Welp. These Hoosiers giveth, and these Hoosiers taketh away.
Just two day after beating #18 Notre Dame in front of a heavy IU contingent at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, Indiana dropped a game to the Fort Wayne Mastodons by 20 points.
20 points. Stare at it. Let it sink in—because quite frankly this game didn’t even feel that close.
People will talk a lot about last season, and I can already sense the takes coming about how Jon Coffman and these Mastodons “have the Hoosiers’ number” or something like that. Two losses in three years to an opponent you have no business losing against will yield those types of opinions, so go ahead and set your Google alert for them.
Personally, however, I just really don’t care about any of that tonight.
Make no mistake—Fort Wayne deserves plenty of credit for this win. Sure, they had some turnovers and didn’t play a perfect game—but they came in and played with energy, fire… and… well, quite frankly like they wanted to be there. You don’t go on the road and hang a two-dime loss on a B1G team by playing with a shrug.
But Indiana can’t blame youth, inexperience or a “new system” on the end result. Nor can they blame an “out of this world” performance from the Mastodons. The Hoosiers have proved this season that they have the ability to overcome those shortcomings to put together—at minimum—competitive performances against just about anyone.
They lost this game because they didn’t seem the least bit engaged or focused from the moment this one began.
Gone was the team that took Duke to the last four minutes. Missing teamed to be the squad refused to quit against the Fighting Irish.
Tonight… tonight was just plain bad.
Ugh. Here’s some stuff.
1. Ah yes, we’re turning the ball over again. Though turnovers have plagued Indiana all season, the Hoosiers looked like they were getting things back on track. They had worked their way down to an 18.6% turnover rate coming into this one.
But tonight just looked like all that progress had been erased, as Indiana finished with 18 turnovers.. They dribbled the ball off their foot, traveled, and at one point in the first half, De’Ron Davis threw the ball to Robert Johnson for an outlet pass—which would have been great, if Rojo weren’t looking somewhere else entirely. Ageless Hoosier-Slayer Bryson Scott (because of course it was Bryson Scott) grabbed the ball and got it in for a layup… and you could feel, even at that moment… this was gonna be the letdown game so many feared it would be.
2. Not enough going down low. You’d think that the Hoosiers, who were playing a team with just one freshman at 6’11” and no one else taller than 6’8” would have been able to generate offense down low. But tonight was too tall an order for Juwan Morgan to get it done on his own (he would, however, finish with a double-double), and though Davis stayed out of foul trouble… he was only able to chip in 7 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
3. Indiana can’t play with the pace. Kyle talked in the preview about how Fort Wayne’s tempo was one of the fastest in the country, and how important it would be for Indiana to slow them down and control the pace tonight.
That didn’t happen. Fort Wayne forced the Hoosiers to play their up-tempo brand of basketball, and on a night when the Hoosiers clearly weren’t mentally in the game… that spelled trouble. Fort Wayne hurled long-range shot after long-range shot, and ended the game with a season-high 56% from behind the arc (of note, they made more three-pointers tonight than they did two’s). They forced steals (13 on the night) and got out in transition, and it was clear the Hoosiers were just way out of their comfort zone all night.
It’ll be easy to jump to conclusions, to nitpick this game and come up with grand-unifying theories about where the Hoosiers weaknesses are, and I’d caution against those water cooler discussions after this one.
This game isn’t indicative of what the Hoosiers are capable of; we saw that on Saturday at Banker’s Life. But losses like this, and Indiana State at the beginning of the year, are indicative of what can happen when this team loses focus.
As I said, oddly enough, after the Duke game—disappointing though it was for different reasons entirely—there were bound to be more nights like tonight, just like there will surely be more games like Notre Dame still ahead.
But man, it still really sucks right now.