Analyzing where the Hoosiers have lagged in their seven losses

This Indiana basketball season has had its mix of heartbreak — in varying forms.

There have been losses of the overtime variety at Florida State and Wisconsin, games the Hoosiers can look back and say were there for the taking.

There are losses where the Hoosiers just faded late, succumbing to the offensive outbursts of Northwestern’s Chase Audige and Illinois’ Ayo Donsunmu.

There have been defeats that were uglier in character, like an early-season pummeling at the hands of Texas, and an eighth straight loss to rival Purdue, which may have been most difficult to swallow.

Then there was Sunday’s defeat to Rutgers. The Hoosiers just got behind, and mostly stayed behind, unable to gain any momentum in a season that has lacked the same.

It seems hard to discern a real trend when the losses are evaluated side by side, other than to say the Hoosiers have just been inconsistent, leading to a multitude of different failures. But looking at the box scores from each of IU’s seven losses, a few observations can be made.

Here are some key points to consider:

Backcourt struggles

After IU’s first conference loss to Northwestern, head coach Archie Miller admitted Al Durham and Rob Phinisee didn’t perform well.

In that game, the Hoosiers’ veteran backcourt duo was a combined 1-of-9 from the field. While sophomore Armaan Franklin continued to emerge, producing 16 points in that contest, the absence of complementary performances from Durham or Phinisee was striking.

“We gotta get them straightened out a little bit because their experience level and the knowledge of knowing what’s coming down the stretch and how you have to play and at what level you have to play to be successful, both of them play a vital role in what we’re doing,” Miller said after that loss. “Any team that has their two starting guards not play very well, that’s gonna hurt.”

There have been moments where Phinisee and Durham have flashed, including an 18-point performance for Phinisee in a win at No. 4 Iowa. But for the most part, neither player has been stellar, especially in losses.

Phinisee is shooting 40.9 percent from the floor this season, but he’s hitting just 28.3 percent of his shots (13-of-46) in seven losses. The difference from beyond the arc is even more striking, where Phinisee has hit 4-of-21 (19 percent) from deep in losses compared to 15-of-34 (44.1) in IU’s nine wins.

Durham’s shot has really fallen off this season, which is a surprise. The senior posted improvements in his field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentages in each of his first three seasons, up to 44.1, 38.3, and 81.1 percent, respectively, in his junior year.

This year, Durham is shooting 39.2, 32.2, and 70 percent, respectively. All three are worse in losses, albeit not substantially worse from beyond the arc. Durham is a 32-percent shooter from the field in losses, 30 percent from 3, and 68.8 percent from the line.

Simply put, he’s closer to his rate as a junior in IU’s wins this year. In those games, Durham is hitting 44.7 percent.

As Miller said, IU needs its most veteran players to rise to the challenge. Franklin, in spite of a 6-of-15 effort versus Purdue, still has a 42.3-percent success rate in IU’s losses, including 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from 3-point range. He’s been IU’s most consistent scoring guard, and he’s still not all that experienced. The sophomore only played 13.8 minutes per game as a freshman, scoring 3.7 points per.

Franklin hasn’t been through the wars like Phinisee and Durham, but the Hoosiers have to lean on him. They have to lean on his fellow sophomore, Trayce Jackson-Davis. They have to lean on Race Thompson, who may be a redshirt junior, but he didn’t start earning significant minutes until late in the 2019-20 season.

That seems to underline one reason why the Hoosiers are so inconsistent. They are relying on inexperienced pieces, and the pieces with experience, like Phinisee and Durham, aren’t providing the steadiness IU needs.

Freshmen aren’t doing overly much

There have been encouraging signs.

Trey Galloway has earned starting minutes, proving his scrappiness, driving ability, and willingness to set up others. Anthony Leal has hit key shots, including on the road at Wisconsin and Iowa, and he’s also been in the right spots defensively more often than not. Along those same lines, Jordan Geronimo provided 10 valuable minutes at Iowa, matching up with Luka Garza about as well as anyone on IU’s roster.

Those are positive signs. But they are positive developments from a freshman class that was never designed to come in and carry the roster’s weight.

Galloway, Leal, and Geronimo, and even five-star Khristian Lander, are more likely to follow the progression of a Franklin, not a Jackson-Davis. They are players who need time to grow, minutes to gain experience. They can provide moments, which can sometimes win a game, but they aren’t going to be leaned on overly much.

So without consistency from Durham and Phinisee, and without a veteran big man in Joey Brunk, and without Justin Smith, who grad-transferred to Arkansas, the Hoosiers aren’t getting enough from the freshman class to override what’s been lost in veteran production, which shouldn’t be surprising.

It’s just been worse in losses. Galloway is hitting nearly 46 percent of his shots on the season, but he’s just 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) from the floor in six defeats. He didn’t play Sunday versus Rutgers, missing his second game in a row with back soreness.

Leal, who was 3-of-6 from 3-point range at Wisconsin, has only started to get comfortable taking shots in games. To that point, the freshman guard only took one shot in 15-plus minutes versus Rutgers. It was a missed 2-pointer.

Lander flashed in the loss to Rutgers, hitting both of his 3-point shots. But he’s still a combined 3-of-14 from the field in IU’s losses, including 3-of-8 from 3, in the sparse minutes he’s received.

Again, this recruiting class didn’t have a Jackson-Davis or Romeo Langford. In time, all four players could be productive, even great. It’s just too soon to count on any of the four to produce consistently over long stretches, and it doesn’t give Miller many appealing options beyond his regulars.

Jackson-Davis and Franklin have been dependable, mostly. Thompson has had strong efforts, and even redshirt sophomore wing Jerome Hunter — who has hit 10-of-20 from 3 in IU’s seven losses — has had his moments. But there hasn’t been enough offensive spark on this roster to avoid disappointing losses.

Defense hasn’t done enough, either

Given IU’s inconsistent options offensively, it’s defense where this squad has probably been the most maddeningly inconsistent.

One day, the Hoosiers are holding Iowa, the third-best field goal percentage team in the Big Ten, to 38.1 percent shooting. In the next game, Rutgers, which ranks fifth in the conference in shooting, produces a 51-percent rate from the field.

Some of that was probably Iowa just having a bad day, but the Hoosiers were much more solid on the perimeter versus the Hawkeyes, and they made Garza’s life more difficult, too. Rutgers, on the other hand, had an easier time blowing by the Hoosiers on drives and setting up easy opportunities for their big men inside.

IU’s margin for error is just so small, given their other limitations. The Hoosiers rank 11th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (minus-1.3 per game), 12th in free throw percentage (66.1 percent), and last in 3-pointers made (6.4 per game). Their production in other areas isn’t enough to overcome a lagging defense.

If the Hoosiers find a way to better handle Audige and Dosunmu late in the Northwestern and Illinois losses, respectively, maybe things are different. If Purdue doesn’t hit 11-of-17 from 3-point range, maybe an eighth straight game doesn’t go to the Boilermakers in the rivalry series. If IU can put the clamps on Geo Baker, maybe the Hoosiers squeak out a win over Rutgers rather than another frustrating loss.

But they didn’t. Now, at 9-7, and 4-5 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers have to find a way to get back on track.

19 comments

  1. Well said Jon. Franklin may be the only one willing to take a long shot to win the game. Confidence lost with a miss by the other guys. Seen yesterday when a good shot is passed up and a harder shot ends up taken. Frustration with so many close games lost. Another 2 months and CAM will be bald.

  2. IU Women had a couple rough games. As I remember Coach Moran told them to relax and have fun with the games. Seemed to help;

    1. That’s because Coach Moran’s job is secure. Archie’s job may not be.

      I had three friends, all of whom are IU alumni and live in Indiana, call me between yesterday’s loss and this morning. I was surprised by how upset each of them were about the state of IU BB right now. In relative terms, of the four of us, I’m by far the least frustrated/upset. I suggested to each of them that Archie will be given a fifth season. But each of my three friends want him gone right now. One of my buddies said, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when Hoosier fans were more excited about football than they are about BB, but here we are.” Of course, three people do not make for a relevant sampling of The Hoosier Nation, but now I wonder what percentage of Hoosier fans share my friends’ level of discontent?

  3. John writes a thoughtful article detailing the inconsistency issues with thoughtful breakdowns, stats and analysis.

    So, of course Podunker just comes in blazing with weird anecdotes about friends calling him up with fire Archie talk. #madeupfriendsMonday

    1. Wow DD, how bold you can be when you’re anonymous. I suppose all the Hoosier fans you know are perfectly content with IU BB right now. But you were right; and to correct the record, only two of the three friends I spoke with after the loss to Rutgers expressed how upset they were. The other one didn’t watch the game and said “I’ve checked out after the last loss to Purdue.” Yep, Archie’s program is in great shape!

      No matter how thoughtful John’s breakdowns were, we’ve seen the same “issues” for four straight seasons. What we’re not seeing is any significant improvement or better results.

      1. ex-Creanies laughing on the IU bench in the final moments of an NIT loss? Yup, all four years are totally on Archie. It takes 3 seasons to simply expunge the dysfunction while honoring a ‘Bill of Rights’ and scholarships.
        Instead of complimenting Archie for honoring scholarships which probably should have never been offered, you try to cut him at the knees while he’s barely in the infancy of putting his entirely own team on the court.
        It takes a long time to change the culture and mindset that had beset upon IU Basketball. We had become the home of the X’s and O’s disadvantaged. We had become a mini version of UK with individualistic focus and every raw NBA wannabe recruited for wing spans and “upside.” But, yet, less coaching than what’s on a Calipari team…and far less viable, true depth in talent. It was a momentous collapse where respect from nearly every high school coach/program in the state had been lost.
        We are finally at the point of fresh start…We proved what can be done in the taking down of #4 Iowa as the team forms and confidence among the freshmen grow. Anything anew has bumps in the road. But this is truly the fresh start and culture change finally taking place…So let’s throw Archie under the bus now..?
        Nothing more than sour grapes and a vendetta because the love of your life was fired. How many years does he get in Georgia…? Does he get 20 since he got 10 years too many before cue cards as coaching tools were unveiled to prove the immense progress?

      2. And aren’t you “anonymous”….in your bold undermining of Archie Miller? Thought that was the nature of the beast here. Hell, the biggest expert and “insider” on here (acts like he has better channels to information more than any HT journalist) is conveniently anonymous.

        Who’s ready to disclose their real name and profession? Anyone?

      3. Rutgers up 16 on MSU…..I don’t care if that’s happening in a K-Mart parking lot. Completely unacceptable against a suck team…anywhere ..anyhow. Sky falling in East Lansing.

      4. Rutgers 67
        MSU 37

        This may be more than sky falling. This is worse than finding out Joe Lunardi’s toupee is a spaceship arrived from the planet Bracketron.

        Welcome to the world of BigTen Basketball 2020-21.

  4. This article is spoken like a true 500 or 50% win/loss (to clarify) program.
    IU does not lose to teams like Florida State, Northwestern,
    Arkansas last year let along overtimes and be any more than a 500 or 50% win/loss (to clarify) program. Rather, these are teams/programs you beat by double digits or 20+ points or crush them.

    1. You are clearly misunderstanding the state of the FSU basketball program. They’ve been a top 25 team for the last several years, and would have challenged for a #1 seed in last years tournament. Duke and UNC lose to FSU fairly often.

  5. Since when, t? 1992? Even during the Cody & Co. years and a few #1 ranking weeks, we generally only beat Grand Canyon State, Coppertone U. and Vidal Sassoon Tech by 20+ points.

  6. Time sure does fly. Time seems to never stop accept in that moment in time of relevance. Then, all of a sudden comes irrelevance.
    I would go late 1999, 2000, and 2001. B.K. was pretty much always relevant and arguably assembled a championship team that Davis took to March Madness championship game…And Davis helped assemble that team as well. Argument could be made would Jeffries have played for Knight as sophomore or at least got along well enough to play for B.K. Though IU had some bad losses in the 1990’s they still would crush team like a Wisky by 30 once in a while. IU got crushed some to. However, Knight and Davis assisted to assemble a championship caliber team at the end of 20th and beginning of 21st century that B.K. never got to see coach through it’s full term. So the answer to your question H4h is the end of the 20th century into 2002. Since then has just been a tease.

  7. I was at the 2002 regional semi when we upset #1 Duke….Hoosiers came from 17 points down. By far the most fun I’ve ever had at a basketball game.
    It has been a lot of doldrums since, t. And a lot of false advertising, too. I’m not one who believes in claims of “We’re Back!” …unless that includes deep runs in the NCAA tournament (e.g. minimum playing in the second weekend/Elite Eight).

  8. IU Men’s basketball is definitely not back. Rather, Irrelevant. The likes in the middle of the pack of any power 6 conferences. Pick a conference. So IU Men’s basketball approximately ranks somewhere between 40 and 60 …I suppose.

  9. Regardless of what or where the weaknesses are on this team; Archie is going to need another BIG MAN besides the one coming in next year. I also think Archie needs to stop looking at the STAR ratings and start recruiting to needs. I am constantly frustrated that Rob’s shooting hasnt progressed; in some respects he seems to have regressed in areas. So now Archie is faced with a dysfunctional point guard and to replace him is a group of freshmen. Jerome is STILL searching for his “niche”.Im not so sure Rob should see the floor any time soon

Comments are closed.