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From left: Malik Reneau, Mackenzie Mgbako, Trey Galloway and Gabe Cupps stand together during Indiana's win over Ohio State on Feb. 6, 2024. (HN photo/Ryan Lo)
From left: Malik Reneau, Mackenzie Mgbako, Trey Galloway and Gabe Cupps stand together during Indiana's win over Ohio State on Feb. 6, 2024. (HN photo/Ryan Lo)

'It's just hard to overcome': Indiana's 3-point struggles continue as Hoosiers search for confidence

With four games left after Saturday's loss to Penn State, Indiana is trying to salvage its season

With 1:35 left in Saturday’s game against Penn State, Trey Galloway dished it out to Mackenzie Mgbako in the corner, who sank Indiana’s first 3-pointer of the game. 

The Hoosiers went 2-for-15 from beyond the arc in their 83-74 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions in State College on Saturday afternoon, giving Penn State its first season sweep over the Hoosiers since the 2008-09 season. 

“We’re getting a lot of good looks,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “I just think it’s from a mental standpoint, and I got to get them where they’re comfortable and just making them because they haven’t made them this season.”

The 13% performance from 3 brings Indiana to 134-for-426 (31.5%) from the arc this season. 

Mackenzie Mgbako runs up the floor during Indiana's loss to Purdue on Feb. 10, 2024. (HN photo/Nicholas McCarry)

Penn State, on the other hand, lit the way shooting 9-for-21 (42.8%) from 3 — draining five alone in the first half — giving way to Indiana’s plentiful issues in getting defensive stops, defending the perimeter, and getting anything going on the offensive end this season. 

One of Indiana’s most successful performers from 3 is Mgbako, who hadn’t seen as much action against the Nittany Lions. 

The freshman only played five minutes in the first half, and shot 0-for-1 throughout the entire half. Woodson had elected to send Mgbako to the bench after he had collected his second foul with just under 15 minutes left on play in the first half. 

“I elected to go elsewhere with CJ [Gunn] and I thought CJ could come in and give us a lift,” Woodson said. “We just didn’t make plays coming down the home stretch in that first half to keep us right there. But that wasn’t the difference. I thought we battled. When I look at the stat sheet and look at the free throws and the missed opportunities to make 3s, I thought that was the difference.”

Along with 3-point shooting, shots were not falling from the free-throw line for Indiana in the Bryce Jordan Center, most apparently in the second half, which was yet another consistent weakness for the Hoosiers being brought into the light. 

So why exactly is it that the Hoosiers can’t seem to correct these mistakes? To Indiana sophomore Malik Reneau, confidence is a major factor. 

“We definitely can help each other build confidence up, but it’s definitely individual confidence too,” Reneau said postgame. “The team can definitely help out, building courage and building confidence for the player to know that, if it’s me, and I tell [Trey Galloway], ‘Gallo, I trust in you, make the shot,’ you know what I mean. Little comments like that like, ‘Come on Gallo, you can make this shot,’ and little confidence boosters for them to make shots, I really think that’s effective.” 

Confidence has not as much of an issue in the paint, however, for the Hoosiers. 

Indiana has been a team this season that heavily relies on its paint presence, which was very much put on display as the Hoosiers could not get anything going from 3 until the final minute and a half of the game. 

Forty-three of Indiana’s 74 total points came from the frontcourt duo, Reneau and Kel’el Ware, who shot a combined 16-for-25. But the dominance was ultimately not enough for the Hoosiers to get their first win in State College since Dec. 4, 2018. 

Indiana's Malik Reneau & Trey Galloway box out Illinois' Coleman Hawkins during 70-62 defeat (HN photo/Nick McCarry)

Now looking ahead, Indiana is sitting at 14-13 on the season, and 6-10 in the conference with just four games left to go — a season the Hoosiers clearly would not have hoped for, and one with a conclusion that is beginning to become abundantly clear. 

“I’m upset with the way we played, the way I’ve coached this team this whole season,” Woodson said. “We’ve lost more games at home than we’ve lost in the last two years and that’s just not good. I’ve always felt I could take any team and go win with it. We’ve had our struggles this year, but we’ve got to try to finish this season out on a high note.” 

It’s also abundantly clear that Indiana has the talent that it needs to succeed, but as Galloway had said following their 85-71 home loss to Penn State on Feb. 3, they haven’t been connected as one on the court just yet, now 27 games in. 

Now having found itself on a four-game losing streak, the hole for the Hoosiers seems to have become more and more difficult to overcome. 

“It’s very difficult as a team, knowing that we’ve got the talent and the players to do it and make the tournament,” Reneau said. “Stuff doesn’t go right, we let games slip by, and it’s just hard to overcome when you let some of the games slip by and the season slowly and slowly it just passes by you, and by then you realize that you’ve got four games left. It’s just hard to fight back from that.”

Fighting back is what Indiana will look to do in its final four-game stretch until the Big Ten tournament. 

The journey will begin when the Wisconsin Badgers come down to Bloomington on Tuesday as yet another team looking for a season sweep over the Hoosiers.

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