IU take-aways: Wisconsin 60, Indiana 56

Late slippage costs the Hoosiers again.

At the end of the day, Indiana heads into the postseason with five wins over top 25 opponents. That’s a good number, as well the Hoosiers’ nine Quad 1 and Quad 2 victories.

But it’s hard to ignore what’s been left on the table.

While most bracket projections still have IU in the NCAA tournament, there is still a smidge of uncertainty heading into the Big Ten tournament. And if it weren’t for late-game breakdowns versus top 25 teams, namely Maryland and Wisconsin, all of that doubt could be cast aside.

IU had a chance to smother the Badgers, up by nine points with 10 minutes left. But then the Hoosiers missed 13 of their last 14 shots.

And on a day where IU outrebounded Wisconsin, 38-34, second-chance points were killer late.

Five of the Badgers’ six offensive rebounds came in the second half. Ten of Wisconsin’s 14 second-chance points came during Saturday’s final 10 minutes.

“This game is irrelevant compared to any other game,” IU coach Archie Miller said when asked about IU’s late-game fades. “This game was played by two teams at the end of the season that competed really hard. And you know, like I said, Wisconsin made the plays they needed to do to win it.”

Overall, this wasn’t quite the gut punch Miller felt after Maryland. He’s chosen to take a longer view, noting the Hoosiers’ in-season improvements, especially in terms of the defensive end and taking care of the ball offensively. IU had just seven turnovers versus Wisconsin, highlighted by Rob Phinisee’s seven-assist, zero-error effort.

In a uniquely deep conference where every team has taken its lumps, it’s not like IU has come away empty-handed. There are more than a few good wins on the NCAA tournament resume. There aren’t many bad losses, either. IU is No. 39 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, and the Hoosiers have a 7-11 record versus teams ranked above them and a 12-1 mark against lower-ranked teams.

But as the Hoosiers head into the Big Ten tournament’s opening round, facing a struggling Nebraska team, inconsistency is one thing they can’t afford. They have to take care of business. For a full 40 minutes.

Win, and IU is probably in. That would make a couple of disappointments versus top 25 teams mean much less.

Finishing around the rim has to be better.

In recent weeks, there have been some positive trends for IU shooting it from deep.

In their last 10 games, the Hoosiers are hitting 38.8 percent of their 3-point shots.

But a 6-of-15 effort from beyond the arc doesn’t mean all that much if you hit 14-of-43 from inside the line, which the Hoosiers did on Saturday.

“Things around the basket were made difficult by their size, their bigs dropping,” Miller said. “You have to make some jumpshots against them, which Devonte (Green) did early in the game, and then I think he tweaked an ankle or something because he definitely did not move the rest of the game. Didn’t look right.”

Green was 6-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 from deep, in the first half. In the second, those numbers dropped to 0-of-7 and 0-3.

The senior guard said after the game his ankle should be fine, but a host of players must put balls in baskets and stunt some of these prolonged field goal droughts.

Saturday’s 34.8-percent shooting effort marked the seventh time IU has dipped below 40 percent, and it’s the fourth time the Hoosiers have failed to surpass 35 percent.

Not a perfect sendoff, but a good start.

The result was short of what Green and De’Ron Davis would have wanted for their Senior Day, but the last of Tom Crean’s recruits made their presence felt during the game.

Davis and Green combined to score the first 17 points of Saturday’s contest, including 13 from Green. They just seemed to have a lot of energy for their final game in Assembly Hall, which was fully on display when Davis crashed to the floor for a loose ball early. It was the big man’s first start since February 2019 versus Iowa.

They have each gone through their struggles, including an Achilles injury for Davis his sophomore year. Green, who found himself suspended at one point last year, lost his trademark confidence at times.

Their careers have been far from perfect, kind of like the game preceding their goodbye. But as Miller reiterated Saturday, they will always have the respect of the program for sticking around when others wouldn’t have.

“We have a deep team, we have a lot of guys. It’s easy for one or two guys at some point in time to go away when it’s not going well for them,” Miller said, “and I would say neither one of those two guys did that.”

As Miller also stated, Saturday isn’t the end completely. There is still a chance Davis and Green’s careers end in the NCAA tournament, which would help them avoid the distinction of being the first senior class since 1972 to miss the Big Dance all four years.

What’s next?

Nebraska, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse

IU (19-12, 9-11 Big Ten) has a chance to reach 20 wins versus a Nebraska team that’s lost 16 games in a row.

The Cornhuskers (7-24, 2-18) are also without two of their best players, guards Cam Mack and Dachon Burke. Both are indefinitely suspended.

This would be a really bad loss if the Hoosiers were to suffer it. But after beating the Huskers twice in the regular season, IU should be able to edge out a thinned-out version of this team in Indianapolis.

2 comments

  1. This year, H.C. I am posting about this year’s I.U. squad, and only considering this year in my prognostications. As I’m sure all might recall, after the Princeton game I predicted this squad to do well in the N.I.T.

    Thursday is, to me, the biggest game of the year, and I am totally pumped to watch it without pre-conceptions (other than, AFTER the game I will analyze my predictions and act accordingly).

  2. After I made my post (see above), my wife, looking over my shoulder, said, “Why Thursday? There is a game Wednesday. What if they don’t make it TO Thursday?”

    I’ve been having difficulty explaining to her how we can still be NCAA bound after losing to Wisconsin…..and she cannot understand how it’s related to “Sesame Street”.

    help?

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