my team get shown up like that. they’re becoming another wisconsin to us. and i hate to be pessimistic, but you know wiscy’s gonna whoop our butts this year too.

    now the problem starts to become where do we get our quality wins? nd isn’t ranked, michigan ain’t gonna be ranked for long (assuming we’re good enough to beat either). we likely pull off a couple upsets at home, is that gonna be enough to get us to the big dance?

  • INUnivHoosier

    I like Vonleh, Perea, Troy, Will, Yogi w/ Davis coming off the bench. Fischer needs a little more time, IMO. He looks like everything is moving a little too fast for him right now. He is still trying to catch back up for the time he missed early on, I would imagine.

  • INUnivHoosier

    As I see it from the couch, Hanner’s biggest mistake is trying to play too fast. He is always really “herky jerky.” He appears to be engaged and care about the game, though. He just needs to smooth things out and calm down a bit. The improvement over what we saw last year is phenomenal.

  • MillaRed

    How about taking some responsibility? Leadership requires both. He should be mad at the team and the staff. They both struggled.

    Note I said “always.” So no, I do not think getting mad at the team every time without taking some responsibility is a foundation of good leadership.

    We’re not comparing apples to apples.

  • Paul

    He literally said “it’s my responsibility”…

  • Sam

    Vonleh deserves the ball alot more. Syracuse pretty much just hacked him the entire game. We give Vonleh 5-7 more shots the games alot closer.

  • dwdkc

    Too early to worry about that. The bubble is always Charmin-soft and if you can’t get on the right side of it with your play, what difference does it make? This team certainly will have the ability and opportunity to play its way in. Just play more like the first half for longer, get the young guys more comfortable with the speed of the game which will happen, and keep getting better. Lots of tourney teams will have losses like this to bad teams, never mind a top 10 team.

  • TokyoSteve

    Thanks to you and Aiken, as well as Michael previously, for being my eyes on this one.

  • HoosierHook

    Jeremy Hollowell is not ready for the minutes he’s getting. He’s a turnover machine who needs to understand how to progress the offense. It’s not high school where he can drive on the average 6’3″ defender and score at will. Until he understands the team aspect of the game he should get no more than 10-15 minutes a game.

  • Indiana_Banners

    Did you watch the game last night? Fischer was a no show offensively and had two awful turnovers. He did rebound well, but I really don’t see how he is the most fundamentally sound player at this point.

  • Guest

    He did exactly as you suggest and it’s in the article… did you read it?

  • MillaRed

    I would like the guy to come out and say it before he throws the team under the bus. Not after. It’s how he rolls.

  • G-Rob

    I agree, I have been a fan of Hollowell but I am losing faith in his game and progress. I think he needs to come off the bench and get about 13-16 min a game. Hollowell is progressing just as slow as Watford but now we have a deeper bench than when C-Wat was a soph. I know CTC knows more about the game than all of us but I hope to see Davis & Fischer get a few of Hollowells minutes.

  • Raynger

    I agree. I watched the post game press conf. and Crean made a passing comment that he is responsible but after he criticized the players. They did not play well but how can they get into a rhythm when Crean’s substitution seems based on the clock rather than on how they are playing.

  • Walton

    I am not sure this happens all the time, but I seem to notice quite a bit that after a player makes some great plays and is playing at the top of his game, he gets taken out of the game. This perplexes me.

  • millzy32

    So true. Fischer looks completely lost when he gets the ball. He looks like a freshman that will be good in a couple years which probably exactly what he is.

  • Walton

    “His team was quiet. Too quiet.” – This has been my perception of our players for a while. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of outspoken players. Not totally a bad thing, but I think there needs to be someone with an edge – a motivator type. I think that is what Oladipo was – by words and actions.

  • millzy32

    It seems like there is a lot of blame being put on the players by the coach. Seems to me that with an off season to prepare the coaches could have figured out a better game plan against the Syracuse Zone. If I was a big ten coach I would play zone exclusively against this IU team because the coaches and players don’t seem to be abel to figure it out. Embarrassing loss.

  • millzy32

    The offense should go through Vonleh period. He is the only close to NBA ready player on the team. He has the physical tools and the smarts to either make a play or kick it out for an open look. Too bad we don’t have any capable shooters waiting for that open look. Couldn’t Crean bring in one farm boy that shoots lights out for this season or do they all go to Butler now?