Hoosiers’ B1G road slate ends at Illinois

Road venues have been especially hostile to the Hoosiers this season.

Luckily for them, there is only one left to visit.

Indiana’s last true road contest of the conference season comes today in Champaign, Ill., matching up with an Illinois squad that shares a four-way tie for second in the Big Ten standings. The Hoosiers, fresh off their seventh loss in nine road outings, can only press on.

“There isn’t a team in this league right now that doesn’t want to keep progressing and keep getting better like we do,” IU coach Archie Miller said Thursday. “Every team is playing for something right now. Each game is hard. There are unbelievable teams in the league.”

IU (18-10, 8-9 Big Ten) has had its share of brilliant moments this season, but rarely have they come on the road. The Hoosiers went a month between road victories, at Nebraska (Jan. 18) and then Minnesota (Feb. 19). While that win over the Gophers keyed a stretch where IU won three out of four, Thursday’s 25.4-percent shooting effort at Purdue fell in line with other subpar road outings.

Then again, in some ways, it didn’t.

If Miller and his players took any solace from Thursday, they had no qualms with their own effort. Despite their horrid shooting percentages, they closed to within six points with under three minutes to play. As the regular season closes and leads into the postseason, that’s a positive.

It leaves open the possibility of a bounce-back effort, as the Hoosiers have claimed in the past. Just rarely have those efforts come on the road. And they just haven’t come versus a team the strength of Illinois.

Minnesota (13-14) is 2-8 in its last 10 games. Nebraska (7-21) has lost 13 in a row. On the other hand, the Illini (19-9, 11-6) seem to have recovered from their own four-game losing skid, kickstarting a three-game winning streak with a 62-56 result at Penn State.

“Champaign right now is hopping, they are feeling good about their team,” Miller said Monday on his radio show.

Reviewing the Illini’s pieces, the biggest is certainly 7-footer Kofi Cockburn. The seven-time Big Ten freshman of the week doesn’t just stand above the rest — he checks in at 290 pounds, more than enough weight to throw around.

Cockburn is tied with Iowa’s Luka Garza for second in the conference in offensive rebounding at 3.6 per game. Illinois leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-8.9 per game).

IU will need junior Joey Brunk and senior De’Ron Davis to play tough on the inside. But the Hoosiers’ perimeter defense may be even more important, because sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu, who had an injury scare versus Michigan State, missed one game and has since averaged 21 points per game in the Illini’s three-game win streak.

There was no time for the Hoosiers to feel sorry for themselves after the loss at Purdue. They have one more trip to take before returning to Bloomington for home contests with Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Then it’s on to the Big Ten tournament, and, possibly, the NCAA tournament.

“We are back on the road on Sunday. It’s going to be more of the same,” Miller said. “But from this point forward, it’s going to go fast, there is no time to dwell. It’s time to get better, move on and kind of keep working.

“I won’t fault our effort and I won’t fault our attitude. I think our team, in general, (Thursday) tried to play the right way and played hard. Period.”

Miller made sure to express those sentiments to his team immediately following the Purdue loss.

“Coach really spoke to us and kept our heads up high in the locker room,” senior De’Ron Davis said. “Overall, as a team, we are together. And I think as long as we stay together as a group, we’ll be fine.”

3 comments

  1. The team is totally inconsistent during a game and from game to game – disorganized! Shameful! BK is shaking his head in disgust! Sorry to say it’s on the coach – need new coach or accept it? Painful to watch!

  2. Be careful mgmeis, you’ll run afoul of the echo-chamber that assures us that all will be well once Archie rids the team of those toxic Crean-recruited players. This team’s inconsistency has nothing to do with coaching, it’s those Crean-recruited players that are 100% of the problem with this IU team. Besides, we have an outstanding HS point guard who has committed to play for IU, and he might arrive on campus this summer (or maybe not, but whatever). If not, we have the 98th ranked HS player in the class of 2020 coming in, and rumor has it that he can make 3-point shots and make more than 60% of his free throws. So all will be well; we just have to be patient. Forget what your eyes are seeing, as the experts in the echo chamber remind us, it takes five seasons to turn a program like IU around. I mean just look at the mess Archie inherited one year after IU won its last Outright Big Ten Championship and made it to the Sweet 16! As long as we’re signing the one highest rated Indiana HS BB player from every year, all will be well.

    1. Pray tell us Po,
      Exactly how many of those key players from TLC’s last B1G championship did CAM inherit? You know as well as I do, that other than JM and maybe RJ, CAM had nothing to work with. He had to literally rebuild the program from near scratch, and don’t say he had DD. As good as DD could have been, his injury plagued career has certainly damaged what he might have been. As far as the incoming freshman class CAM salvaged, it has largely under performed at best.

      Got to realize that CAM is in all reality, working with his first full recruiting class combined of the freshman and sophomore classes. Last year’s freshman class was all but lost due to injury. CAM is really starting out 2 years behind, his first class wasn’t his, nor did they fit his prototypical player, and the second class lost nearly an entire season of experience. Hard to find a logical reason to blame the coach under such circumstances. Next year, yes, this season and the two prior – no, not in the least bit logical.

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