Hoosiers eager to bask in comforts of home

The team charter took off from Capital Region International Airport shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, one more flight in a Big Ten season full of them.

This one, however, was more enjoyable than the rest.

The 49 minutes between take off in Lansing, Mich. and touchdown at the Monroe County Airport were some of the most satisfying moments this Indiana team has experienced in recent weeks. After a 79-75 overtime win at No. 6 Michigan State, the Hoosiers were at peace.

“The trip home, it was like a sigh of relief,” sophomore guard Al Durham said. “Like, finally, we got one. It felt good.”

Indiana left the burden of a seven-game losing streak behind in Michigan’s capital city, ending what had been a harsh, road-heavy start to conference play with a long-awaited victory.

By the time the Hoosiers arrived home late Saturday night, they found themselves staring at the potential for a new beginning. Not only was their month-long skid a thing of the past, so, too, was the stretch of scheduling that included six road trips in eight conference games.

Now, the Hoosiers get to settle into the comforts of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, where they’ll play six of their final nine league contests of the year. It’s a period that begins with Thursday night’s game with No. 20 Iowa, giving IU a chance to build off its most recent win and tip off a stretch of games that appears more navigable than the run the Hoosiers just completed.

“We always love playing at home in front of this environment,” Durham said. “So I feel like us just being home gives us an extra edge to us and just makes us feel good and gives us time to get treatment and stuff. (It allows us to) stay off the road and just be home in a good environment and be comfortable.”

That comfort could go a long way for an IU club that has appeared sideways for much of the past month. The Hoosiers squandered their natural homecourt advantage in lifeless home losses to Nebraska and Michigan last month, failing to do themselves any favors in Bloomington as their season slipped further off track.

But in Archie Miller’s eyes, his team has looked different since the Michigan State victory, rediscovering some of the confidence — and depth — it lost as the defeats kept piling.

“A win does a lot, especially through the month of January as we obviously didn’t play very well and we didn’t have a whole lot of spunk, so to speak, at the end of the month,” Miller said. “But a win can do a lot for confidence, more so than anything. And I think our guys have practiced the right way coming back off of the weekend trip and we have moved on.”

Coming off a 66-58 loss to Rutgers last Wednesday night, Miller sought to wipe the slate and start over. He told his players that with the start of February came a new 10-game season, with new opportunities.

The Hoosiers made the most of the one presented over the weekend. Now comes further opportunities to piece their season back together.

There are three key areas Miller identified as crucial for doing so. As the Hoosiers begin to embark on their stretch run, Miller is looking for for more consistent effort, better ball movement and overall team cohesion.

“Win, lose or draw, these are the things we have to do well,” Miler said. “Get back and play as hard as ‘you know what.’ Everybody’s gotta understand that’s the name of the game. No. 1, move the ball. Get the ball moving. We’ve got to become a team that, when you watch the film, we don’t say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Now you’re starting to see guys have a little more confidence when they catch it.

“The third thing is togetherness. Through the highs and lows of the game, you’re stressing to the bench and (during the) huddles positive communication. You’re always bringing that to the forefront. That was the disappointing thing through our rough stretch there. In that rough stretch, you lose your confidence in terms of just togetherness and poise and positive encouragement. We let the negatives really start to steam roll us there for awhile. We didn’t do that Saturday. That was a really good sign.”

And it’s a sign that Miller hopes will carry into IU’s games from here. Of Indiana’s final nine regular season games, six are against teams rated inside the top 50 nationally by KenPom.com. IU can’t dwell on the negatives that sent its season spiraling merely days ago.

At the same time, the Hoosiers are getting healthier and more complete. Juniors De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green brought experience and production off the bench at Michigan State, filling needs in the frontcourt and backcourt. Davis looked as good — and as healthy — as he has all season in the win over the Spartans, while Green gave IU the shooting potential it needs inside of its bench.

It’s also encouraging that only one of Indiana’s top-50 matchups (at Iowa on Feb. 22) down the stretch takes place away from home.

Back in Bloomington, the Hoosiers have a shot to start rolling again.

“Being back at home,” Miller said, “hopefully should give us a little bit more confidence coming off the weekend.”

6 comments

  1. Any body notice an exchange between Romeo & Smith at the one minute 17 second of the second half? Romeo did his move under the basket and had to eat the ball. Heading back on defense he passed Smith who said something to him. As he walked pass Smith w/out slowing , Romeo said something to Smith and it almost looked as if snarling. Lost his game face for two or three steps.

  2. Hey Ron,

    I saw it. It was a key moment in my view and corraborated my point. There is some real ‘dislike’ on this team.

    However……

    I’m still reeling from the surprising win at Michigan State. I had thought this team was kaput! Yes, I saw Illinois beat Michigan State (Harv, you were right, Illinois is improving and has good players), but still…AT Michigan State????? Maybe their loss of Langford really hurt (M.S.)

    I’m on a roll of being really wrong with my analysis, but still, I really enjoyed Iowa’s dismanteling of the hated Michigan team (without Mitch McGarry I’m no longer a fan of theirs).

    I’m on a roll, but I simply cannot imagine I.U. winning tonight. Not going to happen. Blowout. the game is going to prove my point that this is a team in disarray.

    1. Did anyone ever cheer for Michigan for any other reason than Mitch McGary?

      No one has impacted college basketball in the same way Double M did since Don Carter (maybe Dick Weber).

      He is gonna make a ton on the movie rights alone.

  3. True. but may show team is holding each other accountable. I wonder if Coach is putting Romeo in difficult situations. Can almost hear he say “give the ball to Romeo” resulting in limited options? Maybe. And based on your last predictions, ‘not going to happen’ may be a good sign?

    Guess the game is on tonight? 5.1 ” rain, tornado warning and flooding in and around Bloomington as the temp dropped from 60+ down to 12 tonight may make a rough trip for Iowa.

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