There’s no sugar-coating this loss

  • 02/13/2014 9:20 am in

As the final buzzer sounded at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night, boos resonated from fans as Indiana’s players slowly walked off Branch McCracken Court, heads hung and hands at their sides.

The Hoosiers (14-10, 4-7) had just lost to Penn State (13-12, 4-8), 66-65, in one of the worst collapses of the Tom Crean era. Indiana led, 64-53, with only 2:26 left on the game clock. This was against a Penn State squad that lost two straight and had lost six Big Ten games in a row at one point, as well.

There’s no sugar-coating it: This loss was bad.

“It’s not very fun to lose a game like that,” said sophomore Yogi Ferrell, who finished with 16 points.

You can start at Penn State’s 4-of-4 shooting from the field in that final 2:26. You can point to Indiana’s four turnovers in the last 2:06 — three of which came from dead-ball, in-bounds plays. There’s plenty of familiar wrong-doings to choose from.

But the nature in which Indiana lost this game is what is most significant. The Hoosiers had pretty much dominated the Nittany Lions throughout, scoring at ease and forcing turnovers in what was a must-win game if they had any remaining hopes of an NCAA tournament bid. Games like these were the ones the Hoosiers had to win.

Even after the final media timeout, the Nittany Lions started fouling in hopes of somehow, miraculously coming back in a building they had only ever won twice in. Indiana led by double digits. And in their past two home games in which the Hoosiers had a double-digit lead late, they cemented it. Only on the road had they lost after having double-digit leads.

And yet — suddenly, inexplicably — all of those struggles came back at once.

Noah Vonleh couldn’t handle a defensive rebound. Turnover, and Penn State hit a 3-pointer. Jeremy Hollowell couldn’t in-bound a pass in five seconds and forgot to call a timeout (Indiana had four). Turnover, and Penn State hit a 3-pointer. An ill-advised shot from Evan Gordon. A Penn State jumper, this time.

The list goes on.

An ill-advised in-bounds pass from Will Sheehey with 16 seconds left. Turnover, and Ross Travis makes one of two free throws to draw the Nittany Lions within one. The next play, another ill-advised in-bounds pass from Noah Vonleh, this time intercepted by D.J. Newbill. Turnover, and the dagger.

Graduate student Tim Frazier would drive and make a layup with just 6.1 seconds remaining, giving the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game. A desperation, contested 2-point heave from Yogi Ferrell as the game clock expired would bounce off the rim.

And here we are, now.

From the start of this season, Indiana has struggled with turnovers and overall “awareness” on the court, as Crean puts it. It was apparent in its 73-72 escape over LIU Brooklyn (now 7-16) in its second game of the season. It was apparent more than a month later when IU turned it over 20 times against Nicholls State and 20 more against Kennesaw State, the final two games of the non-conference season. And it was obvious in its 24th game on Wednesday evening.

Crean and company can say this team is showing improvement, and surely it has had its moments, but the truth is, it’s inconsistency hasn’t changed. And it’s doomed the Hoosiers all season long.

This is a team that has lost to Nebraska and both Penn State and Northwestern at home — which has only happened once before in IU history (the 2010-2011 season) — yet has two McDonald’s All-Americans and six players that came out of high school rated as four-star-or-better talent, according to the 247 Composite. Those three teams don’t nearly have as much talent as Indiana does.

One loss to those three? Maybe a fluke. Two? A bit concerning. But three? It’s hard to look past.

Wednesday’s loss is another that be added to the “that was winnable” category of games this season — joining the previous defeats to Connecticut, Notre Dame, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska and Minnesota.

But when it comes to Selection Sunday, when the results of a season are truly quantified, a loss is a loss and a win is a win.

And Indiana has had plenty of chances to get on the right side of the bubble, including Wednesday night’s game against Penn State.

But after the fact, it’s clear the Hoosiers still haven’t found a way to solve the same problems they have faced all season.

Filed to:

  • Alford Bailey

    OK this is off subject but I watched Eron the other night and I just dont see what all the fuss is about.Not a great shooter. Only 6’2″ and pretty slim. I don’t see four star potential there. Am I missing something?

  • MillaRed

    Oh John do you need a timeout? Because we have 4 left and Jeremy can’t get the ball in!!!!!

    Use it! Use ittttttttttttt!!!!!!

    Just giving you a hard time man. Ha ha.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    OK, that was mildly funny.

  • KmanCRK

    Coaching it is. Without some wizard like X’s n O’s it can be very difficult to get the ball inbounded against the terrorizing PSU man to man Defense.

  • MikeinNC

    You are who your record says you are. With Crean, we know what we are going to get, based on his track record. A high energy guy who is a great marketer for his program. A tireless recruiter who is good at bringing top level talent into the program, but not necessarily great at fitting together the pieces and developing them into a great team with a clear identity. And a guy who is going to struggle with making in-game adjustments on a consistent basis. Sometimes he is going to be stellar, then turn right around and be almost maddeningly inept. Every blue moon he is going to take a team on a good run in the tourney, but not consistently. He is generally going to give us a 25-11 team on average, sometimes better sometimes a little worse. He is not going to be able to consistently out-coach the Izzos, Mattas, and Ryans of the league….and when he does, he will turn right around a drop a head scratcher to a Penn State or Northwestern. This is what we are going to get. If we are okay with that, we will have a generally solid program, but we will never have a consistently elite program. I mean, this is a rebuilding year, but we still have a great point guard and a strong sixth man from a sweet 16 team, plus a freshman who needs lots of work but is loaded with talent and physical ability….it’s not like the cupboard was completely bare this year. Crean was a great guy to build this program up from the ashes, but we may well have seen him hit his ceiling last year. If we are ever going to be a consistently great program again, we will need someone else to get us there.

  • IU78

    Bardo said at the last of the game when we were still in the lead with about a minute to go. “If you don’t think Pat Chambers can coach”. Bardo seen what was going on and without saying how bad we were doing from the bench and on the floor he praised the guys that were getting it done in the crunch.He and his players willed that win to themselves. We got outcoached, outplayed and outthought at the end, period. No place else to go but up from here. Go Hoosiers win the rest of them.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    ‘…against OSU’. far cry from PSU. granted, the players did a horrible job too.

  • Fifty-fifty ball

    I’ve never remember anyone ever talking about a “transition” year when RMK was at the helm.

  • hoosier1158

    Yes, i would also like to see Noah and HMP on the floor at the same time.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Bad . . . this team is just . . . bad.

    And everyone on the team and coaching staff needs to go to an occupational/speech therapy class and learn how to say “timeout” or make the signal!

  • hoosier1158

    Coach is the one accountable. He shouldn’t mention names in the post game conference. He should address any issues like that in the locker room.

  • pcantidote

    I guarantee if they would have shot early in the shot clock, you and everyone else would have been griping that they should have killed the clock.

  • Ole Man

    I was speaking of the posters in the forum throwing the players under the bus.

  • MillaRed

    It’s all good John we’re all just bitter right now.

  • MillaRed

    What coach tuns the same terrible inbound play 3 times in a row that doesn’t work?

  • CreamandCrimson

    I’ve seen him play three times and have come away with mixed feelings. He’s only a sophomore in high school which always needs to be kept in mind when discussing his potential as a college player. I saw him shoot really well during one game and somewhat struggle during two others. I think he drives the ball well and finishes fairly well through contact. He’s a pretty active defender but everyone on North Central is because that’s how Coach Mitchell has them play.

    I think he’s a good player that could turn into a really good player but right now, the main thing putting him near the top of any priority list for IU (or any major program) is his last name. I poo-pooed the idea that he was a “must get” recruit for IU when that was brought up by many this past summer but I stick by my original line of thinking. He can become a really good player but right now, he’s a solid player and nowhere close to a program changing, “must get” recruit.

  • SCHoosier

    No time out was needed. Yogi broke open right in front of JH and for some brain dead reason..Hollowell didn’t hand it to him. the TO was totally unnecessary.

  • Bruce

    How about someone better than hollowell take the ball out John?

  • Bruce

    Etherington is savy with high bb iq. That’s who!

  • Bruce

    Wow, all the physical gifts in the world? U obviously see things I do not.

  • Bruce

    The man has been coaching for a long time. What u c is what u get. Expect no major changes in style or strategy

  • JohnFromBeyond

    Sure, may as well try all options, but there are always trade offs… Can’t be Yogi, he needs to catch the ball and dribble out of trouble. Tried Will and Noah, and they turned it over too. I don’t like him throwing the ball in either, but sometimes the options are limited. If there is a big guy guarding the inbounds, gotta be a big guy throwing it in (not sure what the case was at the time, but you don’t usually know in advance).

    Oh, and if Jeremy isn’t throwing the ball in, he has to catch it and not lose it — not something he excels at either.

    These little decisions can be second-guessed all day long, but they are within reason compared to what other coaches do, and not why we lost that game.

  • Robert J Morgan

    The buck stops with Crean. He gets top recruits and it is his JOB to make them a basketball team. Thes kids are playing for a college education and possibly a pro contract. Crean is being payed and ungodly amount of of money to teach them bb. He is living in the lap pf luxury for a poor job performance. I don’t hear anyone suggesting IU giving him and extension with several millions more. What happened to recruiting good players and developing them. I.E wisc, butler, n.d. Syracuse and many more.

  • Robert J Morgan

    Evan Gordon avg last year at Arizona St. Was 10.1 ppg and 2.9 reb. Why can’t he do this playing for Crean’s offense “or lack there of”. During the tv showing of the Penn St game they showed a clip of IU’s practice floor. Crean had x’s taped to the floor. Shouldn’t a college player know where the sweet spots are. Could it be the players are dribbling while looking at the floor. Maybe this is causing so many to’s.