I wish I was a good enough writer to put into words how I'm feeling after this game against Nebraska. Unfortunately the level of conflict felt isn't something I think even Lord Byron would be capable of turning into written word. It's not even that the Hoosiers lost last night. That was to be expected. In fact, the computer models pretty well nailed it. Never underestimate the power of math in that sense. But no, it wasn't that Indiana lost on the road by 5 to a decent team. It's how they did it.
At one point the Hoosiers were up by 16 points in the first half and even at that point it didn't feel like enough. We found very quickly that it wasn't enough. Terran Petteway was absolutely filthy down the stretch. Hitting step back jumpers and getting to the rim. I had no idea going into this game how quick he was east to west. It was shocking how quick he was to excel. Turning defenders into traffic cones as he took advantage of any little gap. Despite the defensive lapses against Petteway, the Hoosiers actually did a pretty solid job on the defensive end.
People and fans are going to rant and rave about the zone once again, but it proved to be effective in the numbers. The defense wasn't the problem. Every issue with this team stems completely on the offensive side of the ball. Yogi Ferrell was his normal self. 14 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 turnover for an ORtg of 142. Will Sheehey was equally good at a 126 ORtg and everyone else either didn't get enough touches to warrant mentioning or played poorly. This offense just is not good. It leans completely on Yogi Ferrell to do anything and everything.
A lot of fans down the stretch were freaking out about playing time. 11 guys played 5 minutes or more and while that probably feels excessive, the lower tier players didn't really hurt all that much. They didn't help much either, but their play was far from the reason that the Hoosiers sucked in the second half. To combine them all the 5 guys that played 10 minutes or less combined for 21 minutes, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 turnovers. Translation; pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The problem came from the guys that got a majority of minutes.
Austin Etherington, who has come on very strong, might as well been in the group I just listed. 11 minutes of decent defense and zero offensive contribution. Evan Gordon, 14 minutes, 59 ORtg. Noah Vonleh, 27 minutes, 61 ORtg. Three guys that Indiana has come to rely on were no shows. Vonleh especially wasn't finding positioning in the lane and turned the ball over a whopping 5 times. For as much flak as Hanner Perea's slow progression has received, at least he can consistently establish a presence deep in the paint. Per minutes played I would bet my mortgage that Hanner gets more touches in the paint than Noah Vonleh does. And that has very little to do with the perimeter players or the plays called.
This Indiana squad just has to figure out some sort of offense. Any sort of even basic set that can get buckets more often than just quick spurts. The Hoosiers once again went on a massive six minute scoring drought last night and that mostly has to do with the lack of any sort of off the ball movement. Our standard offensive set has become Yogi stands up top and points for 10 seconds, while Crean is on the sideline screaming and the other 4 guys on the court stand and watch while occasionally setting a ball screen.
In the college game it just isn't possible for an offense to score in bunches and consistently with a ball focal offense. The off the ball stuff has to start happening and much sooner in the shot clock. I don't know if that means Crean drastically condenses his infamous 300+ play book so that these guys can learn just a few sets really well or if the players are shirking their own learning responsibilities, but what we're doing is completely unsustainable.
Going forward, Indiana is going to have to try and reload and take a run at the very hot handed Michigan Wolverines on Sunday. Pomeroy has Indiana as 5 point dogs. Perhaps it is just time to accept that this team is average and no magical switch is going to flip. We see it in certain young players from game to game, but rarely does it remain consistent. It just isn't going to happen this year. Indiana's likely NIT bound with 7-8 conference wins. At this point the tournament is a pipe dream outside of some magical Big Ten Tournament run.