It’s a true statement. No IU men’s basketball coach has ever had to assemble a team from scratch the way Crean has in the past two seasons.
But different faces on media guides aren’t the only new thing to hit campus.
The past two seasons have also offered new frontiers for losing in the Hoosier program, the most recent of which was offered by IU’s six-game conference losing streak.
Starting 3-3 in conference, IU is now 3-9 after its 83-55 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. The Hoosiers have been defeated by at least 17 points in each of their past three contests.
With the exception of a makeshift 2008-09 Crean team, no IU group has lost six consecutive Big Ten games since the 1944-45 season, when Harry Good was head coach.
“It’s hard,” sophomore guard Daniel Moore said. “It was hard on us last year, but that should be motivation to keep fighting and try to make things happen. It’s hard — especially as your first college basketball experience.”
Former IU coach Bob Knight took control of the program in the 1971-72 season and never lost more than five consecutive games in conference during his 29 years. The Mike Davis era was checkered with losing streaks that flirted with the current team’s degree of defeat.
But only Good and his 1944-45 IU team lost six consecutive conference games, something IU has now done in two consecutive seasons.
Moore and the second-year players on this year’s team gritted through worse. Last year, IU’s lone conference win against Iowa was sandwiched between eight-and nine-game losing streaks.
Sophomore guard Verdell Jones said this recent losing streak is worse because there was more effort present in his freshman campaign.
”I’m just disappointed in the lack of fight we’re showing,” Jones said. “Even last year when we were struggling, we showed fight every game.”
This string of losses almost didn’t happen for IU.
The young Hoosiers were at their most confident before a two-point loss to Illinois on Jan. 30 and a three-point faltering to Purdue on Feb. 4.
Crean said those games could have affected where the season has gone for a team that depends on its next win for confidence and validation.
“It’s all hindsight, but you get one of those wins against Illinois or Purdue, you’re in a whole different stratosphere as far as what you feel you can do,” Crean said. “As hard as you try to work through, it becomes the same old thing.”
Crean said he doesn’t like to talk hypothetically because he doesn’t want his players to think in that way when they still have games ahead of them.
He has taken precautions with the way he handles his team and has often talked about having a “hurt locker room.”
But he’s not the only one talking about the fragility of this team.
The mentality has seemed to worsen with each game, as losses become larger and IU is taken out of contests quicker. Players have said the team is lacking a sense of inner-fight, a sense of urgency in the opening moments.
Moore, a player who lost 25 games last season, said the team isn’t content with its current standing.
“We’re upset,” he said. “We’re getting sick of losing.”
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