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‘We’ve got to try to be better than we’ve been’: Indiana basketball faces uphill battle at Michigan State

The Hoosiers get ready to play during a 2018 home game. (Mark Timko/HN)

There may not be a team in America who is more excited to see the calendar switch from January to February.

The Hoosiers, who are currently riding a seven-game losing streak, have experimented with how deep rock bottom can get. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it did. The 15-point home loss to Nebraska wasn’t ideal. The blown leads at Rutgers, Northwestern and Maryland sting. The 17-0 and 22-0 runs given up vs. Michigan and Rutgers were hard to watch. And now the Hoosiers find themselves in a spot they didn’t think they would, or could, ever be in.

Yet, with the first half of the Big Ten season now complete, IU coach Archie Miller knows there is still a lot of basketball left to be played. And for Indiana, at least this weekend, it’s only going to get harder with a trip to No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday.

“We’re trying to correct some things, but at the same time trying to reestablish that, number one, there’s a lot of season left, and number two, we’ve got to get better in a couple areas that we can control pretty quick,” Miller said. “Heading to Michigan State, it’s going to be an amazing environment, and it’s the one you want to be in, and for us we’ve got to try like crazy to be better in certain areas.”

Throughout seasons, teams will go through peaks and valleys. Obviously, the Hoosiers know the past seven games have been a sizeable valley. But on Friday, prior to Indiana’s trip to East Lansing, Miller identified three areas where the Hoosiers need to be able to hone in on.

Those areas are, one, on the defensive end and getting back to where they were earlier in the season, second, on the offensive end and getting back to being a potent offense and, third, having poise. All three of those areas will be tested Saturday in the Breslin Center where the Spartans lead the Big Ten in rebounding, points per game and blocks.

“You’ve just got to hang your hat on the little things,” Miller said. “There’s got to be certain things that you’re taking great pride in right now, and I think, like you said, just really narrowing the focus. It’s not a lot of things, it’s a couple things, and we’ve got to do those things well.”

Some of the issues have been out of the hands of Miller, such as injuries and suspensions. Miller mentioned that IU guard Devonte Green will return after having missed the past three games due to a suspension. However, IU center De’Ron Davis and forward Zach McRoberts will continue to miss time due to nagging injuries.

The depth has been another focal point to Indiana’s struggles. The Hoosiers went nearly the first seven minutes on Wednesday at Rutgers without making a sub. The depth, or lack thereof, is apparent. Still, IU forward Juwan Morgan said he doesn’t want to make excuses when it comes to lack of depth and stamina playing a factor.

“Everybody is playing the same amount of games,” Morgan said. “All the best players are playing the same amount of minutes. You just really have to have that will and want-to to just step up and say, regardless of how tired I am, I just have to get this stop.”

Seven game losing streaks don’t come around often, especially at Indiana. And for Morgan, he said he didn’t know how to go about it as a leader. Because of that, he said he reached out to former Hoosiers such as Rob Johnson, Yogi Ferrell and Max Bielfeldt for advice.

While Saturday is no doubt going to be an uphill battle for the Hoosiers, focusing on the little things in the second half of the Big Ten season will be important to trying to salvage a once-promising season.

“We look at this back 10 as sort of a restart in terms of where we’re at,” Miller said. “It’s a short season, a 10-game season, and it starts one game at a time, and Michigan State is up next, and we’ve got to be good. We’ve got to try to be better than we’ve been.”

I am a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in Media. I am formerly of the Indiana Daily Student where I covered Indiana men’s soccer team and women’s basketball. You still can find me broadcasting for WIUX Student Radio and on BTN Student U outside of The Hoosier Network. Former intern at 710 ESPN Seattle and broadcaster for the Falmouth Commodores. Email: Follow me on Twitter: @JoshEastern.

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