IU’s next task is to remain possessed

Everyone gets up for Duke.

Indiana’s success in Wednesday’s 91-81 loss to the Blue Devils was staying up for nearly 40 minutes. In doing so, the Hoosiers offered up one of the better versions of themselves, standing toe-to-toe with the nation’s top-ranked — and most talented — team.

Now, the challenge is doing it again.

So after Thursday’s practice, IU coach Archie Miller talked to his team about what has to come next to avoid a letdown in today’s Big Ten opener at Michigan.

“You have to be possessed right now in terms of improvement,” Miller said. “You have to absolutely be maniacal in terms of individual improvement. Our coaching staff, myself, we all have to continue to be possessed with getting better. If we do that, we’ll continue to make small strides sort of like we have.”

The Hoosiers left the month of November much better than they found it, picking up a jolt of momentum to begin a tough stretch that continues today in Ann Arbor before a home game with Iowa on Monday night.

For everything IU did well against Duke — transition defense, attacking the rim, crisp halfcourt offense, post feeds to De’Ron Davis — Miller didn’t want his players to lose sight of the most important fact.

They didn’t win the game.

While so many observers rightfully saw signs of hope with this Indiana team, Miller saw warts. He was agitated that his team’s halfcourt defense yielded 91 points on its home floor, no matter the NBA-talent the Hoosiers were tasked with guarding.

And while many in Bloomington were encouraged by the performance, Miller allowed the Hoosiers no such satisfaction.

“Give Duke credit for the win, but don’t pat ourselves on the back for feeling kind of good because it was a feel-good-moment type of game,” Miller said. “There’s nothing to feel good about (Wednesday) night. We were good enough, at times, to win that game. That’s the belief you have to have. Now, we have to be possessed.”

For Miller, that means building a commitment to winning.

While buy-in from his players continues to take shape, the IU coach wants them to understand that there’s a lot that goes into consistently winning basketball games. Little things, none more important than simply believing in the preparation process.

“Everything we do is based on winning the game,” Miller said. “Winning means more than anything. There is a commitment level that you have to have in the daily approach and the belief that in everything you do that it really matters, because we wouldn’t do it if it wouldn’t matter.

“When we watch film and break down our mistakes, a lot of them aren’t for a lack of effort. They’re for a lack of discipline or a lack of thinking and doing your job. There’s probably 10 plays in that (Duke) game where if we’re better at doing our job, it’ll eliminate those couple points. In a game like (Wednesday) night, every possession is gonna end up mattering.”

The same can be said for a Big Ten road contest at Michigan, where the Wolverines will be motivated coming off Wednesday’s 86-71 loss at North Carolina.

Michigan remains a disciplined program in Year 11 John Beilein. The Wolverines are averaging a national-best 12.3 fouls per game and are sixth in the country with only 9.3 turnovers per game.

Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews (16.1 points per game), Mortiz Wagner 15.9 (ppg), Duncan Robinson (11.8 ppg) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (9.9 ppg) account for 68 percent of Michigan’s offensive output.

Matthews and Wagner lead the way. Together, the duo has recorded five double-doubles, made 20 3-pointers (Wagner’s 11, Matthews’ nine) and accounted for 14.0 rebounds and 40 percent of Michigan’s work on the glass.

Michigan continues to rotate between three point guards, Eli Brooks, Zavier Simpson and Jaaron Simmons, marking the first time in Beilein’s tenure that the Wolverines haven’t had a set point guard.

“Going into Crisler for Game 1 of the Big Ten should be a great environment, so we gotta be ready to go,” Miller said. “I’m not as much concerned about Michigan as I am our guys. If we can just start to try and figure out every day what we’re doing well and feel good about what we’re doing well, we’ll be better prepared to play against Michigan.”