4 things we learned from IU’s loss at Northwestern

1. IU is stuck in its worst perimeter shooting stretch since the 2013-14 season. And you know how that year turned out.

Tuesday marked the third consecutive game in which Indiana made no more than four 3-pointers. The last time the Hoosiers encountered a similar drought was five seasons ago, when a lack of outside shooters was one of the fatal flaws that kept Indiana from making the NCAA Tournament.

That year, opposing teams were intent upon loading the paint with either zones or a sagging man-to-man, approaches Indiana found hard to beat. Sound familiar?

This is not to say Indiana’s current campaign is destined to go completely off the rails quite like that one did, but the Hoosiers find themselves on a slippery course to March.

Perimeter shooting is the most glaring deficiency of this IU team, an area that is growing more troubling by the day. Just imagine if Indiana was shooting 30 percent — or somewhere in that range — from beyond the arc across the past three games instead of merely 18 percent. There’s the potential that one or two of these recent results could’ve been different.

Instead, Indiana is stuck with a five-game losing streak, while its 3-point shooting percentage in conference play took another dive with Tuesday’s 4-for-21 effort. The Hoosiers now rank last in the Big Ten with a 26.8 percent mark against league opponents.

But it’s not just about percentages. Shot selection is a factor, too.

Even with opposing defenses sagging off the perimeter and jamming the paint, there seems to be some uncertainty among IU shooters about what constitutes a good look from 3-point range. There also seems to be uncertainty about when to shoot. Overall, there’s a lacking sense of purpose as the Hoosiers swing the ball around. That has to be corrected.

At the same time, many of the frustrations with Indiana’s offense could be soothed with just a few more shots falling from long range. It feels overly simplistic, but it also feels true. The opportunities are there. Converting them with confidence is the hurdle this team seems unable or unequipped to clear.

2. Northwestern is the fifth consecutive team to score more than a point per possession against IU.

Much of the Wildcats’ success on Tuesday can be attributed to the hot shooting of reserve Aaron Falzon, who went 6-for-7 from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 21 points.

Falzon’s breakout night helped Northwestern score 1.07 points per possession on the night, marking the first time in Big Ten play that the Wildcats managed to score more than 1.0 ppp.

IU’s five-game stretch of allowing more than a point per possession is the program’s longest such streak since the Hoosiers allowed their first five Big Ten opponents during the 2016-17 season to do the same.

3. Al Durham played with confidence from start to finish, and Rob Phinisee took another stride toward looking like himself.

Durham came off the bench and played starter’s minutes, finishing with 11 points, three assists, one steal and only one turnover. Most importantly, he attacked with purpose and shot with self-assurance. His first-half turnaround jumper was a thing of beauty, a shot Durham executed with relative ease.

To boot, he and Phinisee seem to be the only two Hoosiers that are shooting with confidence right now. Phinisee shot 3-for-7 from the beyond the arc on Tuesday, and while Durham made only one of his four 3s, his shot looked good.

Altogether, Durham and Phinisee turned in a pair of encouraging performances as IU searches for more consistent supporting efforts.

4. Race Thompson has been cleared for contact. If he’s able to work his way into the rotation, Juwan Morgan might benefit the most.

Indiana received some good news from its doctors in recent days, getting its redshirt freshman forward cleared for contact. It’s been a long 10 weeks for Thompson, who has been sidelined under concussion protocol since suffering a serious head injury in practice on Nov. 11.

Thompson warmed up with his teammates prior to Tuesday’s game, and while he wasn’t available to play at Northwestern, he could return to IU’s playing rotation before long.

That possibility could give IU a natural fill-in for Morgan, who is playing through fatigue as the Hoosiers move through the conference season without adequate depth. Thompson entered the season projected as Morgan’s understudy, and even if he can only play a few minutes here or there down the stretch, Indiana could put those minutes to good use.

5 comments

  1. In post game AM talked about some positive things IU did and gave credit to Northwestern.
    In 1986 and 87 season IU goes on road and wins at Northwestern. Next, IU beat Wisconsin on road in 3 or 4 overtime’s. Alford scored 42 points. After game BK got on Joe Hilman for not hitting rim on open shot. However, he raked Steve Alford over the coals for only having himself ready to play and not having his teammates ready to play.
    Dean Garrett said when he didn’t have that good of game Alford would get the brunt of him not having a good good game. Times have changed in IU basketball folklore.

    1. You’re correct, t. Pacified players. Pacified fan base. Frat rat getting a legendary coach fired over nothing. Blame. Bad examples made of decent men. Witch hunts. Millions in coaching salaries. NBA being primary focus of a most touted recruit….soon to make millions more than the grossly overcompensated coaches. College is simply a 1-year rest stop. Jersey means nothing. Who can get richer faster? Working your ass off for a banner…or simply to make your teammates better? That day is dead.
      Turn the place into a museum and have some more reunions. Pay the bills. Pay the next millionaire.

  2. I’m still searching in life for the elusive 5th thing to learn.

    Maybe it’s somewhere to be found in Downing’s 5th…..? Our last banner was in 1987….1+ 9 + 8 + 7 = 25 5 x 5 = 25 Downing wore #32 …Isiah Thomas wore #11. 11 x 5 = 55. 87-55 = 32….and we’re back to Downing’s 5th.
    Do not bog yourself down too much with four things to learn. It is the elusive 5th thing you must learn. It unlocks all the secrets of life.

  3. I remember watching the Bob Knight show with he and host Chuck Marlow. Knight was giving his respect to Purdue and athletic director George King by talking to a real live jackass. It was just a great way to start a Sunday morning. B.K. being a gentleman instead of the bull crap we hear now days.

Comments are closed.