IU was left in disbelief.
In a way, it represents how the No. 2 Hoosiers played Wednesday night in their 3-0 loss to No. 4 Kentucky.
Even when IU was playing at its best, it failed to produce the end product — it was almost outlandish that they weren’t able to score.
It was a match in which IU couldn’t get out on the front foot and take the first lead of the game. That game plan was wiped out in the third minute after Kentucky forward JJ Williams took advantage of an IU mistake in the back line and blasted a shot past IU sophomore goalkeeper Trey Muse.
The Hoosiers chased the game for the remainder of the 90 minutes, and failed to gain any significant momentum for a consistent period of time.
“It kind of took the air out of the group, which surprised me,” IU Head Coach Todd Yeagley said. “With some of the experience that we have, that it affected the group that much.”
Passing was off, the vision to look downfield was off, and the Hoosiers’ finishing was off. All are uncharacteristic for an experienced team with the capability to make a team pay in one chance.
IU didn’t have it tonight. That “it” factor was nowhere to be found. Kentucky made it hard for the Hoosiers to create space in the midfield, and IU’s wingers weren’t running rampant down the sidelines like they normally do.
In fact, Kentucky’s first goal came after senior defender Rece Buckmaster and sophomore forward Griffin Dorsey overlapped on the right side of the field. No one was covering behind them, and in result, the Wildcats created an opportunity that they converted.
The Hoosiers weren’t necessarily dominated Wednesday night. There were patches throughout the game where IU looked like the better team, and the Hoosiers were able to create chances out of them. One of the problems was not being able to convert on those chances. There were times where it looked like Dorsey was going to put a cross into the box, and someone on the other end was going to put the ball into the back of the net.
But it never came. That final pass, that final touch were the missing pieces to the goal-scoring equation. Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz put multiple good balls into the box off of free kicks and corners, but every result was the same. It was either cleared out by Kentucky, or it wasn’t put on frame by the Hoosiers.
Kentucky played a near-perfect game against IU, and the Hoosiers weren’t able to make the Wildcats pay for their mistakes. That was the difference between this game and the nine before that IU had won.
Even when the Hoosiers looked lackluster, they were able to score a goal to lift their spirits. The Hoosiers had the wind knocked out of them so early in the game, and they were never able to bounce back.
“[Kentucky] had a lot of guys behind the ball, it’s tough to break down,” Yeagley said. “They just took a little more urgency, a little more sharper thoughts, and some better passing. We weren’t very good with our connecting passes in the first half, too.”
It was an off night for the Hoosiers, but this team has shown that it can bounce back from a tough loss. There’s no better example than after their first defeat at Wake Forest. Indiana was able to beat North Carolina in front of the Tar Heel crowd just two days after that loss, and it will have another opportunity to do the same next Sunday.
Michigan awaits the Hoosiers this weekend, and another bounce-back opportunity will be present. The Hoosiers have to revert back to what makes them tick. Senior defender Andrew Gutman failed to get anything going against Kentucky, and the right side of the formation wasn’t at its best.
There’s still a lot of soccer left to be played this season, and the Hoosiers still have many Big Ten points left to claim.
Yeagley said it best — learn from your mistakes and move on to the next game.