Fourth. That’s where Indiana was in the Big Ten two weeks ago after a 71-68 win over Maryland on January 22. The Hoosiers had just won four of their last five games, with the loss at East Lansing the only blemish on Indiana’s card since January 2. The Hoosiers were 12-8 and 5-3 in the Big Ten.
Since then, the Hoosiers have lost four straight to Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State, and now sit at 12-12, 5-7 in the Big Ten.
There are many places for people to point fingers. Indiana is virtually out of any postseason competition unless they can get hot down the stretch. And that’s just to make the NIT. But what is the reason for this recent slump?
Here are some of the things that have gone wrong for the Hoosiers in the last two weeks.
Indiana’s Shooting Percentages
This is a bad shooting team. It’s as simple as that. Even in the four wins in the five game stretch in early January, Indiana was still shooting just 43-percent from the floor.
Indiana was also shooting 33-percent from beyond the arc and 66-percent from the free throw line.
None of these are good percentages by any means, but they are better than the stats you’re about to see from the four-game losing streak the Hoosiers are currently on.
Since the Maryland win, Indiana is still shooting 43-percent from the field, but their 3-point percentage has dipped to 26-percent and their free throw percentage is down to 61. Who knew Indiana’s free throw shooting could get worse?
Somehow, even with these shooting woes, Indiana found themselves in three of the four games, with shots at the end against Illinois and Michigan State. That’s why this isn’t the only reason IU hasn’t won any of their last four.
Opponent’s Shooting Percentages
It’s not a good combo when IU shoots 29-percent and Michigan State shoots 49-percent. Well, that type of combination of IU’s bad shooting and opponent’s good shooting has happened throughout this losing streak, especially the last two games.
Indiana’s opponent shooting percentage in their losing streak is 50-percent, compared to 40-percent during the four wins earlier in the month.
Part of this could be the rebound battle. Excluding the Michigan State game where Indiana racked up 53 rebounds, Indiana is averaging 28 rebounds a game. That is nine rebounds per game down from their 37 per game in their four wins before the losing streak. All the extra rebounds for the opponents could be giving them better and higher-percentage looks at the basket.
You won’t win many games shooting poorly, and you’ll win even less games when your opponent shoots well. This all doesn’t matter when the Big Ten schedules poorly.
It’s well documented that the Big Ten decided to move the conference tournament up a week to have it at Madison Square Garden. It has also been well documented that this has greatly affected the schedule, and as a result, the quality of games in conference play.
Two of Indiana’s four losses in this losing streak have come two days after a hard-fought game. The Illinois debacle came just two days after a down-to-the-wire home win over Maryland.
Then, on Sunday, IU played Purdue tough all the way to the end and lost a heartbreaker. They were then forced to go to Ohio State two days later to play the Buckeyes. That game was ugly from the tip and Indiana never stood a chance.
Indiana just played Michigan State Saturday night in a game that went all the way to the last heave. Now the Hoosiers will travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers, who also played a down-to-the-wire game with Purdue Saturday. That means this game will be loads of fun (hint the sarcasm).
Like I said earlier, the postseason is a stretch at this point. The NIT is the best bet for the Hoosiers, but they still have to rally down the stretch.
They do have the schedule to rack up some wins from here on in. Indiana’s remaining schedule has plenty of winnable games: at Rutgers, Minnesota, Illinois, at Iowa, at Nebraska, Ohio State.
For Archie Miller’s team that has struggled all season and has hit a huge speed bump these past couple weeks, the NIT would be a success. It would not only mean Indiana finished the season strong, but it would give a relatively young team some good postseason experience.
Once the seniors from this team leave, Juwan Morgan will be the only player that would have had any NCAA tournament experience, so any postseason experience will help this team for years to come.
Now Indiana will look forward to Rutgers. Miller knows his team needs to be ready to go tonight.
“Biggest deal is no excuses. It is what it is. We have to get off this floor, up, ready to go and find a way Monday night to play well,” Miller said.
Indiana has its problems, but they don’t have any excuses. Miller and company will look to fix their problems and their season tonight at Rutgers.