Hoosiers let one go at Illinois, 73-71

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Have some pride, Archie Miller told his Hoosiers.

These shooting struggles can’t continue.

In yet another example of Indiana’s poor form, the Hoosiers let a good opportunity slip away in Wednesday’s 73-71 loss to Illinois before an announced crowd of 13,003 at State Farm Center.

This time, it was a woeful night at the free throw line, combined with a slew of second-half turnovers, that doomed the Hoosiers to their sixth loss in seven true road games this season.

Indiana (12-9, 5-4) went 16-for-29 at the line, while committing 11 of its 18 errors in the second half. Missed free throws? Sloppy offense, including poor guard play when IU needed execution?

That’s a recipe for for failure anywhere, particularly away from home.

“We just weren’t as focused on that side of the ball,” said junior forward Juwan Morgan, who led IU with 28 points.

That meant another winnable road game ended just out of IU’s reach, another lapse in fundamentals torpedoing an opportunity to build off Monday’s win over Maryland. In the process, IU became the first Big Ten team to fall to the Illini (11-11,1-8) this season.

The missed free throws were the most maddening part of Wednesday’s loss. IU, which led by as many as nine points midway through the first half, went merely 3-for-8 at the line through the first 20 minutes. For as strong as Morgan played yet again, he too struggled at the stripe, missing three of his five free throws in the first half.

At some point, those misses seemed to become contagious for a Hoosier team that ranks dead last in the Big Ten with a .655 free throw percentage in conference games.

“It’s a mental thing,” Morgan said. “Every time you step up, you should know it’s going in. Even if it’s not, just know you have the next one. I think just missing the first couple really affected the rest of us, especially myself. I kept thinking about it too much, and you can’t think when you’re up there on the line.”

After the game, Miller gave his players direct orders.

“If you’re struggling from the line,” Miller said in the postgame locker room, “… get in the gym a little bit more.”

Though he could’ve fared better at the line, Morgan once again supplied the bulk of IU’s offense during the first half. He posted 15 early points, complemented by 10 points from walk-on Zach McRoberts, who gave Indiana energy on both ends.

But it was Illinois that came out of halftime with the energy, quickly whittling away at IU’s 38-32 lead at the break. The Illini used a 13-2 run to take 58-53 lead nearing the midway mark of the period.

Forward Leron Black and guard Trent Frazier were Illinois’ primary aggressors, combining for 38 points on the night.

“When you get a lead like nine (in the first half), you want to try to push it to 11, 12, 15, 16,” Morgan said. “Just keep pushing guys.”

On Wednesday, that didn’t happen.

Once the Illini secured the lead in the middle of the second half, they didn’t let go the rest of the way. The second half was a slog of fouls and haphazard offense. Entering the final media timeout of the night, both teams were in the midst of a seven-minute field goal drought.

Illinois’ uneven play meant Indiana had a chance to squeak back.

A three-point play by Morgan cut IU’s deficit to 73-70 with 40 seconds remaining. The Hoosiers got a stop with 13 seconds left, but Devonte Green made only one of his two free throws.

The Hoosiers went for the tie in the final seconds, but a turnover by Green in the waning seconds put an end to another could’ve, should’ve, would’ve kind of road trip for Indiana.

17 comments

  1. I’m on biz travel and couldn’t watch or listen to tonight’s game. But it is pretty easy to look at the box score and discern what happened. We shot 56% from the floor and out rebounded them by 6, had more blocks and steals. We hit the same amount of FG with far less attempts, probably because we turned the ball over 18 times. But last but not least, they had 3 more FTs than we did, but they hit 7 more.

    Turnovers & Poor FT shooting. Pathetic actually. 16-29? Obvious lack of focus. But you have to love Archie’s locker room message which was basically “If you suck, work on your game.”

  2. I agree, AZ! Archie is coaching this team in a very interesting manner, and it is fun to watch him Coach.

  3. Need to look for additional guards for next year’s team, our guards aren’t getting the job done.

  4. It’s interesting how some guys come in, work hard, and polish their game. VO went from an unheralded recruit to the #2 player in the draft by working his butt off.

    In thought RJ would grow into a really reliable player. An offensive threat every night.
    He has been a starter since he arrived in Bloomington. I don’t see that he has made any real strides since he got here.

    All of our guards are slow and indecisive.

    I hope Archie has plenty of smoke and mirrors. We are one Juwan away from losing the rest of our games.

  5. You can work your butt off, polish your game, and still never end up the #2 player in the Draft. The formula for winning banners isn’t as simplistic as finding athletic phenoms who are finally getting polished by the time they leave campus.
    We get a bit too caught up in rankings and individual popularity contests. There have been many great and polished Hoosiers who didn’t go high in a draft, …or weren’t drafted at all, who were irreplaceable components to fabulous teams.

    There’s no number or ranking you can find for clutch and precise under pressure…nor for unselfish play. The tendency to dumb down college basketball into an individual sport(e.g. swimming, wrestling, golf, track and field) where personal performances are scored/timed/evaluated/ranked is sucking the life out of a team game.
    Basketball goes so far beyond the compiling/lumping/dumping of individual performances into a stat sheet.
    It’s sad that such drive to inflate the importance of individual numbers is the constant push in the game. Even more sad to see it infect the college game. Dozens upon dozens of McCracken ‘superstars’ not of the mock draft variety were also the lifeblood of great teams. Many were scorers who arrived already polished. Many had exceptional talents more narrowly defined(leadership, marksmanship, etc).
    Matured and seasoned games should never be dismissed simply because they don’t translate to some individualistic pursuit of a “next level.” Some will translate. Some won’t.
    One thing is for certain. Banners don’t blossom from compiling stats as if individual performances are simply tabulated gymnasts routines to give a final team result. And those rare “Hall of Champions” trophies we have grown to remove from our hearts because they have become so elusive? Trophies can also be “polished” while they stay at one level inside the museum case. We mock them for growing dusty…but they remain the golden blood of illustrious teams. They fade of legend and they drift of days once hoisted to the heavens…They stare through the glass never seeking the eyes of the trite or a draft night. They stand as relic to preserve a truth that five can accomplish what one can never do on his/her own. They stand on the highest of mountains of the game in pursuits now so commonly dismissed; where the rewards of individual performances and accolades refuse to be mutually exclusive of a better/stronger basketball team. It’s one thing to say “It’s Indiana.” It’s another thing to mean it.

  6. The foul shooting was certainly a key difference in this game. Morgan (except for the missed foul shots) was excellent. It has been great watching him develop into a solid all-around player. The other difference was the horrendous guard play for IU, which has been a problem all year. Johnson has had some good games, but is inconsistent. Newkirk is gone after this year which is a positive. The real question is the ability of the other guards. Does anyone feel Green and Durham really have the skills to help lead an IU resurgence next year? Both are not good ball handlers and Durham is a weak shooter. Green can make a great pass and then have a bunch of turnovers. At this
    point, he is very unreliable. Phinisee will probably start at point, Archie still needs a scoring guard and another big man as Davis is not the answer. I am sure he is working hard to fill those gaps. Romeo would be a great get and that would solidify the guard position. If Archie can recruit, IU basketball could be very strong by 2020. I like watching him coach and believe he expects to win big at IU, but he needs his recruits to do so. Go IU!

  7. Only chance is Morgan staying healthy and a lots of luck. Also the guards playing above their expectations. It’s, like I tell my son if I were in the dynamite business, I wouldn’t want Green handling the Nitro .

    1. Indeed. As Archie said, “He’s got a lot of city in his game.” I think he’s much much better than last year, but he’s far from being a quality player in the B1G.

      The guards on this team are just terrible.

      If RJ had another year of eligibility, he’d be a really nice guard coming off the bench. He’s good off the ball, generally defends well. But that’s it.

      They have McRoberts listed as a guard, but he’s basically playing the 3 most of the time. So I don’t count him.

      Newkirk doesn’t belong in a Power 5 conference. He actually hustles, but he doesn’t do anything very well. He’s a mediocrity across the board. Crean got him because he likes athletic looking guys. Take a look at Freddie McSwain. I know I’m talking guards here, but I’ve never seen a kid this athletic be this terrible at basketball. If you want to see the gap between athleticism and being a great basketball player, Freddie and Mosquera-Perea are exhibit 1a and 1b.

      Al Durham. I think he’s got a future. We saw what he could be capable of early this season. However, he’s going through the growing pains of what many freshman go through once the competition improves and the intensity is ratcheted up. You can see that he’s thinking too much and has grown tentative. Would be great to see him have that breakthrough game ala Justin Smith before the season ends. We saw what he could do when his head is in the game. I think it’s a confidence and experience issue. But I don’t know. Would love to know what everyone else think is the deal with Al Durham.

      1. He is indeed up against the Freshman wall. He hit it a little sooner than usual. But he may get over that wall yet this season if the locker room coaching up of his mental focus is successful.

  8. DD in the last few recruiting classes not just regarding J.N. but most others as well is not the idea of what type of player T.C. wanted or recruited. Rather it was the best or all that T.C. could get.

  9. Let’s hope he graduates!!! (or transfers)!

    Yeesh, did anyone else watch that amazing game Purdue vs. Michigan? We don’t get to see that type of basketball at Smin Skjt Assembly Hall because the referees call the game so biased in favor of our team that we watch a stilted, controlled spectacle.

    When the referees allow the game to be played with normal calls (Indiana State, Fort Wayne) we get crushed. Only in Big Ten at home can this team win.

    and that’s why it’s only really fun to watch Indiana “away” for these past 8-9 years (the Crean era, and boy did he sound like a moron at halftime)

    But I think Archie will recruit and train a different product in about 3-4 years….

  10. Harv, I read your post once too often but still don’t understand what you were getting at. Name me one player other than Tom Abernathy who was the type of player you are referencing, please.

  11. Tough loss on this one especially not getting a shot off at the end, but this team is still slowly evolving. Really frustrating to loose a game because of an insane amount of missed free throws. We really needed this one to keep ncaa tournament hope somewhat realistic. Now we have to win 2 out of 3 against the leagues top 3 teams. I won’t be holding my breath. 2 more losses and the dream is pretty well dead.

    This team is solid for the low talent level. You can see that they are buying in. Defense is the best it’s been in a long time. The team is one good player away from being a tournament team. Green is awful. He may be the worst big Ten basketball player Ive seen get playing so much playing time. There is no way he is on next years roster. Newkirk with 2 points??? Come on man! Johnson with 8. Our two senior guards combined for as many points as a walk on.

    This is an awful team, but I think it would beat last years team. Morgan has done more this year than Bryant did his whole career. It’s not going to take much more talent than next years class to greatly improve our record this time next year and that’s pretty exciting.

  12. I would say slowly evolving, now for a quarter century. Sounds way to similar to the other IU sport known in short as IU fb only as IU could play it.

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