Thomas Bryant did all he could in the second half, but the Hoosiers’ offense was relegated to ball-pounding, ball-watching and little movement down the stretch.
The result is that the Hoosiers are now likely on the outside looking in in regards to the NCAA Tournament and are going to need a very strong finish down the stretch to resurrect their tournament hopes.
Thomas Bryant did all he could tonight
Often the man of much criticism, Bryant has stepped up in a big way since James Blackmon Jr. went down. Tonight, he scored 23 points and was the sole reason the Hoosiers were close down the stretch. While Caleb Swanigan had a big night on the other end, Bryant negated any contributions he had on the night.
Defense remains a huge issue for the Hoosiers
Vince Edwards lit up the Hoosiers from the outside and Carsen Edwards had some big shots. The Hoosiers did a good enough job down low against Isaac Haas and Swanigan, but the Hoosiers can’t remain competitive against good teams when the starting backcourt is allowed nearly 40 points each night.
IU is going to need Blackmon down the stretch
Blackmon returned tonight, but looked like a guy that had just missed multiple games as he finished 3-of-14 on the night. That being said, his presence is necessary for Indiana to have any hopes of making the tournament.
Bryant has stepped up and continued to play big even with Blackmon back. Newkirk had a decent night and appears to have found some magical shooting potion that has made him a reliable three-point shooter now. If Blackmon can return to the form he was in just prior to the injury, the Hoosiers could still pull it off.
However, the margin for error is razor, razor thin. Every home game is a must-win and the Hoosiers need to steal a couple road games as well.
P.S. Yes, the officiating was bad. Really bad. The double foul on Swanigan and Bryant is one of the more ridiculous calls I can remember. But it was not and never will be the reason IU loses.
P.P.S. Freddie McSwain saw a lot of minutes tonight and looked very good. He could be an important extra rotation piece going forward for Indiana.