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Indiana lets final opportunity slip away

Archie Miller yells orders to his players during their loss to Ohio State Thursday afternoon in Chicago. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Indiana’s last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 2016. That drought looks like it will continue after the Hoosiers’ early exit from the Big Ten tournament, this time in the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Indiana came into the day as the first team out of Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. Most other bracketologists had the Hoosiers in a similarly precarious position. Ohio State was among most people’s “Last Four In.” Almost everyone believed this game on Thursday afternoon was a play-in game for the NCAA tournament.

With their season and a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line, Ohio State looked like the better team. This was after Ohio State had lost three straight and six of their last eight games. It was also after Indiana had won four straight games and become a part of most people’s brackets, or at least close.

But a slow start bit the Hoosiers again. They went down 11-5 early and would eventually trail by seven at the break. With 7:30 to go in the second half, Ohio State was up by 20.

When asked why the energy wasn’t where it needed to be, Romeo Langford said, “I don’t have an answer for that.”

The Hoosiers looked like a whole new team in the final 7:30. The 20-point deficit started to slowly shrink as Devonte Green got hot from long range. Green continued to knock down threes from everywhere on the court, finishing with 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

“Once I hit a couple I felt hot, got in a rhythm,” Green said.

His rhythm wasn’t enough to bring IU back. Ohio State wins by four, and Indiana misses what might have been their final opportunity to get into the field of 68.

How come for the first 32:30, Indiana played without urgency but the last 7:30 they looked like a Big Ten contender? Why has consistent play within a 40-minute period been such a problem for Indiana this year.

“I have no idea,” De’Ron Davis said, “I have no idea.”

Everyone in the locker room seemed to be searching for answers, just like Davis. He said they had a great start to the day and people looked locked in. Everyone woke up ready to go, even with a 7:45 a.m. wake-up call.

“It was actually surprising because of how we handled everything this morning,” Davis said, “It was kind of disappointing to see how hard we worked, especially over the last few weeks, and to be at this point right now.”

So now what? It was a general consensus the loser of this game would be eliminated from NCAA tournament consideration. We won’t know for sure until the committee releases their bracket on Sunday, but the odds are heavily stacked against the Hoosiers.

But honestly, what’s next for this Indiana team? If it’s not the NCAA tournament, is it the NIT? Indiana tried that in 2017 and lost immediately on the road at Georgia Tech.

“If we’re in the NCAAs, then we’re right back to work. If we’re in the NIT, we’re right back to work,” Davis said, “If coach decides not to go to the NIT, we’ll still get back to work. The grind’s gunna be the same regardless.”

If not the NIT, is this the end for the 2018-19 Hoosiers? Was Thursday the last time Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford will wear the cream and crimson? Archie Miller wasn’t ready to give up hope of the NCAA tournament after their most recent loss.

“We’ll wait and see,” Miller said, “It’ll be difficult. We played a ridiculous schedule and obviously have beaten teams that have made the tournament. This team can win a game in the tournament… Are we capable? Yes. Did we do enough? I’m not sure. I believe if we are in the tournament, our guys are capable of winning a game.”

No matter where this team goes, if they go anywhere, the consensus from the locker room is that no one wants this season to be over.

“We’d be happy to keep playing as long as possible with our seniors,” Green said.

Indiana’s hope now lies in the hands of the selection committee. They’ll find out what’s next on Sunday, but it feels as though Indiana let their final opportunity to save this season slip away on Thursday in Chicago.

Austin Render

I am a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana majoring in Sports Media. Last year I worked with IUSTV Sports doing recap and feature packages for IU field hockey, women's basketball and baseball. I am one of the current WIUX Co-Sports Directors. I am a student broadcaster for WIUX as well as Big Ten Network Student U. You can reach me at austinrender99@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @austinrender.

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