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.
Thoughts on a 67-63 loss to the Boilermakers:
Most teams entering Assembly Hall this season left feeling the wrath of Indiana’s explosive offense. The pace and space, the 3-balls, the extra passes and great ball movement.
But not the Boilermakers. They came to Bloomington a confident — maybe even cocky — crew. They left with a victory on the strength of a great defensive effort and a sweep of this Big Ten series.
Forget the name on the front of the jersey, Purdue is a tough matchup for these Hoosiers. A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas are the twin towers inside Indiana has no answer for, despite the great effort Stanford Robinson and others put up against them to try and deny the ball. It’s men vs. boys. Hammons finished 8-of-9 (20 points) and hit two free throws to seal it late. If he was able to catch over the Indiana defender fronting him, it was a sure bucket. Haas wasn’t quite as dominant (12 points, 3-of-8), but went 6-of-6 from the free throw line and picked up nine rebounds — including six on the offensive glass to keep possessions alive for the Boilermakers.
Purdue would end the contest rebounding 50 percent of its misses for 14 second-chance points. It also posted a strong free throw rate (40.4) and hit 17-of-21 from the line. That helped balance out too many turnovers (23.3 TO%) and a rough 2-of-18 mark from distance. Purdue and Indiana shot nearly identical (48.2 vs 48.1 eFG%) as Purdue scored 1.04 points per possession to Indiana’s .98.
Purdue’s defense was impressive in holding Indiana under a point per possession, just the second time it’s happened all Big Ten season (Jan. 5 loss at MSU).
Thoughts on a 90-71 win over the Golden Gophers:
Minnesota’s press had the Hoosiers a little skittish to start the contest. The Golden Gophers got out to the early lead and they held an advantage over the Hoosiers as late as the 7:33 mark in the first half. But thanks to some strong offensive rebounding, a parade of 3s and a phenomenal tip-in from Robert Johnson at the buzzer, the Hoosiers found themselves up six (44-38) at the half.
Despite the lead, Minnesota had turned the Hoosiers over on 26.2 percent of their possessions. They were shooting it well and you got the feeling a W wasn’t going to come easy. Another single-digit game appeared ahead on the horizon.
But Indiana was so masterful from beyond the arc, Minnesota simply had no chance at an upset bid. Shot after shot from 3-point range kept going up in the second half, and more often than not the Hoosiers were banging them home. Eighteen in total found the bottom of the net this Sunday evening. The performance set a new school record for makes in a game. Those came on 32 attempts, good for 56.3 percent from distance. It aided in an effective field goal percentage of 75.9 and the Hoosiers scoring a strong 1.37 points per possession.
James Blackmon Jr., after a forgettable shooting performance against Maryland on Wednesday night, led the charge from distance (6-of-10) for a team-high 24 points, as a total of six Hoosiers hit from 3-point range on this historic night. Fellow freshman Robert Johnson, who also shot it poorly against the Terps, went 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and also had a couple nice passes in the pick-and-roll to Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Emmitt Holt. Nick Zeisloft went 2-of-4. Yogi Ferrell was 1-of-6. Collin Hartman hit both his attempts.
Thoughts on a 68-66 loss to the Terps:
Tied at 61 with just over 1:30 to go, Robert Johnson pushed the pace. Across the timeline he came. Collin Hartman sprung loose from Jake Layman and called for the ball at the free throw line. Johnson made the pass. Hartman missed the lay-up ahead of the defense.
This was the story of Indiana’s night in College Park.
After running Maryland out of the gym in Bloomington on the strength of a 15-of-22 mark from distance, Xfinity Center’s baskets paid the Hoosiers little favor. Troy Williams missed two dunks. James Blackmon Jr. shot just 2-of-15 and 0-of-5 from distance — including a late corner 3-pointer that would have given Indiana a one-point advantage with 44 seconds to go. Robert Johnson hit two late important baskets, but in front of friends and family, finished just 3-of-13. The Hoosiers made only 35.7 percent of their 2-point attempts.
So many missed opportunities. And despite it all, Indiana never trailed by more than six. It seemed like the game may finally be turning in Maryland’s favor after Layman rebounded a Dez Wells missed free throw attempt which led to a corner 3 for Jared Nickens. Wells drove and scored on the Terps’ next possession to give them that six-point cushion with 5:14 to go. But Indiana hung tough. It’s what this team does. The confidence never wavers. Johnson hit a 3-ball. Ferrell hit another to tie it at 57 with 3:39 to go. Johnson hit a jumper to tie it back up at 59. Williams tipped in a miss to put the Hoosiers in front at 61-59 with 1:47 left.
Thoughts on a 70-67 win over the Wolverines:
Tom Crean said it yesterday. Despite a depleted roster, he knew Michigan would still bring it.
“They’re missing some players but they’re not missing their coach, they’re not missing their staff, and they’re not missing their system,” Crean said. “And when you have that, you’ve got a chance to be very successful.”
And successful enough the Wolverines were. Despite Indiana often having a field day in transition, exploiting some considerable matchup advantages in the backcourt and hitting 41.2 percent from distance (7-of-17), the Hoosiers just were never ever to jump on the bike and fully break away. Up 11 after a Nick Zeisloft triple at the 14:00 mark, Michigan stormed back with an 11-4 run to cut the lead to four at 55-51 with 10:51 to go.
The Hoosiers punched it back to nine after a Yogi Ferrell 3-ball at the 8:38 mark. But the Hoosiers went 5:10 without a field goal (from the 5:41 to :30 mark) to end the game. Couple the field goal drought with some incorrect calls from the officials in favor of Michigan late, and it allowed the Wolverines a shot to tie the game on their final possession. But Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s open corner 3-point attempt missed. The Hoosiers hung on for the victory.