Once ‘fractured’ Hoosier team seeks to stick together vs. No. 3 Michigan

The day before Indiana’s matchup with No. 3 Michigan, Trayce Jackson-Davis was able to report on something that’s long been right with his team.

Despite a brutal loss at Rutgers, the Hoosiers returned to practice on Thursday and Friday with purpose. IU coach Archie Miller has long praised that steadiness within their ranks, a consistent work ethic that puts the Hoosiers in a position to compete with anyone.
That should no less be the case at noon Saturday when the Wolverines arrive at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“I really feel like we’ve been practicing really well, at a high level,” Jackson-Davis said. “A few weeks ago, it’s all about ‘We’re starting too slow, we’re not getting off to a good start,’ and now we’re starting really well actually. We’re just letting teams back up and we’re not weathering the storm as they go on a run.

“We just need to put a full 40-minute game together, honestly, and the only way to do that is keep working hard and know when you are practicing hard it’s going to equate to you playing hard.”

That’s a simple premise, easily achieved.

But Jackson-Davis had a harder time with another question. It’s a question that begs an answer after Wednesday’s loss at Rutgers, where a seemingly hard-working Hoosier squad floundered in the second half. The Hoosiers were “fractured,” as Miller put it.

To many, it seemed like they quit.

Following a similar second-half disaster against Michigan State, it was worrying to see IU fall apart again.

“I don’t know how to answer it, honestly,” Jackson-Davis said. “Just know it won’t happen again. That’s basically all you need to know.”

There is little question of the Hoosiers’ intent. All season, Miller has lauded this team’s good nature. But he also acknowledged something about this group Wednesday that has been mentioned but not so much belabored.

It was all too apparent at Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights ran past the Hoosiers in the late first half and almost the entirety of the second 20 minutes.

“We’re a quiet group, in general. I don’t think we have an alpha personality,” Miller said. “Right now, we need some guys to step up a little bit within our own ranks, our own locker room, and we gotta be able to pull some things together because I do think we lack confidence at certain times during the game when things don’t go well.”

There are good pieces on this IU team, including more than a few good soldiers. But as far as leadership, it’s hard for Miller to point to a player and say that’s the Hoosiers’ floor general. The absence of that emotional rock has been glaring in IU’s last two games, wilting under pressure from Michigan State and Rutgers.

Now it’s time for IU (12-11, 7-9 Big Ten) to tip with No. 3 Michigan, and there could never be a better time for a leader — or leaders, plural — to make their presence known. The Hoosiers have lost three out of their last four. Their NCAA tournament bubble is at risk of bursting. The best team in the Big Ten is on its way.

IU has shown an ability to compete with the best in the conference this season, whether it be nail-biting losses to Illinois and Wisconsin or thrilling wins over Iowa. When enough pieces are clicking, this team can compete. But in two straight games, there has been a tendency to break apart amid adversity.

A couple of missed shots becomes a full-blown drought. A lack of offense saps energy from the Hoosiers’ defense. All of a sudden, on Wednesday, turnovers turned into a flurry of transition dunks for the Knights.

“I feel like we just have to be able to do better and execute with any amount of pressure or any amount of anything going on in the game,” said Durham, one of IU’s co-captains. “We have to be able to execute, run the plays, and get what we want. We can’t settle for not running plays or settling early in the shot clock.”

This isn’t a team replete with any one thing, whether it’s dynamic scoring guards or oversized posts. They aren’t going to outshoot anyone, or bully anyone. The margin for error, as Miller has said repeatedly, is just so small for this team. IU’s execution was and remains paramount.

But the Hoosiers have had 10 or more turnovers in seven of their last eight games. Opponents are hitting nearly 37 percent from 3-point range versus the Hoosiers in conference play. All of the things the Hoosiers can’t do, they are doing, making their path to victory so much slimmer.

Michigan (17-1, 12-1) is bound to give IU the narrowest road possible. The Wolverines have perhaps the conference’s best freshman, 7-foot-1 center Hunter Dickinson. Isaiah Livers, at 6-7, 230 pounds, is built like an NBA wing. Franz Wagner is a 6-9 sophomore guard who can be an absolute matchup nightmare.

Not only are the Wolverines the No. 3 scoring team in the Big Ten, at 79.2 points per outing, they are also the No. 3 defensive team in the conference, allowing just 65.7 per game. IU can’t relax on either end.

Jackson-Davis was focused on the Wolverines as screeners, specifically.

“Our guards gotta be physical and be able to get over them, because Hunter gets a lot of his points coming down and on wrap-around passes when their guards are getting downhill on screens,” Jackson-Davis. “Taking away their screens is going to be one of the biggest keys.”

There is just very little room for error Saturday if the Hoosiers want to pick up a resume-boosting win.

They certainly can’t give in the face of adversity, either.

“We got to move on to the next one. We’ve got another game coming up. I mean, it doesn’t stop here,” said Durham, who could be playing his last game in Assembly Hall on Saturday.

“We have to be able to move on from this. We have to be able to build from this. We have to be able to learn from this. We gotta be able to come back strong next game, and we have to be able to respond to this.”

17 comments

  1. Don’t know what happened to Race in the practice before Rutgers, but I do believe the face mask hampered him a bit. Was his nose broken?

    Brunk may have been one of those floor leaders we desperately seek….Leading from the bench or practice has pluses but we needed his personality on the floor as well.

    I think we’ll give Michigan a great battle….I’ve been wrong on predictions of late….but I like our chances tomorrow. They’re riding pretty high…We’re riding pretty low. Things may equalize. This sort of game begs for a rocking Assembly Hall….Without such an atmosphere, crystal balls are foggy.

  2. Oh well. It wouldn’t matter if they played in an empty K-Mart parking lot…Hawks 91 IU 63. This game will make IU football even more relevent.

    Hope you’re as accurate this time….

  3. Watch the guard -Play and see which ROB shows up. I believe that its ROB’s “head case” that has infected the whole team. People can voice support of “things” and mentally say ” Oh no He isnt doing That”..Its the Mental thing thats affecting the confidence and performance of everyone.

  4. Watch the guard -Play and see which ROB shows up. I believe that its ROB’s “head case” that has infected the whole team. People can voice support of “things” and mentally say ” Oh no He isnt doing That”. It’s what teammates think and the negativity that is generated that hurts the team

  5. Just a note before game today. It’s Senior Day for Al Durham. He hasn’t been given the opportunity for the Hoosier Fans to applaud and honor him. This kid came in under a different coach, stayed when Archie was hired and always put in the effort. I really hope they find a way to let Hoosier fans honor this kid at some point.

    Solid career, Al. I heard he’s only like 28 pts away from 1,000 for his career. Elite company all things considered.

  6. That Miller inserted Phinisee into the starting lineup says volumes about his tenure. If he elects to give him 20+ in this game, it reduces any realistic possibity of an upset win. I’ll give Miller credit for one thing, he’s as stubborn as he is obtuse.

  7. Yup, stubborn in a VJ III sort of way…

    Agree, DD. Always thought it was a tragedy that Mo Creek never got an IU Senior Day….or Austin Etherington…or Remy Abell…..or Jeremy Hollowell….or Stan Robinson…..or, most sadly removed, Devin Davis.

  8. Raftery said Dickinson has great Hans. Hans and Franz….Wagner. Tough crowd.

  9. Rob – CAM’s options with Franklin out may be part of today’s line up.

    Blunk – Sideline calming Galloway after F1 call. Could be right HH.

    Al – agree DD. Don’t see a public Thanks in the works. Damn Covid thing.

    First half. Missed so many close in shots. IU lucky to be that close in points.

  10. The possible bright-spot for IU today — The Ladies game vs Purdue on BTN in an hour. Otherwise ……

  11. During the few minutes I tuned in to watch the game, Michigan looked like they were toying with IU. It reminded me of a High School Varsity team scrimmaging the JV team. There was NEVER a threat that IU would win this game.

    Got to give credit to Michigan’s administration for hiring their coach. He’s got his team playing hard and he’s quickly become one of the best recruiters in the country. He’ll have Michigan playing for the National Championship very soon.

    1. Howard will probably get nailed with recruiting violations and have a season title stripped….I mean, it is a Fab Five guy. Somebody has to be getting suitcases of cash and home mortgages paid.

      I guess we can watch Kelvin and his Houston Cougars…..possibly make a storied run to a Final Four in Indy. That would be a fitting way to end the witch hunt. Guess who came out of the ashes now, witch trial preachers? Fred can buy his entire family tickets….Get a nice suite. Have St. Elmo Steakhouse cater something in. Shrimp cocktails for everyone to serve as metaphor for where Fred left Indiana Basketball. Invite Joey and Tom…up from Georgia.

  12. Just remember the Tom Allen mantra of our now sole identity as a still nationally slighted, slightly above average, football school. LEO now….LEO tomorrow…LEO next week….LEO while watching Conference Midwest Elite put some more nails in our LEO coffin. Love Archie….Love Phinisse….LEO while you love watching guards nearly walk a ball up court and dribbling a ball deliberately long when you’re down 16 points. LEO in our basketball irrelevance which began with nine years of the Bozo Show. Love….love…love. Love is all we need.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csyHN3LoRJ4

    Those who pounded the drum the last decade as if a modest reborn interest in the worst football program in history was more important than March Madness, you have your new baby boy. Hope he grows up to be big and strong…Maybe compete with OSU by 2042.
    Meanwhile, you killed Hoosier hoops. Well, I shouldn’t say killed Hoosier hoops. You do have that wonderful women’s program to bring in hoards of cash and monopolize the national television audiences.
    Congrats.

  13. Never watched much Dayton basketball when Archie was coach there…Just caught a couple glimpses. I thought I remembered urgency and speed….? If there was one element of a basketball team I didn’t expect to be lacking under the Hoosiers coached by Archie Miller, it was speed.
    This entire team plays like they have turds stuck halfway out their posteriors. Their shots near the rim are herky-jerky as if their afraid a stools will separate off…..Everyone dribbles too upright…Tracye runs the floor as if he’s one taco away from having the runs. Phinisee is more deliberate than a constipated 80-year-old probing for the lost sensation of rectal concentration.

    Hurryin’ Hoosiers? And I used to think Alford moved like he was trying to prevent accidental bowel spillage.

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