Hoosiers fall flat in 66-51 loss to Nebraska

Juwan Morgan doesn’t have all the answers, but he knows one thing for certain.

The Hoosiers, losers of three in a row, have to face their flaws head-on.

Otherwise, this unrelenting January stretch could keep Indiana from making the most of its season in the weeks to come. Nebraska served the latest blow to an IU team ambling its way through the first half of a challenging month, dealing the No. 25 Hoosiers a 66-51 loss before an announced sellout crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Indiana (12-5, 3-3) offered a punchless effort, once again losing itself inside of a sloppy and disconnected opening segment. Only this time, it wasn’t just a slow start the Hoosiers had to overcome. It was a bad half altogether.

A poor opening period on both ends of the floor bled into the second half, leaving the Hoosiers stuck inside an adverse stretch that is testing the team’s will to pick itself up.

“We’ve just got to be grown men about it,” Morgan said, “and then we just have to take this loss and learn from it. You know, it’s just nothing else you can do. It happened already. We can’t let the losses keep stacking (on top of) each other, just like we can’t keep letting bad plays stack (on top of) each other in the game.”

There’s clearly a disconnection inside IU’s program right now, and it’s threatening the course of the Hoosiers’ season from here.

The poor starts aren’t going away. The consistent contributions from players not named Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford aren’t surfacing. Injuries, too, remain a significant factor. That’s the one thing Indiana can’t control.

The rest is up to the Hoosiers to solve on their own, like the sagging energy and poor body language that undercut IU’s ability to defend its home floor. Monday’s loss to Nebraska (13-4, 3-3) was IU’s first loss in Bloomington in 11 games this season.

For much of the season, Indiana has made a habit of fixing itself on the fly. It has digested problems and authored gritty second-half efforts on the way to come-from-behind victories. It has overcome slow starts and produced fantastic finishes that have propelled it back into the national conversation.

But without the energy, cohesion and the end-to-end effort it takes to compete at this point in the season, Indiana didn’t have a chance to do those things on Monday.

“I felt like tonight, for whatever reason, I didn’t see the same team that we’ve had all year,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “A lot of the tougher games that we’ve won, we’ve been in tough spots. We’ve always had a very, very good energy level. We’ve always had a very, very communicating team, a team that obviously is prodding one another, plugging one another along as the game is going, and we didn’t even have that tonight. We were very emotionless.”

That was evident from the jump, as Nebraska stitched together a pair of 9-0 runs on the way to an 18-5 advantage by the second media timeout. Offensively, Indiana never got going, scoring only 22 first-half points and shooting only 29 percent from the field across the first 20 minutes.

Nebraska started the night by making each of its first four shots, while IU missed each of its first five, prompting an early timeout from Miller. A 1-3-1 Nebraska zone caused further problems for Indiana, which looked out of sorts and unprepared to run any sort of zone offense.

“Really, we just weren’t getting the ball moved,” Langford said. “Really, we were just playing a little bit too conservative on the 1-3-1, (and weren’t) really attacking. That’s what you’re supposed to do against the 1-3-1 is attack and get the ball in the middle, and that’s what we need to work on down the road.”

Sparked by Langford and Clifton Moore, the Hoosiers offered signs of life late in the half, and crept within two possessions one minute before halftime. Moore provided energy and scored three points and grabbed two rebounds during his three first-half minutes. With Moore on the floor in the first half, the Hoosiers outscored the Huskers by seven points.

Langford used his driving ability to power his way to nine first-half points, cutting IU’s deficit to six on a layup with 1:12 remaining in the half. But a couple bad defensive breakdowns allowed Nebraska to build its halftime lead to nine, closing the period with an emphatic James Palmer Jr. dunk over Evan Fitzner.

“I didn’t think that we played with near enough energy to compete in this league,” Miller said. “Offensively, we were just horrendous in the first half.”

That was true, though there were some minor victories.

Indiana won three straight four-minute segments by the first media timeout of the second half. The Hoosiers outscored the Huskers 5-1 approaching the under-4 timeout in the first half. They outscored Nebraska 8-5 in the last four minutes before halftime, then opened the second half by outscoring the Huskers 10-6 leading into the under-16 break.

But Nebraska answered by winning the next four-minute segment 13-6, increasing its lead to 12 by the second media timeout. The Huskers hit three 3-pointers in that span and finished 8-for-24 from beyond the arc.

Indiana went the final 5:39 of regulation without a field goal.

“They did a great job of responding at a certain part of the second half from the 3-point line,” Miller said. “I thought Glynn Watson was as good as it gets tonight. He banged two big (3-pointers) back-to-back. Whether that was either inefficient offense or turnovers I’m not real sure, but he banged two big ones. And then (Thomas) Allen hit another one that was a back-breaker that put it back over to double figures.

“You know, you look for the answers. You watch the film, and I can probably pretty much tell you what I’m going to see on this film was a team that didn’t play to its identity, and at the end of the day, you can’t do that in this league. Doesn’t matter if you’re home or away.”

But the setting of Monday’s game was one of the most troubling parts of the loss. Indiana can’t afford to squander home games in a loaded Big Ten season, especially during this current eight game stretch that includes six contests away from Bloomington.

IU won’t be back home until the end of the month when it hosts No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 25. Before that, the Hoosiers have back-to-back road trips to Purdue (Saturday, 2 p.m.) and Northwestern (Jan. 22).

Now, the Hoosiers have to face themselves and figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Their season depends on it.

“We just have to be grown men about it,” Morgan said. “We have Purdue on Saturday, and that’s what we have to focus on, and that’s what we need to be ready for.”

7 comments

  1. Ouch! This one stings A LOT. Nary 60 basketball minutes ago, we looked legit.; like we could play with anyone on a neutral floor legit. Now, we look weak, fragile and on the verge of a long losing streak. So much for my 14-6 league prediction penned yesterday.

    Good teams don’t lose tough games they just pissed away on the road & turn around and lay an egg like this at home. We were totally exposed & it didn’t take but 5 Big Ten games to do it. Give it up to Miles & Lewis, one of our own, for zoning us to death. It is an obvious solution to IU 2019 basketball. 1-3-1, 3 -2, triangle & 2, you name it. All are our kryptonite. We are truly a team that has 2 studs and not much else.

    And now the wounded lamb limps into the lion’s den…..good thing Painter doesn’t play zone (yet). Nor does he foul Ethan Happ, like Pitino did, with the lead in the final minutes. And I’m left to wonder how many Carson Edwards will score on Green. He could put up 50 on Sat.

  2. We canr shoot and make a basket unless its a layup, ally-oop or a finger roll. I was thinking tonight how BAD it would look if this team played against Syracuse’s Zone. I do believe that the injuries are taking a toll on EVERYONE mentally. When you’re a player and you see more teammates in Sweats than in uniform to play cant be an emotionally POSITIVE thing

  3. Durham left the game with an ankle injury, the rotation is down to six now. Also I don’t know how the Big Ten assigns the game officials this is the fifth or sixth time this same crew has worked an IU this year, they officiated the Michigan on the road game, just an observation. For the the I U fans not in attendance Romeo was hacked in the lane with several times with no calls,didn’t, effect the game results however the player feels the effects of the “No Call Fouls”. The Nebraska has a good basketball this year, so don’t think IUlost to a second tier. Big Ten team. The team injuries is taking a toll on this season’s expectations and going forward is going to be tough.

  4. Since the current state of IU basketball continues in disarray let’s turn back to football. Is TA waiting to announce an OC at the start of Spring football so IU fans can experience another season of hope and excitement; regardless or true or false???

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