The Minute After: Syracuse

  • 11/30/2021 10:37 pm in

Thoughts on a 112-110 double-overtime loss to Syracuse:

After a wild, insane, ridiculous, never-say-die-from-either-side game, the honeymoon is over.

The Hoosiers won two in the Bahamas, a secret scrimmage in Louisville and six straight to start the season inside Assembly Hall. But on the road for the first time in the regular season, Indiana picks up its first loss of the Mike Woodson era.

Indiana got smoked in the first half. They turned it over a ton. Looked lost against the zone. Missed easy looks at the rim and shots from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers gave too much space to the Orange’s shooters and they made them pay. As the second half began and Buddy Boeheim kept dropping in shots, Indiana was down 18.

But as we’ve seen on a couple of occasions so far this season, the Hoosiers don’t fold when the game fails to go their way. Adjustments at halftime meant Parker Stewart got fed the ball on the left side. He hit 3-of-4 from deep early in the second half and suddenly this was a game. Miller Kopp was right there with him, dropping in 5-of-6 from the field in the second half. Kopp was huge in this one, scoring a career-high 28 points and hitting key free throws as well.

If you saw it, you know how it went over the final three periods. The Hoosiers stormed back to take the lead at the 10:04 mark, but looked like they were done after they got down 11 with 3:44 to go. But they again didn’t quit. Stewart hit another triple. Trayce Jackson-Davis got a rebound on an intentionally missed free throw from Kristian Lander and hit both free throws to tie the game at the end of regulation.

Both teams had their chances in the overtimes, but neither could throw the knockout punch, and it felt like this one could go on forever. Players were fouled out across both rosters. But after Indiana couldn’t get anything going on the final possession of the first overtime and it went to another extra frame, the Orange got two free throws with .8 seconds left after Khristian Lander fouled Joseph Girard III. With the game tied, he made both and Indiana didn’t have enough time left to get off a shot. Game over.

Indiana showed great spirit in this one. Jackson-Davis continues to be a force (31 points, 16 rebounds). Kopp and Stewart were big time. With Xavier Johnson and Rob Phinisee fouled out, Lander hit a huge free throw at the end of regulation and a huge 3-pointer in the second overtime. Indiana was strong on the boards.

“For the most part, I’m happy with the fight,” Mike Woodson said after the contest. “They didn’t quit. They’ve got a lot of grit.”

All true. All well and good. But … the turnovers. Simply put: It’s the main thing holding this team back right now. Indiana turned it over on 28 percent of their possessions in this one and Syracuse scored 33 points off those miscues. Woodson only wants 12 turnovers per game. Indiana had 13 in the first half alone. In a game that turned out to be a nailbiter, Indiana’s wasted possessions were crushing. For the season, Indiana is turning it over on 22 percent of their possessions, which ranks 282th in the country.

An All-American player, a top 25 defense, better 3-point shooting, improved point guard play and a never-say-die attitude has the making of a return trip to the NCAA tournament for this Indiana squad.

But if the Hoosiers keep shooting themselves in the foot, it’s going to be harder than it needs to be.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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