Hoosiers approaching finish line of B1G race

When the Hoosiers’ flight home from Minnesota landed, Archie Miller felt some relief.

The grind of the Big Ten season has been hard enough. On top of that, Indiana’s third-year coach really does not like the rigmarole of air travel.

So Miller took some solace in the fact that IU’s last two road trips, Illinois and Purdue, were drivable. And having just returned from a win in Minneapolis, there was a sense of optimism about the Hoosiers’ future travel obligations.

“We are not getting on an airplane again until they call our name on Sunday,” Miller recalled telling his team.

Selection Sunday, that is.

Left with just home games against Minnesota and Wisconsin, and bus rides back and forth from Indianapolis for the Big Ten tourney, the airport is not a place the Hoosiers need to visit for some time. And if they take care of business at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall this week, a trip to the NCAA tournament is expected — and would be well worth a flight.

But near-completion of a task doesn’t offer complete relief. Minnesota (13-15, 7-11 Big Ten) has lost its last two games by a total of three points, victims of comebacks by No. 9 Maryland and Wisconsin. The Gophers have lost seven of their last nine games, but they aren’t a gimme for IU.

Especially if they are good in one facet.

“Minnesota is a team that, when they shoot the 3, they can beat anybody in the league,” Miller said Monday on his radio show.

That was far from the case when IU visited Minnesota, and the Gophers hit 4-of-25 from 3-point range. Sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur, who can quickly heat up from beyond, was just 1-of-9 in that Feb. 19 contest at The Barn.

While Minnesota couldn’t hit the broad side of one last time out, Miller has a hard time believing those numbers will repeat. Right after the IU loss, Kalscheur hit four of the Gopher’s 14 3-pointers in a win over Northwestern.

“If you give him nine 3s, he’s not going to make just one this time,” Miller said. “I promise you that.”

The question is whether the Hoosiers (18-11, 8-10) can mostly repeat their defensive effort at Minnesota, which also involved limiting dynamic guard Marcus Carr (15.7 ppg) and big man Daniel Oturu (20.2). The sophomore duo combined for just 23 points on 8-of-24 shooting in a loss to IU.

This isn’t an untalented visitor, and the Gophers are sure to be hungry as they try to salvage a .500 season.

The focus then comes back to IU’s ability to finish. Of late, the Hoosiers’ defense has been more sound. Turnovers, with some untimely exceptions, have been less frequent. IU’s energy level and focus just seems to be better, and Miller points back to a 24-point loss at Michigan as the impetus.

“We’ve seen an unbelievable turn in terms of our guys’ focus and some of the things you deal with as a group in the course of the season,” Miller said. “We have a lot of guys right now, in my opinion, rowing in the same direction, all trying to do the same thing.”

The objectives are clear. As junior guard Al Durham said following Sunday’s one-point loss to Illinois, the Hoosiers know what’s at stake.

The comforts of home — where IU is 14-3 this season — should offer some added benefits. But it’s up to the Hoosiers to finish the “race,” an analogy Miller has used frequently to describe this long and grinding conference season.

“We are right there, man,” Miller said. “You are 100 yards from the finish, and you have basically 40 minutes to 40 minutes. And we have to be at our best, and it doesn’t have to be pretty. We just have to be absolutely at our best on Wednesday night in terms of how hard we are playing and our attitude in terms of what we are trying to accomplish.”

3 comments

  1. Well, things are taking shape & we have our work cut out for us. The only way we won’t finish 11th or worse in the Big Ten is to win these last two at home. If we lose to MN, we’ll be tied in the standings at 8-11. We could finish as high as tied for 8th with OSU, due to tiebreakers based on head-to-head match-ups. We lost to Rutgers and Michigan in our only meetings with them so if we all finish 10-10, they’ll outrank us.

    Most likely: We have to hope Illinois knocks off OSU at their place and OSU loses at MSU on Sun.
    Slightly unlikely: As usual, we have to hope Purdue loses at home vs. Rutgers, leaving them at 9-11.
    Unlikely: If Michigan would lose twice, which is highly unlikely given they play Neb. at home tomorrow night, we could beat them in the standings too.

    In reality, our Big Ten tournament begins tomorrow night. We must win to stay alive here now. Simple as that. I sure hope like heck we can do that.

  2. “Finish Line”…may be correct. Another season may be “finished.” The complete spank-job at West Lafayette and the inability to “finish” at Illinois could haunt if we stumble in the last week of the regular season.

    Watching Rutgers destroy Maryland …and Iowa crumble on ‘Senior Night’ to a boiler-wart doesn’t help our cause if any stumbling here on out occurs.

    It’s rather sad (especially as I see so many posters get bent out of shape….or, conveniently distracted, by Hoosier football news) to witness IU Basketball still struggle to regain even the slightest bit of national significance/relevance.

    It’s no longer appropriate to blame former coaches (though I’m sure I’ll have my moments)…or to blame injuries…or to blame the collapse of our storied single class high school tournament…or the clouds in the sky….or the NBA….or portals….or transfers….or one-and-done’s.

    The only thing I find appropriate is how …. and why? How did a school with such high standards in basketball excellence get to a point of where everything hinged on a .500 conference record and the sending of chocolates to a bracket guru in his god-awful dead black squirrel toupee? Can anyone answer the “how” …or the “why?” I’ve been experiencing the “what” and the “when” since 1987.

    I believe I have the answer…..but I’ll allow some of you to contemplate why such a storied history and a storied name synonymous with winning at basketball has collapsed with such little care or fanfare.

  3. The team comes first.

    It is the very foundation, the core, the literal mortar between the bricks that builds and holds successful teams together. The guardian of that essential principle is the head coach. In any and all situations, the absolute belief that the team comes before the individual must be upheld (courtesy: State of Hockey, “Crushing the core of team sports”/The team always comes first/
    02/12/2019, 10:45am CST
    By Dan Bauer).

    When properly administered, it is one of the greatest lessons that athletics teaches. It is based on humility, respect, teamwork, sacrifice, trust and being a part of something bigger than yourself. It is about achieving something you could not do on your own. It is about blending in, not standing out, about sharing the glory and the failure, it’s about being accountable and having someone’s back. Achieving sincere team unity is the holy grail of coaching, and it is not possible without defending the team first decree.

    I had always believed that athletics would withstand the indiscernible moral erosion that has methodically eaten away at our society and that the individualistic movement, the “what’s in it for me” mentality, would never be allowed to effectively infiltrate the athletic culture. Certainly, there have been isolated past examples, but it is now becoming alarmingly more evident in the athletic world at virtually every level.

    O-LA-DI-PO!

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