Indiana falls short in 83-78 loss to Butler

INDIANAPOLIS — A frenetic late-game rally almost made up for a disconnected Indiana performance at the Crossroads Classic.

Almost. Not quite.

Disjointed by uncharacteristically poor shooting and uneven defense, No. 9 Indiana couldn’t mend its shortcomings in an 83-78 loss to No. 18 Butler on Saturday in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Couldn’t hit 3-pointers, couldn’t get key stops, couldn’t get it done.

That’s what was disappointing about the result Saturday, IU’s second loss of the season — both of which have come against in-state opponents.

To date, Indiana (8-2) has built a reputation as one of the most potent offensive teams in the nation. The Hoosiers didn’t have enough of that potency available Saturday.

They’ve also shown defensive growth early this season, starting the year at a higher point than they’ve started previous seasons.
But the defensive approach that IU has often shown so far was absent against the Bulldogs (10-1). Butler leading scorer Kelan Martin willed his way to a game-high 28 points, while Kamar Baldwin and Andrew Chrabascz each added 14 of their own.

Through the first nine games, IU’s defense had been trending in the proper direction. The Hoosiers were owning the boards, they were defending the perimeter as well as anyone in the nation and were generally causing issues with their length and depth.

Not Saturday.

“The most disappointing thing for us today was our defensive shot challenges. Far and away,” Crean said. “I don’t even have to see our film to know it’s the worst we’ve done. It’s the second time this year that we’ve let our lack of offense affect us on the other end, especially in the first half.”

Yet, for all that went wrong for the Hoosiers, this was a one-possession game in the final minute.

IU, which trailed by as many as 16 points early in the second half, got within two with 38 seconds to play. But Tyler Wideman’s easy dunk off an inbounds pass under the basket with 15 seconds remaining extended Butler’s advantage back to four and IU ran out of time to recover.

IU center Thomas Bryant lost Wideman on the play, allowing him an unimpeded move to the basket.

“It was just a misunderstanding with me and my teammates,” Bryant said. “I’ve just got to be better in that moment.”

Crean was no less frustrated.

“I think I could have got the layup at the end if we’re going to stand straight up on that,” the IU coach said. “That didn’t beat us. What beat us is our tenacity with our hands and our communication on ball screens, and they got comfortable. When a team gets comfortable making shots, that rim looks a lot bigger.”

Consider it a wildly inconsistent performance from Indiana, which will have a list of problem areas to review after this one.

The problems started offensively, where IU struggled to find its footing. It went nearly six minutes without a field goal during a mid-first half stretch that saw the Hoosiers miss 10 shots in a row.

Indiana didn’t hit a 3-pointer until the 18:35 mark of the second half, at which point Butler was 7-for-14 from behind the arc. IU’s 0-for-8 first-half performance from the perimeter was a major factor in its 42-28 halftime deficit.

“That’s what we’re upset about, the way we came out in the first half,” said James Blackmon Jr., who led IU with 26 points. “We can’t let that happen. We got in a deficit in the beginning of the game and that put us in a hole. That’s what happened.”

Butler’s lead grew to 16 points on a dunk by Wideman 37 seconds into the second period, until back-to-back baskets by Robert Johnson, including IU’s first 3-pointer, helped the Hoosiers begin cutting away.

By the time OG Anunoby converted a three-point play with 9:46 remaining in regulation, IU was within 62-55 — to that point the closest it had been since late in the first half.

Blackmon was a significant reason for IU’s late offensive flurry, scoring 16 of his 26 points in his final 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, Anunoby saw the bulk of his minutes in the second half. Saturday was his first action since injuring his left ankle late in the Nov. 30 win over North Carolina, and although he didn’t immediately reclaim his starting job, he was the first Hoosier off the bench and later joined IU’s starters on the floor to begin the second half.

At that point, he took the spot of guard Josh Newkirk, who posted an unproductive, and at times reckless, first half.

Newkirk’s 0-for-6 first period was part of a troubled IU offense that forced shots and seldom looked synchronized for sustained stretches.

That empty offensive approach bled into Indiana’s approach to defense, and the Hoosiers never full recovered.

“I think I’m going to be really, really, really disappointed when I look at the film and see the fact that having a hand up is not good enough at this level,” Crean said. “Having a hand up in their face and at the rise of the ball is what this level is all about. It’s correctable because we haven’t done that. That’s one of the reasons our defense has been so good, but today we didn’t have that.”


  1. Hoosier Fans, go look at the Butler schedule, not a bunch of cup cake games . A team needs early season close games, the Kansas and N. C. were great games, but too many easy games on the schedule doesn’t help a team in close games , where each ball possession counts.

    1. Try to take this with as little offense as possible… that was a dumb comment.

      It doesn’t matter that much whether they won this game… this game IS one of the tough games on the early schedule that prepares them for what really matters – the B1G and the NCAA tourney.

      Not every game is going to be a tough one, nor should they be. The team is young and also needs playing time and confidence boosters for young players.

      They will play UNC, KU, Butler, and UL, plus conference winner IUFW on the road in the non-con… that’s plenty good enough.


    2. Also, this wasn’t a close game. IU was getting pounded for most of the game. They had to come back late just to make it a close game… so it’s not like they got out-grinder down the stretch… they were the ones playing better down the stretch.

      Btw, isn’t that the same exact OOB play Butler beat IU with last time at the CRC?

  2. What this really brings up is a little theory I’m starting to subscribe to… a pattern has developed that now is very clear to me:

    Under TC, IU is a rhythm team, not a preparation team. TC is, as far as D1 head coaches go, a low-IQ coach… his teams take on that personality. They play best when they are loose and fast… when they put that together with some good defense they’re almost impossible to beat…

    But they’re at their weakest over the years when they have a layoff and lose rhythm. TC cannot game-plan his way into wins against good opponents. IU never really does anything different – they either play well doing their thing or they don’t.

    This is why they lose in the Sweet 16 every year… they beat a heavy underdog, then maintain that rhythm two days later and beat a good team, then they have to sit for 5 or 6 days and they lose it. Meanwhile the other team is very good and most-definitely has a higher-IQ coach, so they prepare better, make adjustments to what IU does and beats them…

    It’s actually so simple I’m not sure why I haven’t seen it in these terms before.

  3. I think Geoff’s comments regarding IU being a rhythm team may well be absolutely correct. This being said, there is something we all need to remember. Whether we like it or not NCAA basketball rules have been and will continue to change in a manner which will benefit rhythm teams. I know it is not what we all have traditionally come to expect out of college level basketball, but it is where things are going. Right now we are in the transition period from what we knew to where we are going. Part of the reason for the strange upsets we see, is this transition. Yes, the dominant teams with massive amounts of talent will generally win out, but an off night and a lessor team in
    rhythm . . . unexpected things can happen. In IU’s case for better or worse Crean is a disciple of this type basketball, so when IU gets an off night or out of rhythm, this will happen.

    Less anyone forget, this is not the first time IU has played this brand of basketball. For those with long enough memories, the moniker “Hurryin Hoosiers” didn’t come by accident. Coach Branch McCracken’s fast break style of basketball was very much a forerunner to what you are seeing today.

  4. Geoff. great to see you back & commenting, but, I think IU South nailed at least a part of a problem. The Kansas game going into OT and IU wins. NC game got close at the end and the players handled it well. One game away and one home. Good sign. With game after game of 300+, when does confidence become over confidence? Not sure they even have a chance to work up a sweat playing 10 guys in the rotation. Keep winning games by 30 points and not being stressed at any time in the games becomes the normal, maybe hard to handle an team that fights back. I think you could pick out 8 – 10 spots in the game where a basket made, instead of missed, would have changed the outcome.

    The OOB play was against Illinois, same look and same outcome.
    The last Butler lost, CTC benched Zeller for the last play.

    Agree with the rhythm theory.

    1. Ah yes… thanks.

      I’m not saying that playing cupcakes didn’t have an effect on the outcome yesterday. I think that it played a part… I just don’t care. My point is that the Crossroads Classic isn’t the NCAA tourney… it doesn’t matter. The boys will get plenty of chances throughout the season to play close games. They got extra opportunities, and more than usual, to play against top comp in the non-con and that should pay dividends at the end of the year.

      The reality seems to me is that it doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve proven we can beat anybody with this roster… it’s when we play teams, because of the style and IQ of TC.

  5. Geoff,
    Crean hasn’t changed his style since he got here. Even when our talent pool was shallow he’d still not stray from his style. I’m not sure why, but when that style isn’t working….there needs to be adjustment. IU is a one dimensional team.
    Crean has become a better coach by listening to the fan base. The crazy substitution patterns have stopped, the 4 guard offense is gone, and various other complaints have stopped and it’s made him a better coach. Adjusting the style when it isn’t working is another issue that needs to be addressed. Another issue that needs to change is calling a time out to stop momentum. I’ll agree it’s good for a team to play through energetic crowds sometimes, but he needs to be calling more time outs when other teams go on runs. Every coach in America does it…and it’s effective. There were several crucial moments in the Butler game when IU just looked lost….call a time out and coach the team!
    Crean has a rare potpourri on the college landscape. Not many kids like Bryant will be around two years. JBJ is a junior due to injury. OG is the under the radar guy. We have solid veteran role players. Topped off by a nice freshman class. If Crean can’t get more out of this team, what will it take for him to achieve a high level of success?

  6. Martin went through a spell where he couldn’t miss and he knew it. He was chucking up prayers with total confidence…and most of them fell. It happens. I wouldn’t game plan around it, though.

    If they can polish off Louisville and go 3-1 against the big boys it will be a pretty solid preconference run. Tar Heel fans would take it.

  7. I don’t think either OSU or UCLA struck any fear in anyone’s hearts yesterday. What a slop fest. OSU couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Neither team showed great defense other than an obviously effective glare at wide open shooters.

    This has the makings of an interesting season. I haven’t seen a dominant team yet.

  8. This game was lost in the first half. IU did not wait for the 3 point shot come to them. They went to attack mode with the three by taking dumb hurried, unnecessary 3 point shots and when they do not fall (IU does not adjust fast enough to know how to run plays like going inside, passing, screening, cutting that even negatively effects defensive play) against a team like Butler you get your lack of basketball IQ exposed. Then Butler gets confidence, feeling good and plays at a really high competitive level.

  9. You boys sure like to wiggle when you see a well-coached team.

    It’s a shame that we don’t have the nerve to play at Rupp Arena….or schedule a true road game in our non-conference schedule(please don’t degrade our program or yourself by claiming IPFW was a road game).

    Just be happy….Tom Crean’s got rhythm. Hilarious.

    1. That’s right Harv, it was at Assembly… I forgot.

      Oh, and once again the main culprit yesterday was Newkirk. He’s brutal.

  10. The Indiana Hoosiers are 0-2 against Indiana teams…..Now that’s rhythm!

    One thing has been unveiled….Brad Stevens ain’t so smart. Butler still has rhythm and Boston got duped…They only had rhythm because of Bird.

    1. Boston got duped? The fans, front office, and players love him… he is incredibly respected by other head coaches around the league. The Celts are 3rd in the East while not having a top-20 NBA talent and their 2 best players missing significant time so far this season.

      Your boy Coen is getting it done it done in Boston too…

  11. H4H I know your distaste for all things TC is well documented, but I am not so sure we should go as far as you might. Like you, I am not a particular fan of the Crean style of basketball, mainly because it is not what we have come to expect since the Knight years of IU basketball. No one would ever entertain the possibility of Knight being out coached, yet his final years at IU were not that spectacular. I think the big problem is the college game is becoming more like the NBA than any of us would like and Crean ball represents that movement.

    No one would question the NBA game being one of rhythm with it obvious ebbs and flows of scoring runs and counter runs. The difference between the best and worst teams in the NBA is not so much coaching as it is how much talent can you assemble under one roof. An NBA coach is more a psychological manager of his team than he is an x’s and o’s man. Productively managing egos is the name of the NBA game assuming you get enough talent on the team.

    If I were to fault Crean it would not be on what you and I would consider traditional coaching capabilities, that is not his game. I would fault him more on an inability to consistently keep his players in a proper mindset to execute his desired style of basketball, which more closely resembles an NBA style. Crean has a second problem which is maintaining sufficient talent to man his system. The current talent, if you could keep them 3 or 4 years, would be great in a traditional style system. Only problem is we know these guys are not going to be around that long.

    Therefore the dilemma is can Crean motivate and assemble enough talent to make his system work or should IU revert back to a coaching style which could possibly be obsolete in the next 10 years? I would be hard pressed not to think this wasn’t a part of Bo Ryan’s decision to retire at Wisconsin. I think he like many, is assuming college basketball will continue to evolve into an NBA style game. Definitely not Bo Ryan basketball. Quite frankly, considering the amount of NBA talent passing through Lexington, I would be more upset if I were a Kentucky fan at lack of production. Kind of reminds me of the Joe B Hall Kentucky years, all that talent and only one championship to show for it.

    PS Butler is 1-1 in the State of Indiana, let’s see how the records end up. I would be surprised if any of the Indiana college teams in-state records will be perfect this season. If there is one thing we can be proud of is Indiana college basketball is by far the best in the country at this stage of the season. I think something like 6 schools expected to either win or challenge for their conference.

  12. You could see this loss coming from the moment the schedule was announced. Yesterday’s loss was due in part to IU playing SIU, SEMS and Houston Baptist in consecutive games at Assembly Hall. More justification for Glass and crean to reduce the number uf pre-conference cupcakes on future schedules. S-T-U-P-I-D!

  13. Geoff-

    It was a neutral site game with an overwhelming % of IU fans. We will not play in a hostile road environment until @ Maryland in mid-January. We will not play a top-20 team on the road until @ Wisconsin in February.

    Playing NBA style ball or “loose and fast” doesn’t mean you have to ignore individual fundamentals(nor ignore them as essentials when you’re recruiting). It’s fundamentals that will overcome lapses from layoffs as you get your “rhythm” back.

    Bad coaching is bad coaching. Poor fundamentals is poor fundamentals….Butler does a lot of the little things right. They play together in a nearly complete unselfish manner. They do the positives that won’t show up in stat sheets. I remember a particular play late in the game when the Butler big was doing a textbook boxing out of Bryant…They just execute. It’s not “old style” basketball. It’s knowing how to win against a superior, or more athletic, opponent. It’s high individual b-ball IQs…It’s valuing the ball. It’s hard-nosed defense. They played plenty “fast and loose”…..It’s just not sloppy. Crean’s teams get sloppy under duress. Butler made plenty of highlight plays(e.g. a critical driving play by their freshman when he extended a high arching hook-style layup over his defender and over Bryant’s fingertips ending with a soft kiss off the glass). They simply play with a level of individual discipline(carried over from solid teaching) that makes for team difficult to rattle or disrupt.

    Let’s quit acting like we didn’t play a talented Butler team. This wasn’t just about style/rhythm/pace. Crean is far more the nervous wreck when he gets into the NCAA tournament. He was fine yesterday. We just lost to a better team(which doesn’t necessarily mean more NBA prospects).

    1. It was against FW in FW…

      No one is pretending that isn’t a good Butler team… they were ranked. Stop with the straw man.

      I firmly believe we beat them 7 times out of 10 if there are only 2 or 3 days between games. Also, OG wasn’t with it, and he’s the perfect foil for Martin.

      This team could really use some Colin Hartman… that would securely place them in the top 10…

  14. Even when the 2’s and 3’s don’t fall this team is athletic enough, conditioned enough, long enough, quick enough and deep enough to play stifling defense every possession. I’m just amazed it isn’t emphasized in Hoosierland. Geoff may be onto something with this rhythm analysis. If indeed he is correct all the more reason for D to be the focus of preparations during longer layoffs between games. If you want to create rhythm – play defense. It makes me sick.

    OT: I’ve hesitated for 2 weeks to make mention because it is heresay, rumor, conjecture, speculation and gossip of a 42nd hand communication variety, but the night before the IPFW game at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum an IU BB player took the team out for a night on the town(with the exception of Bryant)for cocktails. Hard for me to believe that could be gotten away with but I’ve heard it in many locations in Northern Indiana. Something went to hell in Ft. Wayne.

  15. Bingo H4H, precisely summarized in your 7pm post.

    The game of possessions, stats don’t lie;
    They had 4 more 3s in 4 fewer attempts. (-12)
    We had 3 more 2 pt FGs, somehow ( +6)
    We hit 1 more FT (+1)

    Result is -5.

    We had 7 more TOs, yet 16 more RB. Net +9 on the possession board.

    Simply, if you look at the above stats & didn’t watch the game, you’d see that Butler was undersized, more disciplined, & smarter with their 9 fewer possessions.

    We’re not a smart team. They are & frankly Butler is more fun to watch. They execute. They have high IQ, on & off the court. They know what’s happening, who’s hot, and who’s not.

    Crean shouldve pulled out the zone again to slow Martin down. Once again we’re terrible defending the dribble drive. And lastly, OG should’ve started the game. Our best 5 are: OG, Morgan, Bryant, Johnson, & Blackmon. A coach should play his best 5 kids. I’d play Green, Jones & MacRoberts over Newkirk.

  16. AWinAz-

    Butler and IPFW were both “way more fun to watch.” We get very conditioned to the slop-fest hoops….It’s refreshing as hell to watch well-coached kids that gel into a team.

    I think the BIG season may be very bumpy for this Hoosier group.

    No Yogi is really hurting. Four years of Hulls…and four years of Yogi kept us somewhat buffered from unchained Crean in his world of “fast and loose.” There is never any leadership from our hands-on/hands-off coach, but he did pull his “coaching” chair way out onto the floor very nicely during timeouts Saturday……Man, he has all the right moves…lol.

    Yup..We are certainly missing leaders like Yogi and Hulls..Those two provided a lot of grit, backbone, and shoulders….They always helped fill the holes in the 8-year leaky boat.

    But where’s the leadership now? Most of the time we look like one whiny baby complaining about every call playing with four totally aloof Buddhafield members.

  17. Well, you do pay attention. I love Coen….It’s pretty simple…All we need to do is get rid of an ‘r’ and ‘a’….and replace with an ‘o.’

    Wow….Took down MSU in East Lansing. That brings a smile..Thanks for letting me know, Geoff.

    OG hasn’t looked with it for a while…Hope everything is o.k.. Sometimes it’s a lot tougher than we think for these kids to adjust. I wonder if he’s a wrong personality fit with Crean? Playing for Crean must feel like carrying around six bags of sand on your back. I don’t really think it’s ever very “loose.” It may be fast, but it’s tight and suffocating. That’s why Boston loves Brad. He’s not suffocating. …Just my opinion.

  18. Geoff, nice analysis. Enjoyed the discussion everyone’s had around it.

    Only thing I’d like to add: Crean’s teams are also terrible at adjustments with their “rhythm offense”. In the case of Butler, they are a high basketball IQ team. They watch a lot of film and they try to get teams out of their game. Their program is built around it. They must see Indiana the way a lion sees a wounded wildebeast that wonders from the herd on the Serengeti.

    What makes me insane watching Crean’s teams is that when you see another team (insert Butler, Wisconsin, Syracuse) who gets them out of their “rhythm” game, they don’t adjust. They just look completely lost. Every team goes through cold spots. Especially the more you rely on the 3. Teams that play smart because they aren’t loaded with 4 & 5-star talent are designed for asymmetric warfare. We just don’t seem to have a way to slug it out with another team when the shots aren’t falling, or we play a team who prepares specifically to get us out of our rhythm.

    Add that to the fact that we don’t play very good defense. When we go cold, we’re in trouble. Hence why I think we’re no better than a Sweet 16 team. Very fundamental problems. Like our guards who have their hands down at their sides when they defend the perimeter. Putting your eyes right into the chest of the ball-handler and ensuring they don’t get around you. I can’t believe I’m typing these sentences.

  19. Very fundamental problems.

    One of your best posts ever, Double Down. Not only did I love the metaphors, you are spot on. Lack of well-taught fundamentals…and very little savvy to “slug it out” when not in rhythm. Bingo. It’s because Crean doesn’t recruit on building a team. He recruits on making individuals who are diamonds in the rough(sometimes lacking in the grit and fundamentals/b-ball IQ while overflowing with wing spans and athleticism) in something for his NBA resume.
    I don’t buy into the layoff thing…All teams go through it and there are plenty of teams built to play “loose and fast.”
    The mission at IU is to sell more than win(as in NCAA banners)….Having a place where a potential diamond in the rough “lottery pick” doesn’t have to compete with an already refined/elite one-and-done can be very attractive. We give them the stage….But we get a lot of fundamentally disjointed teams and kids that are on two different planes of basketball. The raw skills are in the stratosphere….The savvy and IQ( built on strong h.s. experiences/pedigree coaching/instinctive fundamentals that come with playing with passion since childhood) for the game is barely above ground level.
    All that empty space in between is where a Tom Crean team must live. Connecting the moving parts/individuals within such drastic variances has more to do with time and distance than rhythm. By the time the NBA gets a Crean “rocket ship,” we’ve paid the price to close the plane together. And many of these rocket ships never get off the launch pad(e.g. Perea..and every A-Hope product he wasted time with).

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