I started this game a bit late, so I had to play catchup on DVR. Because I always need to have my laptop open — always, always — I caught one of Alex’s Twitter updates that said IU had cut the lead to 11 with just under 12 minutes to go. At the time, I had just started the second half, and as the half wore on I became increasingly shocked by this fact: after all, IU showed no signs of really putting a dent into Loyola’s lead. They still trailed by 20 with 14:10 to go, and though they were taking care of the ball better — there was only one turnover in the first seven minutes of the second half — Loyola was hitting their shots, and IU wasn’t able to inch any closer.
But then the barrage hit. Maurice Creek knocked down two threes, Verdell Jones hit another, Creek hit a layup, got fouled and hit the free throw, Jones hit two free throws off a Creek steal, and suddenly the Hoosiers were only down six with 10:18 to go.
Another big part of IU’s comeback? Tom Pritchard. In the second half, he really reminded me of the Pritch of old: he was gobbling up rebounds, had a real knack for the ball and was a productive scorer. He had six offensive boards and eight total, and chipped in seven points. It wasn’t an amazing effort by any stretch, but he kept a lot of plays alive during the Hoosiers’ comeback run, and it was an integral part of why they were able to make this a game. IU, with their thin frontline, could use this kind of effort out of Pritch every night.
Yes, of course, there was plenty to gripe about in this game. (Just what until you get to The Bad.) But IU could have laid down and died in this one. Instead, they turned up the defensive pressure in both the full and half court, were aggressive and got to the line, and hit some big shots to bring them right back into this game.
This is what good teams do when they find themselves at a crossroads: They will themselves back into the game with good play on both sides of the ball. But good teams also find a way to win these games against an inferior opponent at home. And well, we all know that didn’t happen tonight.
The road back from a 24-point deficit is a long one.
But after a three-point play by Jeremiah Rivers with 3:48 remaining, the Indiana Hoosiers had their first lead, and for a few short moments, momentum, Tuesday night in Assembly Hall.
That lead, however, would be short lived.
The Hoosiers (5-6) missed four free throws and failed to score in the final 2:55 in a head scratching 72-67 loss to Loyola (MD).
The opening half of basketball was easily Indiana’s worst of the season. The Hoosiers failed to score in the first 6:17. They committed 14 turnovers, which lead to 20 Loyola points. And with 1:38 left, Indiana trailed at home by 24 to a program that had never beaten a Big Ten opponent.
“They were taking balls from us. We did not come out aggressive enough,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They put us back on our heels in a big way.”
But for as poorly as Indiana played the first twenty minutes, Loyola matched their level of ineptitude in the second half.
The Greyhounds (6-5) committed 15 second half turnovers. They missed seven free throws. And after leading 58-38, they allowed Indiana to reel off a 27-4 run for a 65-62 IU lead.
Of the three opponents on the schedule between the Kentucky game and the start of the Big Ten slate on New Year’s Eve, the Pomeroy rankings suggest that Tuesday’s opponent, Loyola (MD), presents the biggest challenge. Let’s take a glance at the numbers (updated through Sunday’s games):
A couple of things stand out here: Loyola seems to be a respectable defensive team. They’re limiting opponents to a 42.9 effective field goal percentage, good for 27th best in the country. (Keep in mind that this number might be a bit deceiving due to a weak schedule. In their two games against top 100 Pomeroy opponents, Loyola was beaten 83-60 at West Virginia and 77-57 at Niagara.)
They’re also doing a decent job getting to the offensive glass. Their 35.9 offensive rebounding percentage is 79th in the country. Since defensive rebounding percentage has been a bit of an Achilles heel to this point for IU, this is definitely something to keep an eye on. (Tom Crean addressed the possibility of going to a bigger lineup as a solution for this problem on his radio show on Monday night.)
The good news for IU? Loyola turns it over at a high rate (23.1 percent), opponents are getting to the line at a good clip (44.2 percent opponent free throw rate) and their 46.5 percent effective field goal percentage is poor. Overall, Indiana holds an advantage in six of the ten categories referenced here and Pomeroy predicts a 72-66 win for the Hoosiers.