4 things we learned from IU’s loss at Rutgers

1. It just keeps getting worse
It took five seasons, but Rutgers has now won three consecutive games in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights’ achievement came at the expense of the Hoosiers, who are staring at a streak of their own.

Indiana has now lost seven straight games, its longest such skid since the program dropped the final nine games of the 2010-11 season. This is a system failure that goes beyond injuries and youth. Right now, it seems even the smallest hint of adversity is enough to knock the Hoosiers sideways.

The players have lost confidence and coach Archie Miller is short on answers. At this point, with a trip to No. 6 Michigan State on deck Saturday night, IU’s funk could get worse yet.

What buttons are left for Miller to push? At this point, nurturing team chemistry is as important as tending to Indiana’s many on-court deficiencies.

“It’s not magic,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, those guys gotta think you care about them. It’s not them vs. you. I’ve been in these situations before as a player and as a coach with a team that starts to look at the staff like … just stick with it. You gotta hang in there with it. At some point in time, if you show up every day and keep doing it the right way and keep finding a way, eventually something good will happen. Once that happens, that can cause the next chain of events. But it’s a difficult league to play in, especially when you’re not playing your best.”

There’s truth to that, though stomaching a loss at Rutgers can’t be easy. IU hasn’t come close to beating the Big Ten’s lowest-rated program (per KenPom.com) in the past two meetings — marking the first two IU losses in the eight-game series history.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press wrote, “Rutgers, sensing the chance to make a national statement, is winding up to deliver the knockout blow to this storied program — for the second straight winter.”

With the win, the Scarlet Knights may have done exactly that.

2. IU’s offense continues to flounder
For a spell, it seemed maybe this game would be different. The Hoosiers looked engaged on both ends of the floor at the start of regulation, executing their offense with equal parts patience and poise.

Better yet, the Hoosiers were shooting the ball freely and without worry in what looked like a concerted effort to cultivate confidence. It almost worked. Indiana started 3-for-7 from beyond the arc and built a lead that stretched to 10 points late in the first half.

Then it all unraveled.

Rutgers has formed an identity as an aggressive, tough-minded group that plays hard. But the Scarlet Knights still aren’t particularly good or talented.

It was no matter. IU isn’t very good right now, either.

Indiana finished Wednesday with the worst offensive performance among Rutgers opponents this season, ending the night by scoring merely .843 points per possession. It was the fifth straight game in which the Hoosiers failed to score more than a point per possession and shot worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc.

The Hoosiers shot 26.1 percent from 3-point range on Wednesday, which is actually better than their Big Ten season mark of 25.3 percent. If that figure holds, Indiana would be the Big Ten’s worst 3-point shooting team since KenPom.com began tracking advanced analytics with the 2001-02 season.

3. The bench isn’t helping
Wednesday marked Indiana’s third consecutive game without Devonte Green (suspension) and its second straight contest without De’Ron Davis (ankle). Zach McRoberts (foot) was also limited to only one minute with another nagging injury.

It all forced Archie Miller to reach into what was left of his bench. The results weren’t encouraging.

IU’s reserves were pushed around and exposed in the loss to Rutgers, finishing with more turnovers (one) than made field goals (zero). Clifton Moore provided the bench’s only points on a pair of free throws.

The bench players play hard — just look at Damezi Anderson fighting for 50-50 balls in the final minutes — but they’re not providing much tangible assistance for a team that needs it.

The five available reserves on Wednesday night — Anderson, Moore, Evan Fitzner, Jake Forrester and Zach McRoberts — have combined to commit more fouls on the season (70) than they have made field goals (61).

4. Al Durham has been one of the few bright spots
He’s aggressive, he’s communicative and it’s clear that he cares.

Durham is doing what he can to provide the jolt the Hoosiers need.

“It’s a natural thing,” Durham said after Wednesday’s game. “I’m trying to step into more of a vocal (role) on my team. I’m trying to get guys going, make sure we stay locked in. I’m trying to keep us together, just keeping things together and making sure we don’t fracture.”

Durham returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday, replacing McRoberts. Though he’s come off the bench as a secondary point guard in recent games, Durham has still occupied starter’s minutes.

He’s averaged 9.3 points across the past three games, dishing six assists against four turnovers in that span. Most encouraging, he’s been a spark plug for a team that needs a boost. It’s not always rubbing off on those around him, but Durham is trying.

For a team that plays with inconsistent effort, it has to be a welcome sign.

4 comments

  1. IU should have Don Fischer announce IU ladies basketball and Greg Murray should announce the men’s basketball.
    Maybe, that would produce a win.
    Fish is the best as apologist for IU football and it was easy for him to transfer those skills to IU men’s basketball. However, none better than the Fish.
    Greg Murray is excellent announcing IU ladies basketball games on 105.1 in his own right.
    I would find it interesting to change things up.

  2. If IU played Marquette or Louisville right now, how bad would those game be? Amazing how things change in this sport.

Comments are closed.