Miller encouraged by Hoosiers’ response

It might turn out to be nothing.

For now, though, Archie Miller is clinging to even the smallest sources for optimism.

Miller left Indiana’s Cook Hall training facility on Monday evening feeling hopeful about his team’s next challenge, Tuesday’s 7 p.m. tipoff with No. 15 Purdue. The reason? A series of spirited practices in the wake of this weekend’s embarrassing trip to Minnesota.

IU’s second-year coach liked what he saw and appreciated what he heard during recent workouts, recognizing a team working to address the deficiencies that have sent it tumbling into the Big Ten cellar. These Hoosiers, of course, have fooled Miller before, and with Indiana, one good effort is no guarantee of better days to come.

But 48 hours after his team lost for the 10th time in its past 11 games, Miller was eager to recognize progress — however small — and cling to a mere possibility that his broken basketball program is ready and able to fix itself.

“Whether it translates or not, I know the coaching staff and the players left the building (Monday night) and felt really good about each other because we had about as good of a practice as we’ve ever had,” Miller said. “Guys really competed. Guys talked. Guys were playing to win. I think everybody on the team was engaged. That’s what it’s about right now. Can we continue with that? We’ll see.”

Such is the state of Indiana basketball 56 games into Miller’s tenure as coach. The Hoosiers have no confidence, no homecourt advantage and no traction in a conference eager to eat them alive.

Right now, outside of Miller’s expressed optimism, there are no tangible signs that those factors will change anytime soon.

After Saturday’s 84-63 drubbing at Minnesota, Miller declared a need for drastic changes to take root inside of his team. Asked to explain what those changes might look like, the coach didn’t go into specifics.

“That’s up for our staff to deal with,” Miller said after the game. “We’re searching, and the next two days are gonna be big as we prepare for Tuesday.”

On his weekly radio show Monday, Miller was again asked to describe what the term “drastic changes” meant inside of this season. This time, after overseeing two days of workouts, Miller offered slightly more insight.

“Part of the drastic change needs to come with our communication,” Miller said. “It can’t be a team that doesn’t talk to one another. That has to change drastically. … How does it change? Well, it doesn’t just change with a light switch. It has to change with some other things.

“Part of it right now is our group has to embrace not the hard times we’ve been through or what we’re doing, they have to embrace the path that’s sitting in front of them right now. This is the part of college basketball that goes the fastest. It goes by in a blink. It’ll be over in three weeks.”

By pointing to the calendar, and the six games and 14 practices remaining inside of this season, Miller is trying to fuel the urgency that has been mostly lacking since the calendar flipped to 2019.

Having a rival in town, Miller says, might also help supply the Hoosiers with the jolt they need.

Purdue comes to Bloomington in the midst of a Big Ten title push. The Boilermakers have won nine of their past 10 games, and enter play with an 11-3 league record. They pushed Indiana around in their 70-55 win on Jan. 19 in Mackey Arena, further asserting themselves as the dominant team in a series that has recently been almost completely one-sided.

“Obviously, there’s a lot at stake when you play against Purdue as Indiana,” Miller said. “They’ve already gotten us one time awhile back. For our guys, it’s sitting right in front of us. We have an opportunity on Tuesday night to play against a really good team that’s our archrival in-state. And you know what? If that doesn’t get your blood boiling a little bit here to get yourself kickstarted in another gear, I’m not sure anything will.”

Indiana has lost four consecutive home games, and once again resembles the team that Miller called “soft and scared” after a blowout defeat to Michigan on Jan. 25 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Across the past two days’ worth of practices, Miller says he’s tried to coach toughness and confidence into a team that, for the better part of two months, has lacked both qualities.

Miller liked what he saw from his team behind the scenes on Sunday and Monday.

But will that translate to Tuesday?

“I’m hopeful,” Miller said, “that our last couple days mentally, and how we’ve talked and communicated, has been a sign that readiness and energy level and things like that won’t be a concern.”

10 comments

  1. I read the article for the Radio Show and the above comments a lot of talk that sums up that the coach just trying to finish the season and doesn’t have any solutions for the team’s problems. Something happen to this team after the Maryland game that has caused a split among the players and their coach. Only the players, coaches and the athletic administration know the facts what the underlying problems are. For myself the season can’t end too soon, I don’t see the situation getting any better this season. The Purdue game will be the test for the coach and team, if nothing improves, just more talk to follow.

  2. I’ve received a lot of ‘negative feedback’ from people I’ve discussed “my idea” for an “early technical foul” and have changed my stance.

    I am now calling for NO Technical Foul tonight against Purdue.

    This does NOT mean that “I don’t care anymore.”

  3. Gang,
    I know this season has been very disappointing, I’ve been downright sick about. If you recall I worried early on about the FT shooting not improving significantly from last year. Old BB adage, you’ve got to make your FTs. Problem is, Archie can’t wave a magic wand and make a poor shooting team good. You may get lucky every once in a while like at MSU, and hit a hot streak but you either a good shooting team or not. Unfortunately, this team as constructed is not a good shooting team. No amount of game management from the bench can fix that, only time with better shooting recruiting classes will solve the problem. Archie can adjust for it as much as he can, but if the team as a whole can’t shoot consistently beyond 10′ from the basket, that ain’t fixable.

    The only hope for this team next year is RT and JH being able to shoot. Hopefully DA will develop off season and AF will be a quick study for a Freshman. Even if you do have size inside, you still have to be able to shoot from outside in order to spread the floor. No different than FB, if you can’t go over the defense when needed, all they have to do is collapse the area they have to defend. As for the team chemistry, how frustrating must it be for the guys to know all of this firsthand?

    1. Rob P is the key. Before his injury IU was 12/2, after 2-11. You are at home, play hard, let the shots that are open fly, grab the rebounds, fly to loose balls, talk, have joy!

      1. BP,
        I think you are correct in RP’s injury being a significant portion of the overall problem. One correction, they were 11-2 before the injury, he was hurt in the Central Arkansas game. Biggest thing is that RP was a decent perimeter shooter before the injury, and IU could ill afford to lose any outside threats. RP hasn’t regained his shot and his budding leadership skills are invaluable to the team. These type injuries just take time, but I hope his recovery picks up speed because unless someone can start hitting the outside shots consistently we are going to see a repeat of the earlier PU game. As Miller would put it, PU’s defense will just “collapse, collapse, collapse” into the paint.

        1. We need Derek Elston to stick out a leg and trip Carsen Edwards……
          Upon further review (and a follow-up interrogation by Mike Miller summoning the ghost of Hugh Kellenberger at a postgame presser), it will be determined that Derek simply had a leg cramp. The “technical foul” assessed to the IU bench was erroneous and payback for Scott May’s wrist getting broken at Mackey is a bitch.

          Honestly, I don’t want anyone hurt…but what on earth is Derek Elston still doing on an IU bench. Is that a fair question?

          1. Just sayin….You do pass Tripton, IN exits heading south from West Lafayette.

            Or is it Tipton?

  4. No need to collapse….Smith hasn’t evolved as needed. Morgan has the most heart on this team but he still has many limitations in his game.

    You can hound us any way you like….Best defense is probably to just zone us. Let Romeo have his….Who else is there to really be a threat extremely challenging to quell? It’s simply not on this roster….and a technical foul won’t turn high jumpers and playground ballers into refined heady basketball players.

  5. ^^^Wow….was that spot on or what? And Justin Smith can’t even get in the way of Edwards to take a charge in a final possession in which the game teeters?

    And that big dorkish thing from the Netherlands that will never take to flight on Purdue sticks out one of his Spruce Goose wings and tips in a prayer because our inside guys can’t hold him more than four feet out?

    Dear Thomas Bryant and OG – Stay away. I realize Juwan is your future NBA wannabe bro, but banners meant nothing to you. You brought him a ton of bad luck and bad decisions(as in not allowing Romeo to touch the ball in our next to last possession before falling on his face). We don’t need you as cheerleaders attempting to get your faces on ESPN. How do you look in candy-striped yoga pants?

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