Thoughts on a 81-76 loss to the Shockers:
Indiana brought the proper fight, played its game and hung in the best it could. But Wichita State’s experience got the best of the Hoosiers down the stretch, and Indiana’s shot at the upset went with it.
After a Darius Carter free throw at the 10:24 mark in the second half put the Shockers up one (55-54), they never relinquished the lead. Yet, the Hoosiers made sure a blowout wasn’t on the way. Down eight and on the ropes with 7:53 to go, James Blackmon Jr. (14 points, five turnovers) made a lay-up. Two free throws from Yogi Ferrell and a Troy Williams 3-pointer pulled them back within three points (67-64).
And down seven with 3:51 to go, Collin Hartman — who made his first 3-pointer in a game since Feb. 15 and finished 3-of-4 from distance — and Ferrell hit back-to-back trey balls to pull the Hoosiers within one point (72-71) with 2:21 to go.
Despite getting within two points twice in the final two minutes — including two free throws from Ferrell that had them there with as little as 32 seconds to go — the Shockers just played a little smarter and hit from the line to ensure the five-point win for the opportunity to make it to Sunday’s round of 32 against Kansas.
Thoughts on a 75-69 loss to the Terrapins:
CHICAGO — Indiana didn’t lose this one because it failed to defend with effort or play with energy or crash the boards. No, the Hoosiers dropped their second game of the Big Ten Tournament tonight in Chicago because they couldn’t do what they’d done so well against Maryland in their first matchup: Put the ball in the basket.
After a fun, high-energy first half that ended with a 42-40 advantage for Maryland, things grinded to a halt in the final 20 minutes. The Hoosiers hit just 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from the field and 18.8 percent (3-of-16) from distance. It’s hard to shoot that poorly and win against any team, let alone one of the Big Ten’s best in Maryland.
After scoring 25 points against Northwestern on Thursday night, James Blackmon Jr. had a rough shooting night (2-of-12) and forced a couple looks. Fellow freshman Robert Johnson didn’t fare much better (3-of-11, 2-of-7 from distance). Yogi Ferrell also finished just 2-of-7 from distance, although he had a team-high 18 points. For the game, the Hoosiers sported a 41.1 eFG% and scored 1.08 points per possession to Maryland’s 1.17.
Still, despite the poor shooting, Indiana hung tough in the second half. After falling behind seven (62-55) with 6:21 to go, Melo Trimble drove the lane with a chance to put his team up nine. But Emmitt Holt blocked his shot and Blackmon Jr. scored on the other end to cut the lead to five. And as both teams failed to makes shots down the stretch, Indiana remained within striking distance. As teams traded free throws down the stretch, two from Johnson pulled Indiana within two (68-66) with 38 seconds remaining. It was as close as the Hoosiers would get. Maryland made 5-of-6 from the line from then on, as Indiana missed three 3-pointers before Max Hoetzel hit one late to make it a six-point loss.
Thoughts on a 71-56 win over the Wildcats:
CHICAGO — After IU’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday, a dejected James Blackmon Jr. sat at the press table saying he didn’t get it going soon enough.
Tonight, as Blackmon Jr. and Yogi Ferrell sat down to the meet the media, it was all smiles.
Blackmon Jr. got it going early, scoring 13 points in 16 minutes of first half action on 3-of-6 shooting from distance. He finished the contest with his best effort away from home this season — 25 points (8-of-15), six rebounds (four offensive) and a career-high seven assists. The freshman’s effort, energy and stat-stuffing ways were indicative of Indiana’s performance tonight in its comfortable 15-point victory over Northwestern.
“I think tonight was all about our mindset,” Blackmon Jr. said.
From the onset, the Hoosiers got up in Northwestern’s grill and made them work for buckets. Where this has been for so long this season, who knows. But it was clear this was a point of emphasis for the Hoosiers. With each stop, deflection and recovery on defense, the Indiana bench cheered — creating a feedback loop for the energy being expended on the court.
“We went out there and created our own energy,” Ferrell said.
At one point in the first half, the Wildcats went 8:28 of game action between field goals. Indiana punched the lead out to 24-6 at this point, and it pretty much was the catalyst for the victory. Indiana held the Wildcats under a point per possession (.98) and that’s an encouraging sign heading into Friday night’s matchup with Maryland. Tre Demps killed the Hoosiers in Evanston. Tonight, Demps had just four points on 2-of-5 shooting as Ferrell and Robert Johnson hounded him throughout the contest.
“The pressure of our defense, the energy, the tenacity, all those things were really really strong,” Tom Crean said.
Thoughts on a 74-72 loss to the Spartans:
After a Yogi Ferrell turnover with 3:42 to play, the Hoosiers looked sunk as they entered the under-4 media timeout. Their zone allowed too many good, open looks — both in the paint and from distance — over the first 16 minutes of the second half. Michigan State, as it did in the first half, continued to rip down offensive rebounds for second-chance opportunities.
Down 11, this had the feelings of the Iowa game from earlier in the week. Indiana seemed destined for another double-digit loss, its third straight on its home floor. Assembly Hall reigned down some boos and some fans headed for the exits.
But Indiana looked inside itself and failed to lose without a fight. The defensive intensity ramped up a notch and the Hoosiers kept chipping away at the lead as the crowd — the majority of which stayed — kept right with them. A James Blackmon Jr. and-1 in transition brought the Hoosiers within five with 1:47 to go. Playing the foul game to stop the clock, Indiana stuck with it and pulled within three points (72-69) thanks to a Nick Zeisloft 3-pointer (5-of-8 from distance) with 27 seconds to go. After a Michigan State timeout, the Spartans inbounded the ball to Matt Costello and he was fouled with 24 seconds left. He’d miss the first free throw. And the second.
Suddenly, Indiana had the ball with a chance to tie. After a shaky possession, Blackmon Jr. appeared to be fouled as he went up for a 3-point attempt. The refs called it on the floor. Blackmon made the first free throw. And the second. One point game at 72-71. Travis Trice would make his first free throw on the subsequent IU foul and miss his second. 73-71 Michigan State. As Yogi Ferrell streaked down the floor, Denzel Valentine made a crucial error and fouled him near halfcourt to send Ferrell to the line with a chance to tie the game on a double bonus with just two second left. Valentine knew it. He put his hands in his face and bent over at the top of the key.
Indiana needed a miracle to crawl back into this one, and it looked like it had just gotten it.
Thoughts on a 77-63 loss to the Hawkeyes:
Just get through the first half of the Big Ten season alive, they said. It was supposed to be all downhill from there. The Hoosiers did more than that. They exceeded what was expected of them, winning games they started as underdogs. They won on the road. Some in the media were singing the praise of Tom Crean and his Hoosiers. There was coach of the year talk. The Hoosiers were dubbed as the most watchable team in the country.
But there hasn’t been much watchable about this team of late. After starting 5-1 in the Big Ten, Indiana’s just 4-7 since then. The Hoosiers are limping towards the finish line, and it’s all passing them by.
This Indiana team was always built to score and it simply hasn’t happened over the last 60 minutes of play. Indiana went ice cold against Northwestern in the second half, shooting 3-ball after 3-ball over its zone and not scoring a field goal for 10:06. Indiana didn’t hit a drought quite as big tonight, but it wasn’t markedly better. In a sloppy first half for both squads, the Hoosiers hit just two field goals over the final 10:15 of the first half. And that two could have been just one if Robert Johnson didn’t hit a long 2 at the buzzer.
Beyond the scoring drought, the Hoosiers also turned the ball over on 27.2 percent of their possessions in the first frame. They’d finish the half scoring just .85 points per possession. Iowa had some trouble with the ball as well (21.2 TO%) and Indiana actually held them under a point per possession (.97).
A 32-28 halftime deficit wasn’t insurmountable, but Indiana wasn’t giving off many positive vibes.
Thoughts on a 72-65 loss to the Wildcats:
EVANSTON, Ill. – The 3-pointers stopped falling. Indiana’s energy started to sag. And when Vic Law and Yogi Ferrell got tied up at the 13:53 mark in the second half and exchanged some words after the fact with the Wildcats up three (49-46), Northwestern’s contingent of Welsh-Ryan Arena started to roar.
The momentum began to swing the Wildcat Way, and Indiana fell into an awful offensive drought. After an even 40-40 first half where both teams blazed out of the gate at 1.41 points per possession each and played little defense, Troy Williams hit a lay-up at the 13:23 mark to pull the Hoosiers within one at 49-48.
But from there it was clank after clank after clank. Indiana failed to record a point for the next 10:06 of the game until Williams hit a jumper in the paint at the 3:17 mark. Indiana tried to rally from there, scoring 17 of its 25 second half points over that final 3:17. A press, one Tom Crean said in his post-game remarks in hindsight he could have started sooner, helped a little. But the 12-point hole it had dug itself was just too big.
“The same shots we were making with ease in the first half, we were missing in the second half,” Tom Crean said in his post-game press conference. “The same looks.”
Thoughts on a 84-54 win against the Scarlet Knights:
The mental makeup of this Indiana squad has proven to be pretty resilient this season. And so any lingering effects from the Purdue loss simply didn’t manifest at The RAC on Sunday evening. Indiana took care of business in a big way against a Rutgers squad coming in losers of 10 straight en route to a 30-point blowout.
The Hoosiers started the game shaky with four turnovers before the first media timeout. But they carried a 10-point lead (40-30) into the break. A 9-0 run to start the second half opened the floodgates and the rout was on. James Blackmon Jr. (17 points, seven rebounds) paced the Indiana offense in the first half on some nice scores at the bucket and behind the line. Hanner Mosquera-Perea was active from the onset and it helped him get to the line eight times this evening. He made seven of those attempts and went 3-of-3 from the floor — including a nice finish on a pick-and-roll with Yogi Ferrell — to end the contest with a career-high 13 points.
Ferrell played the role of distributor in the first half but exploded offensively after the break. He tied Blackmon Jr. with a team-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. The Hoosiers didn’t shoot it particularly well from distance up through the beginning of the second half, but started dropping more as the lead ballooned up during the rest of the contest to shoot close to 40 percent from distance (10-of-27, 37 percent). Nick Zeisloft hit 3-of-4 from deep and added a 2-point jumper as the shot clock expired in the first half to finish with 13 points.
Indiana finished with 1.21 points per possession and a 62.1 eFG%. Not its best offensive performance of the season, but a strong one that propelled them to a lopsided victory.