ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Whatever heart Indiana showed last weekend was broken by halftime.
Sloppy and uninspired, this one of the worst performances of the Hoosiers’ season — and of Tom Crean’s IU career.
The Hoosiers fed poison to whatever mid-season momentum they generated during the past week, coming out flat in a 90-60 blowout loss to Michigan on Thursday at the Crisler Center.
Indiana never recovered from an awful start against the Wolverines, looking far removed from the type of connected, focus effort that it used to earn an impressive victory over Michigan State on Saturday.
“There’s no excuses,” IU center Thomas Bryant said.
Not that anyone would dare make one after a game this bad.
During the past four years, Indiana has typically matched up and played well against Michigan, winning five of the last seven meetings entering Thursday. Even the two losses in that span were close ones.
The latest meeting completely bucked that trend.
The 30-point margin of defeat was the third-largest in Big Ten play during nine seasons under Tom Crean, and the worst since a 32-point loss to Wisconsin in February 2010.
“At no point in the game was our aggression defensively ever enough to stem the tide,” Crean said. “It wasn’t the offense when we shoot 54 percent. It was defensively a lack of aggressiveness and there’s no excuse for it. I don’t have one.”
This wasn’t a must-win game for the trajectory of IU’s season, but it was a great opportunity for the Hoosiers to claim another important road victory entering Sunday’s game at surging Northwestern.
Thursday’s result came nearly a year after IU authored a program-record 28-0 run to score a valuable win in Ann Arbor. That run — that game — was squarely on the mind of the Wolverines, who built their lead to as many as 37 points.
“I think you don’t even have to talk about that with the guys who were here,” Michigan forward Mo Wagner said. “The guys who weren’t here saw it, and remember it. It’s something as a player you take personally at some point, so we wanted to get out there aggressively and not give them easy shots.”
The Wolverines (14-7, 4-4) found their points in nearly every possible way against the Hoosiers (14-7, 4-4). They hit 11 3-pointers, got to the rim early and often and scored 28 points off Indiana’s 16 turnovers.
After committing a season-low nine errors on Saturday against Michigan State, Indiana had eight through the first 19 minutes.
At times, Michigan sliced through IU’s transition defense, while a couple other careless Hoosier backcourt passes led to free throws and another easy basket for Michigan.
Indiana offered another lifeless start, a trend the Hoosiers are finding hard to shake. IU trailed 14-4 five minutes into the first half, as offensive stagnancy coupled with some careless plays on both ends of the court put the Hoosiers in an early hole.
It was so bad at one point, IU couldn’t even keep track of the shot clock coming out of a timeout.
Consider a turnover charged to Devonte Green, who was caught not paying attention to the shot clock moments after subbing in — and immediately following timeout instructions from his coach.
“Our starters weren’t ready to play, obviously, but we had guys go in the game who were not even close to ready to go in and defend,” Crean said.
By the second media timeout, half of Michigan’s first 20 points came from the paint.
Wagner, meanwhile, had little trouble getting to the rim and getting his points. He finished with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, winning matchups against Zach McRoberts and Thomas Bryant.
That was one of six double-digit scoring performances for the Wolverines, who were paced by Derrick Walton’s 21 points.
Robert Johnson, in part, kept a 15-point IU halftime deficit from spiraling into something far worse after 20 minutes. The junior guard scored eight of his eventual team-high 14 points in the first half, grabbing a team-best four rebounds in that span.
Indiana was outrebounded 23-20, grabbing only five offensive boards — none of which came from the Hoosiers’ starters.
After missing the past two games with a left foot injury, Juwan Morgan was the first Hoosier off the bench on Thursday. He played 11 minutes, recording two rebounds and scoring three points.
While Morgan continues to recover — and OG Anunoby remains out for the season with a knee injury — IU has needed to lean on junior guards like Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. to fix the course of the season.
Blackmon finished with four points and didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer. He also didn’t get a shot off in the second half.
Crean said that was less a product of Michigan’s approach than it was IU’s inability to spring Blackmon free.
“He put himself in some bad situations in the corner, but our screening (was poor),” Crean said. “We shoot 54 percent and our screening was a joke. It was more us. I’m sure they’ll feel good about it and all that type of stuff, but it was more us than anything else in the sense of not getting him free. The game was also giving us other things.”
Nothing, however, that Indiana ever took to its advantage.