The Minute After: Penn State

  • 02/24/2024 3:18 pm in

Thoughts on an 83-74 loss to the Nittany Lions:

Indiana played well enough to win this game.

The Hoosiers came out with intensity on defense. And with Trey Galloway (foot injury), Mackenzie Mgbako (Mike Woodson auto-bench with two fouls), Kel’el Ware (Woodson auto-bench with two fouls) sitting for longer-than-usual stretches in the first half, the bench plus Malik Reneau still kept things afloat. This was a game in which Indiana went maximal with its core strengths: points in the paint and getting to the free throw line. Of Indiana’s 33 first-half points, 22 came in the paint and nine came at the line for a total of 31. Those nine makes from the line came on 12 attempts as the Hoosiers shot an uncharacteristically good 75 percent.

On the other side of things, Penn State looked sluggish to start after its emotional come-from-behind win against Illinois earlier in the week. But with the game tied at 32 and 2:55 to go before halftime, Ace Baldwin Jr. went to work. Indiana couldn’t keep him out of the paint on the drive and didn’t have Ware as a shot-blocking threat in the game. So Baldwin Jr. ripped off an 8-1 run against Indiana all by himself to close out the half and put the Nittany Lions up 40-33 at the break.

Indiana never trailed by more than 12 in the second half, a better performance than in its last four games. And the Hoosiers got as close as two at the 10:06 mark. But the free-throw shooting absolutely fell off a cliff. Get this one: Galloway, Mgbako and Reneau each missed a pair of free throws on separate trips to the line in the second half. All those back-to-back misses meant the Hoosiers shot just 38.5 percent (5-of-13) over the final 20 minutes of action and only 56 percent (14-of-25) for the game.

And then there’s the 3-point shooting.

Indiana came dangerously close to not making a 3-pointer all game, which would have marked the second time that happened this season (loss at Illinois). But after missing its first nine attempts, Indiana finally got one to go by Mgbako with 1:35 remaining. Gunn hit another with three seconds left in the game. The Hoosiers ended the contest making only 2-of-15 (13.3 percent).

You just can’t expect to win on the road — or at home, for that matter — with these kinds of shooting numbers from the line and beyond the arc. So despite 50 points in the paint and a solid-enough 1.06 points per possession, it’s another loss for Indiana, its fourth straight. At this point, the shooting woes seem more mental than physical. Gunn passed up two 3-pointers in the first half. The first time, he turned the ball over on a travel by simply going up for a shot and coming down. Later, he stepped in for a long 2 instead. It missed. And Galloway seems particularly borked at the line. He’s shooting just 54.8 percent on the season.

Across this four-game losing streak, Indiana is shooting 57 percent from the line and 22 percent from 3-point range. On the other hand, its opponents have made 74 percent at the line and 39 percent from deep.

Woodson has been criticized of late for not taking enough blame for his team’s performance. That changed after today’s loss.

“I’m not happy with how I coached this team,” he said. ” … I won’t blame my players. I will always put it on Mike Woodson.”

Four straight losses. Losers of eight of 10. They haven’t won back-to-back games since December.

These, my friends, are your Indiana Hoosiers.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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