4 things we learned from IU’s loss to Michigan

1. The offense is completely broken.

You’ll have to go back a decade to Lahaina, Hawaii, to find the last time Indiana performed so poorly on offense.

It was Nov. 24, 2008, the first day of that season’s Maui Invitational, and Notre Dame boat-raced a rebuilding, skin-and-bones Indiana team, 88-50. The Hoosiers managed only .687 points per possession in that contest, one of the 25 losses that season produced.

Back then, such a performance was understandable, if not expected. Now, not so much.

Indiana managed only .696 points per possession against Michigan on Friday, the latest rotten effort from a team that continues to trend in the wrong direction offensively.

There doesn’t seem to be any improvement taking shape. Only regression. The Hoosiers’ confidence has evaporated in recent weeks, leaving only a shell of a team that was offensively top-heavy to begin with.

As teams continue to double up on Romeo Langford and harass Juwan Morgan, the Hoosiers have been exposed as a team without alternate options, both in terms of personnel and scheme.

Just as IU’s players have faltered, Indiana’s coaches have done an unconvincing job of fixing a problem that is only getting worse. It doesn’t feel like anything has changed with the approach. Perhaps Friday illustrates that something should.

After the loss to Michigan, Miller said he takes “full responsibility” for the recent slide.

Nine games into the 20-game conference season, the Hoosiers rank 13th in the Big Ten in adjusted offensive efficiency, 12th in effective field goal percentage (45.9 percent) and 14th in 3-point percentage (25.2 percent).

As ESPN’s John Gasaway points out, no team has averaged fewer than four made 3-pointers per major conference game since the implementation of the 30-second shot clock three seasons ago. As of Friday, Indiana is averaging 4.1 3-pointers per conference game.

The Hoosiers haven’t cracked a point per possession since Jan. 11 at Maryland, and they’re shooting only 17 percent from 3-point range in the four games since that 78-75 loss in College Park.

“We’re just not capitalizing on offense just in terms of being able to make the perimeter shot,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We have better shooters than we shot tonight. I’d be hard pressed to see if you could shoot worse than that, to be honest with you.

“But shooting the ball has been a big concern for us all season. We’ve been able to play through that all season, and then I think just in general, our lack of depth and overall lack of depth as January has moved around, we’ve got some guys right now in a rut, physically, mentally, the whole deal, and we’ve got to keep working just to get out of it.”

2. Juwan Morgan looks exhausted.

The Hoosiers’ senior forward is averaging 33.3 minutes per game in conference play, carrying the load for a team that needs every ounce of production he can muster.

It’s all taking a toll on Morgan, who looked worse for wear as Friday’s first half developed. Morgan didn’t get a substitution until the 4:22 mark of the opening period, laboring for long stretches as the game unraveled.

Others in the conference are logging more minutes per game, but Morgan’s time on the floor seems to be both mentally and physically taxing as he bangs bodies underneath the basket and takes on double teams without much help around him.

Morgan might benefit from more rest — and more help, of course, too — but right now Miller feels he has no option but to ride with his senior captain, for better or worse.

“It’s so hard to take him off the floor when you get down,” Miller said. “If you’re in a game and you feel good that you’re in a rhythm and things like that, you can get him more blows, but we need to have him on the floor. Yeah, he’s fatigued. He’s tired. He’s having to work really, really hard for every basket. He’s having to defend all over the floor, and in reality, yeah, he needs probably a little bit more spell. But when you get down in a game and you’re in the type of game we were in tonight, it’s kind of hard to imagine pulling him off the floor.”

3. At some point in the past month, the Hoosiers’ personality changed.

Before Indiana entered Christmas break — and the 11-day layoff between games that came with it — the Hoosiers had a reputation for toughness.

They were far from perfect, but they were gritty. They earned hard-fought victories through their commitment to defensive principles and their resolve. IU’s last eight wins were all comeback efforts that saw the team grind through uneven beginnings and author more complete finishes.

Recently, the Hoosiers haven’t come close.

Miller called his team “soft” and “scared” after the embarrassing performance against Michigan. Does IU have the ability to reclaim its personality, the one it forged through weeks of hard work?

It won’t be easy.

“It’s not going to be very easy at all,” Miller said. “You’ve got to get that notion out of your head and just stay with it. Block out the noise. As a player, I take great pride in looking back on how I would feel as a player right now, and what would I want from my coaches right now, and bottom line is I would want somebody to just work me. Man, just get me better. Find a way to do that. That’s what I would want. I would want to be with my staff. I’d want to be on the floor right now working. That feeling doesn’t go away until you work it out, and that’s what we’ve got to give to them.”

4. It’s getting more difficult to see this team in the NCAA Tournament, but all hope is not lost.

Indiana doesn’t look like an NCAA Tournament team?

No kidding. That’s obvious.

But this season is far from over.

Next week will end a grueling eight-game stretch that featured six games outside of Bloomington. On the flip side, six of IU’s final eight games will be played in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Of course, the past two home games against Michigan and Nebraska show that playing in Bloomington is no guarantee for the Hoosiers right now, as insane as that sounds. But with a weak bubble and a strong non-conference resume, IU still has the ability to earn its way into the postseason with a better stretch run.

Asked after Friday’s game what the Hoosiers wanted out of this season, Juwan Morgan was resolute.

“We’re looking for a postseason this year,” Morgan said. “We’re not really looking for anything else. We’re not selling ourselves short. I know there’s a talented group in that room. I’m still — I’m not giving up on any of the guys, they’re not giving up on me, and that’s what it is.”

3 comments

  1. Another 4 things:

    IU is REALLY BAD;
    IU is REALLY, REALLY BAD;
    IU is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BAD; and
    IU IS REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BAD!!!!!!!

  2. t, you’re always right. Here is a question: Are we as bad as Rutgers? (I tried to watch Rutgers vs Penn State and couldn’t do it)

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