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COLUMN: Indiana basketball hits low point of season with Purdue loss

Romeo Langford guards Purdue’s Ryan Cline during Indiana’s loss at Purdue. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

The Indiana Hoosiers missed an opportunity to turn around their season’s momentum Saturday at Purdue where a trip to Mackey Arena resulted in a 70-55 loss and a fourth straight loss.

It’s official. The Hoosiers have hit their low point on the season. Their record now stands at 12-6 with a 3-4 record in Big Ten play.

Just a little over a week ago when Indiana entered its game against Maryland on a Friday night, there was a sense of normalcy. Their record was at 12-3 with three road losses of Arkansas, No. 3 Duke, and No. 2 Michigan. Not a bad resume in the slightest.

The Maryland game started great and ended up in a three-point loss. On Monday, the Hoosiers hosted Nebraska and dropped their first home game of the year to Nebraska by 15. Only to follow with another 15-point defeat to rival Purdue on the road.

The Big Ten this season is a gauntlet and those are four quality opponents that the Hoosiers lost to, but these losses could very well come back to haunt them later in the season.

The performance at Mackey Arena against the Boilermakers was an uphill battle. It was a culmination of all the issues that the Hoosiers have shown throughout the season. Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller acknowledged the team’s struggles.

“Right now, it’s a team that competes, it’s a team that’s struggling just a little bit we’re going through a hard time,” Miller said. “There’s nobody to blame, but you know, obviously ourselves.”

Inability to shoot from three, lackluster free throw shooting, and poorly run offense as a whole were all on full display against Purdue.

Purdue did come into the game hot, now winners of three straight. Beating Wisconsin on the road last Friday in overtime 84-80 and crushing Rutgers 89-54 earlier in the week.

Despite Purdue’s strong recent play, Purdue didn’t play overwhelmingly better than IU today. Yes, they were the better team, no question, but it wasn’t an unbelievable performance that led to a blowout. They shot 7-22 from three (31.8 percent), gave up a total of 20 team fouls, and more than anything their star junior guard, Carsen Edwards, didn’t go off.

Edwards had 20 points, five below his season average of 25 and it isn’t foreign territory for him to go for far more. He has had four 30-plus games this season, even reaching 40 against Texas.

Purdue wanted it more and they came out with an unmatched energy in both halves. It was obvious from the tip. IU, as usual, got off to a slow start and found themselves down 6-0 and 8-2 early in the first half.

Additionally, the offense was a mess, which did the Hoosiers no favors.

They haven’t been a good three-point shooting team all year and they showed it again going for four-of-20 from beyond the arc (20 percent). 14 turnovers, lack of efficient ball movement, and lack of offensive weapons added fuel to the fire.

The toughest part of the Hoosiers’ effort today came from the free throw line. It wasn’t as if the Hoosiers didn’t get enough attempts to the line to make it a ball game. They missed ample opportunities to get themselves back in it.

As a team, the Hoosiers shot seven-of-18 from the charity stripe. That’s a 38.9 percent mark. Indiana’s team captain and star forward, Juwan Morgan believes the struggle to be in the Hoosiers’ heads.

“You have to step up and knock them down,” Morgan said. “A lot of them were either long or short, we weren’t really putting them right where they need to be, and I just think it’s a mental thing.”

The game also reinforced the issue of the over-reliance upon Morgan. As great of a player as Morgan is, he can’t do it alone. The stud senior did have 14 points with six rebounds, and five assists, but in a game where he wasn’t at his absolute best, IU got burnt.

The difference Saturday was that his partner in crime, star freshman guard, Romeo Langford, struggled mightily. He shot two-of-10 from the field and didn’t hit any of his four free throw attempts to finish with four points, a season low to go with three rebounds, an assist, and a steal.

Langford didn’t get off to a good start when he got two fouls in about three minutes, which severely limited his time on the floor in the first half. Then in the second half, Langford seemed to have fallen victim to the tough environment.

“He (Langford) wasn’t at his best today, but he’ll be fine, he’s a bounce-back guy,” Miller said.

If Langford did play to normal standards, the Hoosiers would have reached that desired offensive output as one of IU’s only positives today was Justin Smith, who very much did show up. Smith was expected to be a potential third option on offense going into the season and he showed the ability to do so today.

Smith kept the Hoosiers in the game with having nine of their first 12 points to finish with a season high 15 points and six rebounds to go along with it.

“I think Justin stepped up tonight played a really good game for himself,” Miller said. “Hopefully, he can build on that and have some confidence.”

Once again, as a whole, the offensive options were lacking. Past the play of Smith and Morgan, the next two leading scorers were the guards of sophomore Al Durham and freshman Rob Phinisee, who both finished with eight points.

At this point, Indiana can do nothing more than move-on and try to regain new momentum. They will have a road trip to Northwestern on Tuesday and a home matchup vs. No. 2 ranked Michigan in less than a week.

This is the low-point of the Hoosiers’ season thus far and these next few games shall make or break it.

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