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‘This team’s got a lot of grit’: The good, the bad and the ugly from Indiana’s loss to Syracuse

On the last night of November, the Hoosiers may have gone to bed feeling something all too familiar in recent years: dissatisfaction. 

It wasn’t that Indiana lost. Everyone loses. But rather the way it happened — 112-110 double overtime loss on the road against a struggling Syracuse team, where you come back from 18 in the second half and have so many chances to win just slip through your fingers. 

I’m going to dive into a few major takeaways from the loss but first of all, let's all just take a deep breath. It’s a long season. 

OK, now let’s do it. 

The Good: Fight

This is a game where Indiana would have rolled over and died in recent years once down 16 at half. However, something clicked in the locker room. The Hoosiers came out, played efficiently and, most importantly, hard with an angry chip on their shoulder. 

While the stat sheet may not say that Indiana deserved to win, their attitudes, body language and energy in the second half

Indiana fought hard in the second half in the Carrier Dome. (AP Photo/Aidan Kraus)

and overtimes would say otherwise. 

This team has been fighting since it got together," IU head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. "It's a great group of guys that like to compete.” 

This team has a great mental make up. They don’t back down and hide when things get tough. They attack things head-on and overcome their flaws and misfortunes with resilience and swagger. Whether it's Trayce Jackson-Davis screaming after a big dunk or Tamar Bates being vocal in the huddle, the energy and attitude shows a foundation, which previously has been absent. 

That’s the type of foundation that has to be rebuilt at Indiana. I mean, where has this swagger been? I’d argue it was always there, it just needed to be unleashed. 

“[Indiana] didn’t quit. This team’s got a lot of grit,” Woodson said.

Games like this build character. 

The Bad: Slow start

The Hoosiers looked confused, lost and lethargic the first 20 minutes. Players weren’t executing offensively like moving without the ball, cutting and playing with patience. Everything was just all out of sorts. 

This is the second game in a row where a slow start has haunted IU. Last Saturday against Marshall Indiana found itself down 12 with six minutes to go in the first half. Indiana, with Jackson-Davis’s help, was able to overcome the deficit against Marshall, but Tuesday on the road it was just too much to overcome. 

I think lack of energy is a big reason for the past two slow starts but this isn’t going to fly when it comes to Big Ten play. IU was simply lazy and unfocused. You have to play a full 40 minutes — or in tonight's case, 50. 

Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim seemed to be getting clean looks, which was a big no-no going in, and Indiana just lacked overall attention to detail in the first half. 

The Ugly: Turnovers

Phew, this has been Indiana’s biggest problem through the first seven games. That problem was on full display Tuesday evening.

You can’t win on the road in college basketball when you turn the ball over 26 times. It’s unheard of. For Indiana to even be in the game down the stretch with that number is impressive. 

The Hoosiers turned the ball over 27.7 percent of their possessions. And it wasn’t like the Orange didn’t capitalize on this — they scored 33 points off of Indiana’s turnovers. IU just didn’t take care of the ball. Sloppy passes, out-of-control drives and offensive fouls headlined the night. 

The big men TJD and Race Thompson combined for 13 of the 26 turnovers. 

Through seven games, Indiana has averaged nearly 17 turnovers a game. This has to change for the Hoosiers to be successful moving forward. 

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