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Indiana crumbles late in the next chapter of the same story

Purdue outscored the Hoosiers 12-7 over the last 3 minutes of the contest.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

problem (noun)

1. a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome

Indiana has a problem.

When the final TV timeout was taken last night, Indiana and Purdue were deadlocked in what felt like a heavyweight fight. Both clubs could have made an argument that they’d played well through the first 36 minutes. Both clubs could have staked claim to being deserving of the win. Then the last 3:45 happened.

It started with an offensive rebound and putback. And then another offensive rebound and putback, perhaps the worst play of James Blackmon’s dreadful second half, wherein he scored just four points, one in the final 15:55.

There were two missed free throws, one on the front end of a one-and-one and one that would have cut the Purdue lead to two. There were two turnovers.

All of it resulted in a 69-64 victory for the visitors, and a fall to a tie for ninth in the Big Ten standings for the home team.

habit (noun)

1. a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up

Indiana has a habit.

At the final TV timeout in Fort Wayne, the Hoosiers had a 62-60 lead over the lowly Mastadons. They’d score just two points over the final 3:10 and be forced into overtime, where they only tallied three more and would lose 71-68.

After trailing to Nebraska for the entire game, a Josh Newkirk layup just before the under-8 timeout in the 2nd half knotted the Hoosiers and Huskers at 68. With 4:15 left, Indiana led 73-70. From that point forward, they were outscored 17-10, another disaster sparked by giving up offensive rebounds (plural) and putbacks (plural).

In the very next outing, after climbing back from a 16-2 deficit, Indiana was tied again at the under-8 timeout, this time with Wisconsin. The Hoosiers were outscored 19-12 the rest of the way, giving up 10 points in four possessions immediately following the media timeout, on three layups (one of the and-one variety) and a three. Indiana’s offensive possessions were littered with turnovers and missed shots.

The next week, Indiana and Maryland were tied at 63 at, yup, the under-8 timeout. The Hoosiers actually took the lead and were up two at the under-4. But the final 3:28 went in Maryland’s favor, 9-4, as Indiana went 1-for-4 from the field with one turnover to close the contest.

Of Indiana’s 10 losses, the Hoosiers have been within five points with less than eight minutes remaining in seven games. Two of the other three were played without James Blackmon.

winning (adjective)

1. gaining, resulting in, or relating to victory in a contest or competition

time (noun)

4. an instance of something happening or being done; an occasion

Indiana can’t get it done in winning time.

Perhaps last night wasn’t the same as the other late-game failures. De’Ron Davis left the game with a face or head injury in the middle of the second half and couldn’t return, leaving Thomas Bryant gassed. Colin Hartman and OG Anunoby can’t play. Juwan Morgan fouled out. Then Bryant fouled out. Simply, Indiana ran out of bodies.

But the other contests? It seems to be a group of kids that don’t have it in them.

Some would blame Tom Crean, here. While I will not refute that some of the blame lies on him, bad coaching gets you blown out. Bad execution loses close games. And, while there are certainly things to complain and wonder about with Crean, late-game play is not something I’d ever take issue with him over. Michigan State and Michigan in 2012-2013. Kentucky in 2011-2012 and last year’s NCAA Tournament. There are plenty of examples of his team’s getting it done in winning time.

But not this team. Not this team that seems to be leaderless. They have a scorer. They have a sometimes-unstoppable big man. But they don’t have a leader. There’s no Yogi, no Coverdale. There’s not even a one-two leadership punch, like Lewis and Guyton. This team seems to have a Bracey Wright and Marco Killingsworth. An Eric Gordon and DJ White.

Not since Verdell Jones and Tom Pritchard were freshmen has there been such a team in Bloomington whose fate seemed predetermined in close games, like there was no reason to play or watch the final five minutes or so.

There are several flaws with this team, and they have caught several bad breaks injury-wise. But talent isn’t lacking and effort is easy to give. The lack of execution in the late stages of ballgames has resulted from poor shots, turnovers, and a lack of awareness on the defensive glass.

leader (noun)

1. the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country

Indiana needs a leader.

When will one show up?