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COLUMN: Indiana’s new found confidence saves season

BLOOMINGTON, IN – DECEMBER 08, 2018 – mbb during the game against the Louisville Cardinals and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. (IU Athletics)

During Indiana’s seven game losing streak, everything seemed inevitable.

It was always the same old story after each game. The Hoosiers couldn’t buy a shot, they looked fatigued at nearly every opportunity, and at some point during every single game Indiana folded.

The Hoosiers coddled their flaws and simply folded in front of their competition. Whether it be a 22-0 run against Rutgers or a 17-0 run to open the game against Michigan, there was always a remarkably clear moment in each game where one could pinpoint a team that had looked defeated.

Against Michigan State, that feeling of inevitable dread subsided for the 45 most important moments of Indiana’s season. At every moment during the game in which Indiana could have easily fallen to the backdrop, Indiana defied its tendency and fought back.

A change as drastic as that one against the sixth best team in the nation in one of the most hostile environments in the country is barely a result of schematic differences.

Indiana’s efforts against the Spartans went to truly show the importance of the mental side of basketball.

“We have to have more poise,” head coach Archie Miller said prior to traveling to Michigan State. “We have shown the ability to sort of play well at times and then all of a sudden it goes away very fast, and we can’t stop the flood, so to speak. And that comes down to poise and patience and don’t panic on either end of the floor. Just stick with it, stay with it, and be a little smarter.”

Saturday’s performance by Indiana was the first time the Hoosiers looked poised since taking on Marquette on November 14.

It was a level of poise that could potentially have saved Indiana’s season from the mediocrity of a NIT berth.

From the very onset, everything seemed different for an Indiana team that appeared confident rather than scared of the moment.

But where did that newly found come from?

It could have been the return of junior guard Devonte Green to the lineup.

Or, it could have been the return of junior forward De’Ron Davis.

Or, it could have realistically been the words of wisdom of a famous IU alum.

After seven straight losses, Indiana captain Juwan Morgan reached out to former Hoosiers Rob Johnson, Yogi Ferrell, and Max Bielfeldt. What he looked for was guidance in a situation such as this one.

“They were just saying things like, you just have to bring everybody together,” Morgan said. “All these guys come from winning high school programs, AAU teams, they’re used to being the man, they’re used to always winning, and when they did lose, it was rarely by anything more than like five points. So just really getting them to accept that.”

Nobody can truly pinpoint what it was that brought the Hoosiers confidence, but what mattered was the clear results.

Davis had his best game of the season with 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists.

Green had his best game of the season with 11 points, five rebounds, and five assists.

Sophomore guard Al Durham had his best game of the season with 14 points.

Sophomore forward Justin Smith had the best game of his career by compiling a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

And even freshman forward Jake Forrester had the best game of his career with two points and four rebounds in eight minutes of play.

The most mesmerizing of it all fell on the shoulders of graduate transfer Evan Fitzner who hit his first three in 2019.

The Hoosiers through it all, defied their greatest flaws by shooting 10-of-20 from 3-point range and out-rebounding their opponent 48-to-40.

These events are not mutually exclusive. Individually, each occurrence could be explained by some sort of adjustment or just a “good feeling.”

When these events all occur at the same time, that explanation become futile. The concurrent success of Indiana’s players comes entirely as a result of unified level of confidence.

A level of confidence that could have easily subsided after the team’s leader left the game with an injury in the first half. Morgan’s injury provided IU with a perfect excuse for failure that IU didn’t run into, rather it ran away from.

“We wanted to do it for him,” Durham said. “He just kept us going, kept leading us, kept talking to us. His presence was there, it just wasn’t on the court.”

Now it’s Miller’s job to capture that confidence that fueled the Hoosiers win over Michigan State.

Indiana can make the tournament as long they understand the importance of the mental side of it all. The Hoosiers can’t show up Thursday against Iowa with the same fear that has renounced them before.

This win can be a spring board, or a blip.

Eddie Cotton

I am a senior from Long Island, New York. I’m currently studying Marketing in the Kelley School of Business along with Journalism in The Media School at Indiana University. I want to tell stories and help others tell their own. I want to provide a unique perspective. Most importantly, I want to entertain. The Hoosier Network is the ideal place to do that. Follow me on twitter @EdwardKoton15 Email me at ekoton@umail.iu.edu. Please, pretty please, venmo me at @EdwardKoton

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