Miller drawing upon experience to stop IU’s slide

Archie Miller knows this situation well.

Five years ago, Miller found himself at a similar station. It was Jan. 29, 2014, and Miller’s Dayton squad was stuck in the mud. A banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Langston Galloway of St. Joseph’s sent the Flyers to their fourth consecutive loss and their fifth in six games.

Suddenly, a team that started the season 12-3 with notable wins over Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Ole Miss was staring at a 1-5 record to open Atlantic 10 play. For Miller, it was Year 3 of his Dayton tenure, and a faction of the Flyers’ fan base openly questioned whether the young coach was fit for his job.

“We took some lumps,” Miller recalled Thursday. “We did, and we got ourselves where it was a really, really hard month.”

But as Miller and his Dayton players soon learned, a tough month doesn’t have to spiral into a bad season.

The Flyers shook off the frustration of the St. Joseph’s loss, won their next six games and 13 of their final 16 contests of the season on the way to reaching program’s first Elite Eight in 30 years.

“To those kids’ credit and to our staff’s credit at that time, we found a way to keep it positive, keep improving, and you just keep pounding, so to speak, to find a way to get one positive thing, which at that time was to get a win,” Miller said. “Once we got one, I thought that sort of relieved everyone.”

Miller’s experience from five years ago isn’t completely parallel with the one he finds himself in today, especially as he tends to a lengthy list of inactive players.

But he’s hoping to find the same kind of fix as IU attempts to snap its five-game losing streak in tonight’s 6:30 p.m. matchup with No. 5 Michigan at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“Obviously, we don’t want to be in the situation that we’re currently in, but you can’t get worried about what’s happened in the past,” Miller said. “You have to continue to focus on getting better. You have to continue on making the players feel like they are getting better and they are earning their confidence back, and you have an another opportunity on Friday. The games aren’t going away.”

As Indiana’s skid stretched to five games on Tuesday at Northwestern, the Hoosiers found something meaningful inside the second half — a sense of urgency.

IU cut a 15-point deficit down to three with a 13-1 run late in the period. But the Hoosiers couldn’t get any closer, banging against a glass ceiling across their final few possessions of the night.

At the same time, they looked like a team that cared. There’s a degree of want-to that goes into breaking out of any funk, and one of the next steps in IU’s climb back to relevancy is finding an approach that doesn’t waver.

The Hoosiers have shown that their capacity for playing well is there. It’s their motivation to do so that could use tweaking.

“We just have to have that same approach,” sophomore forward Justin Smith said. “I feel like when we get down, we realize we’re down and then we scramble to get back. If we have that urgency right away, especially on defense, (we might benefit). Because we held them to a bunch of stops and they really weren’t scoring toward the end of the game while we were trying to make a comeback. If we have that same energy and same urgency toward the entire game, it will definitely help us.”

Both in the short-term and beyond.

Indiana needs a win in the worst way. The Hoosiers need something positive to feed them confidence inside of their toughest stretch of the year. And yet, after playing four of the past five games away from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, there’s no soft landing for the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

IU gets a game against No. 5 Michigan — then turns right back around for two more road games at Rutgers and No. 6 Michigan State.

“We just have to continue preparing and get better,” Miller said. “Our guys right now are genuinely continuing to work hard. We have got to try to find a way to keep it at a workable margin. … Just in general, from watching us, we’re not as tight and connected on defense and from an offensive perspective, our defense has got to create some offense for us.

“Our last four games, whatever the losing streak is, you can think back on it, what are we not doing? And I just think forcing turnovers, the activity level, the ability to get defense — the offense hasn’t been there for us, which has hurt us.”

Having been in a similar situation before, Miller knows it only takes one win to to right the wrongs of an extended losing streak.

There’s still plenty of season to play for, and the Hoosiers hope a winning effort against the Wolverines can propel them into the weeks to come.

“We’re definitely still in control,” Smith said. “We’re not getting too high or too low. We’re taking it day-by-day, game-by-game and hopefully we can turn some things around going forward.”

One comment

  1. This isn’t the A10. Archie is as lost as the team right now. This is now sad to watch. If we lose to Rutgers next week, IU could lose 10 in a row. MSU, Iowa and OSU waiting. This isn’t A10 anymore!

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