Minnesota 77, Indiana 74: back to Earth.

The growing sense that since the Ohio State win, IU hasn't been doing much well other than shoot three pointers was put to the test last night, when IU shot only 22 percent from behind the arc. The outcome? IU's first home loss, and to a Minnesota team that was 0-4 in the Big Ten and had lost in its last two trips to Assembly Hall against 20-loss IU teams. As we discussed in the game thread last night, everyone knew that at some point, IU was going to have a bad loss. At Penn State was a worthy candidate. At Nebraska would be another? But really? Against an 0-4 team at home? As I have mentioned before, winning huge games on the road is a bit overblown. It should happen sometimes, but even a team that goes 31-3 or 30-4 probably gets those losses in its toughest road games. My main hope, after beating Kentucky and Ohio State, was that we would win out at home, which would make everything else gravy. Instead, the Hoosiers fell short in what should have been one of the most winnable games on the schedule.

As I said, the main difference between this game and the last few is that IU shot poorly from behind the arc: 4-18, and only 1-8 in the first half. Besides that, IU's offensive game was pretty good. The Hoosiers were 20-37 from two point range, 22-25 from the line, and had a 45 percent OR number. Unfortunately, the turnovers were back 16, for a percentage of 23.8, second-worst of the season, compared to only 11 for Minnesota, and the Gophers really didn't have to fight for much offensively. IU never led in the second half, and the late rally, which culminated in a heavily guarded three pointer for the tie at the end, wasn't enough. IU dabbled in a zone defense, which did slow the Gophers down a bit when it was used, but eventually just let to open perimeter shots.

Individual performances of note:

  • Cody Zeller struggled a bit from the field and on defense. He did, however, score 23 points on 7-14 from the field and 9-9 from the line.
  • Will Sheehey was back, which is good, except it means that after playing pretty well without him, we managed to lose with our full roster. He had the best individual performance of anyone--12 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes, 5-7 from the field. We wouldn't have been in the game at the end without his contributions.
  • It was a rough night for the upperclassmen. Bad Verdell was out it full force, shooting 0-6 from the field and with 3 turnovers. Christian Watford was 1-7 from the field with only 3 rebounds, and he had four turnovers. Jordan Hulls was 4-9 from the field, but only 1-4 from deep.
I don't want to overstate the significance of this game, because we can improve on many of the problems we have seen over the last few weeks, and even if that doesn't happen, the three point shooting alone will win us some games. But this game, along with the home games against Penn State and Northwestern, seemed like one of IU's most winnable games, and it was a loss. Instead of standing at 4-1 in the Big Ten, IU is now 3-2 with a nearly certain drop to .500 upcoming after Sunday's game at Ohio State. That makes it essential that IU go 2-0 next week, with a road trip to Nebraska and as home game against Penn State. As was mentioned in the game thread last week, IU is playing with house money. All the talk about contending for the Big Ten title, or breathlessly reading the "bracketology" features showing IU as a 2 or 3 seed, seem a bit silly after a home loss to Minnesota. IU still needs to win some more games just to make the Tournament, and let's hope for some solid improvement, win or lose, over the next three games.
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