The Indiana Hoosiers suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season last night. They lost to Penn State after holding a double digit lead with three minutes left to play.
The 66-65 loss all but buried the Hoosiers chances at a NCAA Tournament bid. At this point, they just have far too many bad losses to be taken seriously.
The Hoosiers coughed up the ball 20 times to a bad Penn State team and the Nittany Lions went on a 13-1 run to close out the game. IU’s inability to get the ball inbounds or break a full court press was particularly awful. IU scored just two points over that final three minutes.
The Hoosiers had two 10-second violations over the course of the game. They also had a five-second inbounding violation followed up by three straight steals on inbounding plays. Make one of those passes, and Penn State is forced to foul and IU likely wins. The rate at which IU fell apart last night was staggering.
Games like this are why fans dislike Tom Crean. He struggles with the X’s and O’s of basic coaching. He is good at developing talent, but that seems to be about it. Last night went a long way towards determining Crean’s future in Bloomington.
While this is an admittedly young team, these players show an alarming lack of adaptability. They know what plan A is on a given play, but when its shut down they have no idea what to do. Its like they have forgotten what plan B or C is (if there even are backup plans). There is a decent amount of talent on this team, but they are way too easy to rattle.
It was clear by the end of the game that the Hoosiers were in panic mode. The defense was scrambling and execution on offense became nonexistent. Its times like that when Will Sheehey and Eric Gordon, the upperclassmen, need to be a stabilizing influence but both of them had turnovers late in the game. Even Crean was disappointed with the lack of leadership, although Sheehey hasn’t shown it all season and I’m not sure why he would start now.
Its the fourth time this season that IU has let a significant lead slip away in the second half, but just the first time its happened at home. IU had its chances at Michigan State, at Minnesota, and at Nebraska and failed to hold on. If the Hoosiers had won just two of those games, we would be talking about what seed IU would be in the Tourney.
IU has a chance to salvage some love from the fans this weekend with a trip to Purdue. Beating up a mediocre Boilermaker team would help soothe the pain of last nights loss.
The Hoosiers also HAVE to come away with a win in West Lafayette. For all intents and purposes, their tournament hopes are dead but if (a big if) IU can beat Purdue and knock off a couple of the four ranked opponents they have left, their is still a chance.
Purdue’s season has mirrored IU’s in a number of ways. Both are defensive minded and struggle on offense. The difference is that Purdue hasn’t pulled off any big wins like the Hoosiers have (No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 10 Michigan).
Both teams have back loaded schedules featuring four ranked opponents down the stretch. The winner of Saturday’s match-up will likely be whichever team plays more desperate. The Boilers will likely want revenge for the savage beatings suffered last season (and maybe for the Old Oaken Bucket game).
Its always a fun to watch Yogi Ferrell and Ronnie Johnson go up against each other. The two point guards played high school ball just five minutes apart and generally put on a good show. Watching AJ Hammons and Noah Vonleh go toe-to-toe will also be interesting. Vonleh gives up a lot of height to Hammons, but he is clearly a better player.
How the Hoosiers attack Hammons will be interesting. He is a talented shot blocker and IU doesn’t have anyone who can take him one-on-one defensively. I’d expect the Hoosiers to spend a lot of time in zone for this reason and play ball denial on the low block with Hammons.
I’d like to pick IU to win this game, since its my alma mater and I nothing Purdue, but my faith in the Hoosiers on the road doesn’t exist. This game is a toss up, and IU doesn’t have much time to prepare.
Purdue likely delivers a death blow to the Hoosiers season. Hopefully the team won’t quit on Crean after a close loss to the in-state rival.