IU take-aways: Maryland 77, Indiana 76

It was gut-wrenching but not demoralizing.

The last 68 seconds were brutal. There is no way around it.

Indiana blew defensive assignments. There was a costly turnover versus the press. There were a couple of rushed shots taken and missed.

That’s how you squander a six-point lead with just over a minute to play.

But there were also reasons the Hoosiers gained that lead, after withstanding the Terrapins’ hot shooting in the first half, after they were without Trayce Jackson-Davis for long stretches because of foul trouble.

Down by as many as 14 points in the first 20 minutes, the Hoosiers tightened up on Maryland’s 3-point shooters. The Terrapins missed eight of their first nine 3s in the second half. On the offensive end, IU continued to play unselfish, dishing out a season-high 22 assists.

They played inside-out. They made the extra pass. They just could never find that extra shot to push seven- or eight-point leads into double digits, leaving themselves vulnerable to that late run.

“We did enough to win the game,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We also did enough to lose it there at the end.”

After closing out a win over then-No. 11 Michigan State to open a two-game homestand, the Hoosiers just didn’t do enough to win in the final moments Sunday.

As the Hoosiers continue to mature, the hope is they will become more consistent in these moments. But their play during the two-game homestand was more consistent over longer stretches than previous contests, which offers justifiable reason for optimism.

In a Big Ten conference where everyone appears capable of beating everyone else, that gives IU more reason for hope than fear. So the Hoosiers weren’t going to wallow after one letdown late.

“Move on to the next game,” sophomore guard Rob Phinisee said. “Just focus on the next game when we play Penn State. We can’t get too happy after winning, and we can’t get too down on ourselves after a loss. We have to move forward and get back after it in practice tomorrow.”

IU’s ball movement hit another level.

It wasn’t that long ago that Miller was expressing a belief that his players could hit shots, if only they made the right reads and set each other up for good looks.

It also isn’t that long ago that the Hoosiers were on the road at Rutgers, somewhat floundering in a 31.7-percent shooting effort, including a 2-of-19 success rate from deep.

But against Maryland, IU notched 22 assists. That’s just eight days after the Hoosiers racked up 21 at Nebraska. They hadn’t produced more than 14 assists in a game in Big Ten play before then.

IU just seems to be playing better inside-out basketball, getting the ball in the post for defenses to collapse on star freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis or junior Joey Brunk, kicking out for open 3s. At times, the bigs were feeding each other, leading to a 36-30 advantage in points in the paint.

Again, the Hoosiers weren’t perfect, especially late. And it wasn’t that long ago that they were struggling to consistently hit shots. But in four of their last five games, IU has connected on better than 30 percent from deep. The Hoosiers were below 30 percent in every conference game but one (Wisconsin) prior to this stretch.

With its strength inside, IU doesn’t have to be deadly from 3-point range. The Hoosiers just have to be efficient. And if they continue to move the ball like this, they have a chance.

“I think our ball movement has been better every game,” senior Devonte Green said. “I think we get better at it every single game, and I think we’ll just continue to build on it.”

Hunter took yet another step.

The redshirt freshman’s bad pass versus a Maryland press, setting up a late 3 that cut IU’s lead to one, was one of the more unpleasant moments of the Hoosiers’ loss.

“That’s a first-year player in Jerome, who’s never in that situation, where he’s just got to be strong with the ball, either bring it across half-court and tuck it, or he’s just got to chin the ball and be strong with it,” Miller said. “I just talked to him a little bit about it. It’s one of those things as a player you’ve got to go through.”

It was a setback for Hunter and his team, but the Hoosiers wouldn’t have been in the game if it weren’t for Hunter.

With 12 points, the 6-foot-7 forward doubled his previous best for a Big Ten contest. He also logged 27 minutes, which is seven above his previous career-high.

Like his team, Hunter is playing better for longer stretches, and every step forward is that much sweeter for an athlete who missed his first season due to a lower-leg condition.

He had a bad moment. But that doesn’t discount all of the good ones Sunday. His offensive versatility continued to shine just a bit brighter, going 3-of-6 from 3-point range, which boosted the team’s 9-of-19 effort.

“He’s starting to look the part. His legs look stronger,” Miller said. “If you just watch him right now, he has a much better bounce about him on the floor than he’s had. It’s taken him a while to get to this point, but like I said before, a guy takes a year off from injury, it’s difficult, especially a true freshman that never played.”

What’s next?

Penn State, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, in State College, Pa.

The Big Ten grind doesn’t let up, as the Hoosiers head to the Bryce Jordan Center to face No. 24 Penn State.

After consecutive losses to Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, the Nittany Lions responded with consecutive wins over Ohio State and Michigan.

Penn State is 10-1 at home, and it gets a full week of rest before playing IU. The fact that Ohio State will also get nearly a week of rest before the Hoosiers visit wasn’t lost on Miller.

“Maybe everybody gets a week off before we walk in the door,” Miller said. “Maybe that’s the scheduling philosophy.”

6 comments

  1. I have enjoyed reading Archie Miller’s quotes, but feel that he slipped into hyperbole with that last sentence. Sounds like he’s making excuses prior to the game(s) and I don’t particularly like that. I am, however, quite excited to watch the game on television tomorrow evening! Penn State has trouble getting fans to come to their games (for good reason, they are a B O R I N G team). I think we can jump out to a quick early lead and hold on for a nice win. # 24 ? Not. Over-Rated. Yes. Go Hoosiers!

  2. and…Ohio State? Spare me. They are perhaps the most over-rated team in the Big Ten after Michigan. I think Ohio State is very similar to the level we have come to expect from Northwestern. They are completely and utterly dis-organized, (due to poor coaching), and their players are exhibiting signs of hoping their season will end soon (it will, after they flame out in the Big Ten Tournament).

    2 big wins ON THE ROAD for our ascending Hoosiers this week!

    And I’ll state it first: Devonte Green is going to lead us to victory in each game.

    Our team is coming together as a unit and it’s been fun to watch the process.

  3. Some bold predictions, ROCK! Especially about Green leading IU to victory. I hope you’re right, but I tend to agree with HC on that point.

  4. We’ll soon see, H.C.!

    Thanks to both you and Podunk for taking my predictions seriously (I’ve been wrong quite a few times this season, but hope that I can be right this time).

    A good thing to look for early tonight is whether anyone shows up at the Penn State gym to “cheer on” their team. I bet it’s about 1/2 full (and 1/2 empty). That’s in our favor as we zoom out to a big early lead.

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