“We just stopped playing”: Indiana suffers its worst loss of the season, falling to Auburn 104-76

  • 12/09/2023 5:52 pm in

The first four minutes of Indiana’s game against Auburn Saturday afternoon yielded nothing but high hopes and loud cheers from the Hoosier faithful, whether they were in person at State Farm Arena in Atlanta or watching the game on their televisions. Four consecutive 3-pointers matched Indiana’s season-high, and the team seemed full of energy and grit.

If a time-traveler appeared to tell Indiana fans that the Hoosiers would end up quickly losing that tenacity and just about all apparent motivation to win, they probably wouldn’t have believed them. If they told Indiana fans that the Hoosiers would allow a 42-12 Auburn run to close out the first half and end up losing 104-76, they probably would have been kicked out of the house.

But that time-traveler would have been right.

Indiana’s 28-point loss to the Tigers, who entered the game as 6.5-point favorites, was arguably the worst of Mike Woodson’s tenure. It highlighted everything wrong with the Hoosiers, from their lack of 3-point production to the absence of a consistently motivated and impactful leader on the court.

“We just stopped playing,” Woodson told Don Fischer after the game.

Indiana built up a 12-point lead in the first eight minutes but quickly lost it in the following minutes as Auburn adjusted its game and began playing more physically. None of the Hoosiers — whether bench players or starters — could adjust or match up with the Tigers.

“They just physically took us out of everything we wanted to do,” Woodson said. “I’m not happy with the way we played tonight… we just caved in.”

Four starters finished with double-digit points — all but Trey Galloway — but they were no match for Auburn, who had six players hit double figures, with two Tigers scoring 24 points each. By comparison, Malik Reneau led the Hoosiers with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

Pressure in the paint held Kel’el Ware to only 13 points, and eight of those points came from free throws. Indiana’s offense couldn’t effectively adjust to send the ball out to other players besides Reneau and Ware, and when the Hoosiers did find themselves open, there was no guarantee the shot would go down.

“They turned up the ball pressure and didn’t allow passes to get swung around as easy,” Gabe Cupps said. “That slowed down our offense which then led to them getting out in transition.”

Auburn’s speed and athleticism allowed them to get up and down the court faster than Indiana, putting them in a position to do just about whatever they wanted to do offensively: shoot 3-pointers, set up for drives to the basket or even pass the ball around until Indiana’s defense made a mistake.

“They had us scrambling to find their 3-point shooters,” Cupps said.

Auburn connected on 14 of their 29 3-point shots, while the trend of Indiana failing to take and make 3-pointers continued as the team went 6-for-17 from beyond the arc. It set a new season-high, but that fact was overshadowed mainly by Indiana’s inability to pull through in critical moments. In allowing a 42-12 Auburn run in the first half, and getting outscored 94-54 in just under 33 minutes of play, the Hoosiers needed to be able to make 3-pointers to even stand a chance to get back in the game. They didn’t.

The Tigers only committed three turnovers, a testament to Indiana’s total lack of defensive pressure and Auburn’s ability to work around whatever defense they faced. Indiana, on the other hand, committed 12 turnovers and allowed 15 Auburn points to come from those mistakes.

“It’s definitely unacceptable,” Reneau said about Indiana’s defensive efforts.

Woodson said that was ultimately the difference in Saturday’s game, emphasizing the need for his team to get more stops and force more turnovers. The game came down to energy and physicality, and Indiana was outmatched.

It was a game reminiscent of Indiana’s loss to UConn just a few weeks ago, wherein both teams came out hot and Indiana couldn’t keep up. Woodson called that loss a wake-up call for his team, who proceeded to go on a four-game win streak and play some of their cleanest basketball.

There’s not just a hope but a need for that to happen again. The Hoosiers have a week until their next game, against No. 2 Kansas at Assembly Hall, where they will need to — at the very least — stay competitive for all 40 minutes.

Woodson has faith his team will rebound.

“This won’t set us back,” he said. “We showed wonderful signs tonight against a good team early on, and then we just didn’t sustain that.”

But only time will tell.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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