Hoosiers struggle dealing with “rut” in 72-65 loss at Northwestern

  • 02/26/2015 8:04 am in

Indiana found itself in an unfamiliar position on Wednesday night in Evanston, Ill.

With their shots not falling in the second half — whether it be layups, jumpers, 3-pointers and even free throws — the Hoosiers were forced to play through their longest rut of the season against a surging Northwestern squad.

This rut — a scoreless drought from the 13:23 mark to the 3:17 mark of the second half — was far too much for Indiana to overcome. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Hoosiers left Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 72-65 loss, their sixth in nine games on the road this season.

“The one thing we have got to learn is when the shots are not falling, you define how good a team you are going to be by still finding a way to win when it’s not there,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “And that’s where the defense, the rebounding, the stops, all those things come into it. And we’ve had some of that. Tonight we didn’t have that.”

Wednesday’s game was a story of two halves. The result was just overwhelmingly decided in the second.

Indiana’s first half was defined by hot shooting, as it sliced through Northwestern’s 2-3 zone time and time again for baskets inside and out. They finished the first 20 minutes with a 9-of-14 rate on 3s.

But the Wildcats found their looks, too. The Hoosiers had trouble stopping 7-foot Alex Olah inside. They had even more trouble stopping open looks from the perimeter off their 1-3-1 zone. By the end of the first half, despite the Hoosiers hot shooting, the game was tied at 40.

“Giving up 40 points,” sophomore Troy Williams said, “There was no defense.”

The rut, though, began early in the second half after the teams exchanged multiple baskets — and then at 51-48, Troy Williams had a layup attempt blocked by Scottie Lindsey that turned into a Tre Demps corner 3-pointer in transition with 12:30 to go.

Following that play, Indiana got to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 – its first of two that would set the tone for the remainder of the half. Williams would miss the front end of that 1-and-1. Demps would hit a jumper to extend the Wildcats’ lead to eight.

After both teams traded misses — including another missed front end of a 1-and-1 from Yogi Ferrell — an Indiana turnover and ensuing foul late in the shot clock allowed Northwestern to drain even more time off the clock before hitting a floater to extend its lead to 10.

That sequence would become the start of more than a 10-minute scoring drought for the Hoosiers. They rushed shots against the zone to try to trim their deficit.

They missed open looks. At one point they were 1-for-12 from behind the arc in the second half.

“We settled a lot,” junior Nick Zeisloft said. “And we should definitely not have done that.”

They couldn’t rebound many of those misses, either. During their drought, Northwestern had 10 defensive boards to Indiana’s three offensive rebounds.

And while Northwestern wasn’t scoring at a great pace, either — as the Hoosiers defense tightened up — the Hoosiers weren’t getting anything to fall. Two straight layups for Northwestern at the 5:18 and 4:09 marks after three straight empty possessions led them to a 62-48 lead by the time Indiana would make its next basket with just 3:17 to go.

“It won’t be the last time we hit a rut,” Crean said. “And everybody goes through it. It’s how you climb out of it that makes the difference for your team.”

Indiana finally found its way out of that rut, but it was too late. In their nine final trips down the floor dating to the 3:17 mark of the second half, the Hoosiers would score 17 points. Northwestern, despite three turnovers in that span from Indiana’s press — which Crean admitted he should have installed earlier in the game — was able to seal its fourth straight win in Big Ten play (for the first time since the 1966-67 season) at the free throw line.

For Indiana, it meant yet another road win opportunity wasted — its last of the season — with Iowa and Michigan State looming to close out the regular season.

“The shooting isn’t going to change,” Crean said. “Those are the shots we’re going to take the next game if they’re there. But we’ve got to do a better job of playing through when those ruts come.”

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  • MDHoosier

    I’ve been saying all year that April needs to play. He’s not learning anything by sitting on the bench the entire season. I would rather have April guarding another 7 footer, than Robinson. If April can’t play, what’s the point of recruiting him and wasting a scholarship? CTC might be the worst coach ever when it comes to developing big men.

  • thefullmonty

    I’m not sure how the “eye test” works….
    I use the “smell test.” (and this team stinks right now)
    Let’s hope the odor goes away soon.

  • thefullmonty

    Give Coach a break…
    He did cal a timeout, albeit with 9 seconds left.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Our offense, though not perfect obviously, is just fine. We have to get stops and create turnovers that lead to easy baskets. Its almost a certainty that when you are in the proverbial “rut” and missing shots from everywhere that the best thing to get going is some easy layups in transition. We rarely look to put pressure on the offense. I would like to see some traps and at least a 3/4 court press.

  • mark

    Sadly, I actually don’t think everybody in Hoosierville is expecting us to be in the ranks of Duke, Kansas and Kentucky anymore. They’ve seem to become accustomed to the “new normal” of being in the top-20 every 3 out of 5 years or something like that …. seems only the serious fans like those on this site believe we should be among the elite year after year. Maybe I’m wrong, but it just seems that after all these up and down years, we’ve gotten to that point

  • SeeingRed

    Agree, and realistically IU may never break back into that elite company. But there is a pretty big space between those elites and where the program is now, and the real question is, how far back up the ladder can we climb? I do not believe hovering around the fringes of the top 25 and making a sweet 16 appearance once every four years or so is the ceiling. The day I start believing that is the day the magic dies.


    That’s not good numbers overall no matter how you look at it or shape it. If we take a four year span, which would be this year so far (don’t see it being much different at the end of the year than it is right now) and the previous three (which includes when we had Mr. D himself, VO, AND Cody), and then take an average, I think it is a more than fair way to get a pretty good idea of what kind of importance Crean places on D and how well he and his staff can teach it. Oh yea, that average doesn’t even put them in top 100, not acceptable. I was a very big Crean supporter when he was hired, but not as much at present, but I’m also not a big Crean basher, kinda on the fence right now. I will have to say tho up to this point in his stint as the head coach it seems pretty evident that placing importance on, and being able to teach, defense is not one of his strongest points.

  • Candy Striped Kid

    well said sir

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    My point was that given IU was predicted to finish 10 or 11 in Big 10, this year could be still considered a success. Milla, I enjoy reading your comments so this is not intended to be negative, but in 84-85 and 85-86. were you calling for Knight to be fired after going to NIT and getting beat in NCAA first round?

  • Will

    When will Tom Crean finally assemble a complete roster?

    Starting two guards shorter than me does not count (the Hulls-Ferrell backcourt).

    What do great defenses have in common? Long-limb players with great lateral quickness, then coaches have to make proper help rotations instinctive.

    Is Crean capable of coaching a perennial, elite defense? No, his game is run and gun, always will be. You still have to get stops when needed. Ferrell is the only one that can stay in front of his man, without fouling. Robinson is next, but he can’t shoot anything to save his life.

    We are on year seven here. Before the NW debacle, they were projected anywhere between a seven and ten seed. That leaves them with a one or two seed in the second round. Best case scenario was one tournament win (all that awe shucks luck into the right match up hope is no longer valid). Now they are on the bubble.

    Four tournament wins in seven seasons for the fourth highest paid coach in college basketball. Why do they routinely lose to squads with less talent (on paper) and lower paid coaches?

    Roy Williams put it best during the pre-season approaching IU’s #1 ranking. Why, with multiple national championships, do you still recruit so hard? Williams said I do not want to find out what kind of coach I am with average talent.

    My point is: Crean needs like six McD’s AA to make a Final Four. He had two last season and missed the NIT. He also had two top five picks in ’13 and could not make it out of the Sweet Sixteen. Two top five picks on one roster had made at least an Elite 8 in all twelve of the previous occurrences. Wall and Cousins’ Kentucky team was actually the only one to not make a Final Four, before Syracuse surprised Crean with their 2-3 zone.

    Both of those IU teams I mentioned were flawed, yes (Hulls and Ferrell are shorter than I am. They combined for zero dunks all season. No team has ever made a Final Four with zero dunks for their starting SG and PG). There is no GM handing Crean bogus rosters. These are his. He is the one losing recruiting battles (KENNEDY MEEKS!).

    Indiana is the most basketball talent-rich state in our country. The most NBA players per capita. There are a ton of immeasurable reasons why kids chose one school over another. You know what a real big one is? I like this coach better and I am going to have more fun here winning (instead of middling around on the bubble).

    Until Crean starts beating Louisville, Kentucky, MSU and MI for recruits (Stephen Van Trese, Teague, Lyles, Harris, Dawson, McGary, GRob3, Spike Albrect, Zak Irvin, etc so forth) there will not be a Final Four.

    He has done a tremendous job turning the program around out of shambles. Everyone graduates and IU has flawless APR ratings.

    That long term extension Fred Glass gave him was ill-advised. Has Coach K or Williams Cal etc ever had an eight year contract? If he took them to a Final Four, then yes, you can almost justify that kind of extension. Seriously, eight year contracts never work in sports, EVER.

    The Cubs fan in me is impatient. Next season, they should be better. Then after next season is over, Ferrell, Perea, Zeisloft and Williams (NBA) are gone. It will be back to square one all over again with “rebuilding” or a “down year”.

    Duke is going to lose just about everyone: Okafor, Jones, Winslow and they kicked another McDs AA off the team. Duke and Kentucky will reload with less experienced squads than IU, but they will both still capable of a deeper tournament run.

    As Zeller helped demonstrate, any college basketball team is one elite big man away from being good (Stephen Zimmerman). I do not see a savior on the horizon.

    Crean is coaching for his next job right now in 2021. He would be a great mid-major coach. Crean will not get fired, but he will not get another contract at IU.

    PS Blackmon said it was a toss-up between IU and Kentucky. Imagine this team without JBJ.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Sometimes, when given the wrong set of tools for a job, you become discouraged. In my opinion, this team has been given the wrong set of tools on defense. I can only imagine that it is difficult to know you have the talent but get worked over on defense often.

    I don’t put it all on the coach; I don’t put it all on the players. I know from personal experience (not in sport because I never had the talent) that when you know you are capable, but you don’t know how to succeed, it is very frustrating. These guys are capable. They might need to work harder, and the coach might need to teach better. I don’t think we can rule out either.

  • ForeverIU

    You sound so sure of yourself! You sort of remind me of Crean that way. LOL!

  • marcusgresham

    Waste of a scholarship? He’s made progress each year. If he improves as much this off-season as he did last off-season he’s going to be a difficult match-up.

  • marcusgresham

    Let’s look at the big men he has had.
    Tijan Jobe-love the guy but he couldn’t play a lick. No amount of coaching was going to change that.
    Bawa Muniru-left the program and didn’t do a damn bit more where he went than he did here.
    Guy-Marc Michel-never had a chance to play.
    Cody Zeller-went #4 in the NBA draft.
    Noah Vonleh-went #9 in the NBA draft after one season at IU (although Rivals had him #8 in his class coming in. That means he leap-frogged a handful of people.)
    Luke Fischer-was just starting to pick up his game when he transferred home.
    Jeremiah April-barely a top-250 recruit.

    I guess if you want to call him out for not making players out of Jobe, Muniru, GMM and April then, no, he can’t develop big men.

  • MillaRed

    I enjoy you too Sarasota and didn’t mean to call you out. I really do believe there are divided ideas on what is expected of our program.

    Bobby had already reeled in two national championships by 84. This is not an apples to apples comparison. Personally I do not think Tom Crean will win a national championship. Anywhere. And based on what I’ve see I do not expect a Final Four at Indiana.

    Not unless he changes a lot of things that I think are holding him back. It’s all on him.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    not much fun losing to NW two years in a row. either those rap dudes are going to have to change the lyrics or change the song title to ‘that was indiana’.

    to all those who keep saying after every loss ‘the sky isn’t falling, CTC was a victim of circumstance because LF and NV left, we can still make the tournament if we win out (as if making the tournament is the ultimate goal now for iu), etc…’, how much longer can you keep saying that? you going to say it next year for the entire season too? because i just don’t see them getting better at all.

    and i keep hearing ‘the reality is, iu just isn’t a top team anymore. deal with it!’. whatever, but shouldn’t they at least, at the very least be one of the top 25 teams in the country? i just don’t get why people are so eager to rationalize and defend what’s going on with this program. it’s real simple for me, when the starting center for NW lays a double-double on us while our big man goes 1-4 and accounts for 75% of the team’s turnovers, something is very, very wrong. without question ( borrowing a popular CTC phrase), the sky is falling, and (gonna borrow one more) we have to get better.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    on the other end of the spectrum i remember hearing a quote from a wisconsin player last year saying something to the effect that they would practice their plays so many times that, come game time, they knew what was going to happen before it even happened. they didn’t have to even think about what to do, it became completely instinctual. pretty obvious which approach is working better

  • Hoosier1158

    The people that make those comments have settled for being mediocre and have no clue what Indiana basketball is about.

  • Bill Graham

    Ok here’s my spin. 1st off: Glad your ticked about losing to NW. 2nd: Yes CTC is at fault. One end of the Hoosier spectrum has their pitchforks out (much like yourself) and says fire him and return to the prototypical fundamental days of all 5 position players with tough as nails D, solid ball movement, and more than a pick and roll motion swing style offense…The other end of the spectrum says, “but look at the talent, we’re a top 15th in offensive efficiency and not to mention 3rd in 3pt % (at least b4 last night).” They say, “CTC just needs player retention and maturity and were contenders…. The fact of the matter is…Your both right to an extent.

    …Here’s the deal. College basketball teams can be categorized into two larger groups (obviously sub groups exist) Anyway… You have teams like Gonzaga, Butler, and Wisconsin. These teams and coaches (Few, Ryan, and Holtmann have your prototypical “Bob Knight,” style team they have a traditional PG, SG, SF, PF, and C. Their style of play reflects this.

    ….The second group is a specialty or compensation based group with teams like VCU, Villanova, and Iowa State to name a few. These teams and their coaches (Smart, Wright, and Hoiberg) rely on a specialty or nontraditional strategies. These strategies can include constant pressure and physical full court play, run and gun, and 3pt 4 or 5 man motion O’s.

    Point being: CTC does not utilize traditional play strategies, he’s unconventional. Even with Zeller we were still run and gun. This year we resemble a typical NOVA team and the problem with this speciality play is it is susceptible to its counter part traditional play. Just like fire and water. We are losing to traditional style teams (mainly) and I believe the pitchfork crowd is frustrated b/c they believe traditional play is superior. That is a debate for another day. Point is: stop basing all CTC critques (positive or negative) on personnel. Start assessing CTC on more substance (strategy, player and staff retention, academic performance, recruiting, results, and public face). Wouldn’t you want the same if you were a coach???

    Candystripes for life. Peace.

  • MDHoosier

    He didn’t improve Zeller or Vonleh! He probably stunted their development. Cody was a Top 5 recruit coming in and I’m not sure that he was much better when he left. As far as Noah, he was misused or underused, however you want to look at it. Your best player need to be taking more than 7.2 shots per game! He only averaged 11.3 points per game. There was no way in hell that he was ready to go to the NBA. As far as these other wastes of scholarships go (beside Fischer), stop recruiting guys that are 7 feet, just because they’re 7 feet tall.

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    Fair comment; I also tend to agree that IU will not win a championship under Crean. Its just difficult to deal with losing in hopes of getting a better coach at IU. The players obviously want to win, and as an alum, I want to win every game. I agree that Crean hasn’t earned the right to have a below par season, and I never want to get to the point of saying that anything short of a championship is a successful season. With a short term view, where we are now compared to the predictions of a 10th place finish gives me something to be happy about during the season, and allows me to be engaged and keep watching. After the season is done, I will return to my long term measure of success.