NOTES: IU looking to work its way out of slump

As Indiana’s skid continues, Archie Miller is tapping into his past.

The IU coach is trying to empathize with his players as they find themselves stuck in a stretch of six straight losses. To do so, he’s asking himself a series of questions.

“What would I feel like if I was going through this as a player?” Miller said. “What would I want from my coaches?”

Reflecting upon his days as a point guard at NC State and, before that, as an up-and-coming prospect under his father’s tutelage in Western Pennsylvania, Miller knows exactly what he’d want.

And as IU prepares to try and snap its losing streak on Wednesday at Rutgers, Miller is giving his Hoosiers some familiar treatment.

“I would want more opportunity to play in practice,” Miller said. “I would want to work my way through it as a player and play situations where I’m competing five-on-five, or you’re playing one-on-one and doing a lot less drill work, so to speak, on fundamentals, and a little bit more on getting confidence going and working hard one-on-one — things like that where you can engage guys and watch the guys compete. As a player I think that was something that helped me.”

Speaking on his weekly radio show after Monday’s practice, Miller said he’s seeing encouraging signs in practice, even as his program’s rough patch stretches into a new week.

Little-used freshman forward Jake Forrester performed well in Monday’s practice, as did sophomore guard Al Durham and senior forward Juwan Morgan.

Graduate transfer Evan Fitzner is also showing signs of life. Fitzner, who hasn’t hit a 3-pointer against high-major competition since going 1-for-4 from beyond the arc vs. Northwestern on Dec. 1, recently earned the program’s gold practice jersey, which goes to Indiana’s most productive player in workouts.

Getting it all to translate to game day is the next step.

For a team that has lost its collective confidence, that’s no easy task. And, as Miller has learned with this group, a good practice is no omen for better days in the Big Ten.

The second-year IU coach walked away from last Thursday’s pre-Michigan practice feeling good about what he saw. Then Friday’s game tipped off, and his team failed to compete.

But Miller says he’s looking for a fix, one that can only be produced through good, hard practice sessions.

“(As a player), it was less about talking and more about, ‘Hey, let me do it,'” Miller said. “Let me get opportunities in practice and prove to myself that I’m getting better. Then, when I get in the game, I feel good and I can make the plays.’ We’re gonna have to bring that to the forefront here as we finish up January and head to February.”

Thompson endures minor setback
A tough season became slightly more frustrating for forward Race Thompson on Monday.

The redshirt freshman was scheduled to switch from the scout team to one of IU’s rotational platoons for Monday’s practice. But Thompson, who has missed 10 weeks due to a concussion suffered in mid-November, woke up sick and was unable to participate.

“If there’s ever been a guy that’s snake-bitten and deserves an opportunity, it’s him,” Miller said. “Every time he’s had a chance to come around the corner and give us something that we can maybe use to our advantage, he’s just had maybe a little bit of a setback. But obviously, the illness isn’t something that will hold him back.”

So long as Thompson is able to regain his conditioning, Miller is open to playing him in limited minutes during games down the stretch.

“Race will be participating for the rest of the year in practice,” Miller said. “… Race wants to play, and I think that’s the way we’re going to view it as of right now.”