WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — And so it continues. After losing the last three straight, two of which came in the hostile road environments of Ann Arbor and College Park, the Hoosiers’ struggles continued Saturday in West Lafayette.
The combination of inconsistent contributions, a failure to capitalize at the free throw line, and a grand inability to hit from distance made for a perfect storm, as a packed Mackey Arena cheered their Boilers to a fourth straight win over rival Indiana, 70-55.
Is a slow start a normal start?
With its fourth straight loss dating back to January 6 now in hand, slow starts continue to become the theme for Indiana. Though Rob Phinisee announced his return to an extent this afternoon (two-of-eight on shooting, three rebounds, three-for-three from the line), the freshman from Lafayette missed good looks from behind the arc early on, and the struggles only continued from there. The Hoosiers began the day zero-for-four from deep, as Justin Smith’s lone jumper two minutes in was all IU could muster within the first five minutes.
“Right now it’s a team that competes, a team that’s struggling a little bit, going through a hard time.”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 19, 2019
“It’s just about really sustaining that energy the whole time,” Juwan Morgan said. “As long as you’re in there, you’ve got to go one hundred percent.”
Romeo Langford quickly committing two fouls, and therefore being taken out of the game, only added to what turned into yet another disjointed and lackluster start — one the Hoosiers simply couldn’t afford on the road inside Mackey Arena. All in all, Indiana’s lack of execution out of the gate almost instantaneously gave Purdue the upper hand. From there, the Hoosiers were forced battle not only the team on the opposite end of the floor but also a hostile crowd; it was a battle Archie Miller’s squad swiftly lost.
O Romeo, where art thou?
Following today’s flat performance, the freshman is now just 20-of-49 from the field in IU’s last four. Though the two fouls committed early would be his only two of the afternoon, the manner in which they came was more significant; as Romeo’s rhythm went awry, so did the team’s. In fact, the rhythm wasn’t there to be found in the first place. As a result, the “overrated” chant would be heard from the Boiler faithful on more than a couple occasions Saturday afternoon.
“They loaded the box up pretty good on us and that took him out of his rhythm right away,” Archie Miller said. “He’ll be fine, he’s a bounce-back guy.”
“He’ll be fine, he’s a bounce-back guy.”— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 19, 2019
Romeo Langford finished the afternoon with just four points on 2-of-10 shooting and was 0-for-4 from the FT line. Langford had previously scored double figures in every game this season. pic.twitter.com/yiA611fAl0
Nobody can do it alone
Up to now in Indiana’s 2018-19 campaign, the expectation has largely been for Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford to lead the way, in hope of contributions from the rest of the crowd. On a day where both Langford and Morgan at least started slow (Morgan: 6-of-10, six rebounds, 14 points), those additional contributions were simply insufficient. One major positive after today? Justin Smith continues to re-assert himself as a capable role player who won’t hesitate to make the physical play.
“When the open shot was there, I shot it confidently and took it,” Smith said. “I got going early, which really got my confidence up and really got me going for the rest of the game.
With each loss Indiana faces this season, it becomes more and more apparent that this is a team left with no choice but to play gritty, requiring help from not just one or two, but all five on the floor. Either way, it needs to get turned around fast; Indiana next heads to northern Chicago for a Tuesday night showdown with Northwestern.