The 73-69 final score in favor of Michigan appears friendly and respectable for IU, considering the team’s effort for 35 minutes.
It might be easy to look back on the game, see the 23-4 run IU went on at the end and find redeemable qualities.
Yes, they were there. But not enough to redeem the way IU played for most of the game.
IU coach Tom Crean said as much afterwards — that his team lacked “combativeness,” which seems like a good word to describe what the Hoosiers were missing.
In the game’s first 25 minutes, the team committed 12 turnovers.
And that sort of effort — that stroll-in-the-park, takin’-it-easy, Saturday-afternoon for the Hoosiers — started the first minute of the game.
Michigan freshman Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 3-pointer in the first minute, and the Wolverines jumped to a 9-2 lead.
There were lazy passes and poor defensive one-on-one matchups. In the second half, Michigan thrived from the 3-point line, partly because the IU players left them wide open.
Crean used one example of freshman guard Victor Oladipo to illustrate that point.
After a timeout, Michigan ran a play for Hardaway and ran it right at Oladipo. Of course, Hardaway scored.
“I said to Victor that ‘They just run a play that they don’t run, and they just ran it at you, and they got it,’” Crean said. “That’s an embarrassment. It really is.”
Such was the life for IU most of the day Saturday.
If this game was an anomaly, it might be easy to write off. And really, it is an anomaly compared to the team’s recent improved play and noticeable improvement from individual players.
“Everybody is getting better,” Crean said, “but it’s that combativeness, and until we get it all the time — whatever it is — it’s got to be all the time. It’s disappointing.”
But the scary part for IU is that it brought back memories — bad memories — of earlier in the season. Games like the ones at Northwestern and Iowa.
The effort was left in Bloomington with a few parts maybe still in West Lafayette.
And maybe some of it showed up at the end. Players like junior guard Daniel Moore energized IU’s play.
When the Hoosiers switched to a full-court press, things began to click.
Michigan, meanwhile, shot 7-for-18 from the free throw line in the last five minutes, and suddenly, IU was back in the game.
Moore said he couldn’t explain why the first 35 minutes didn’t resemble the final five.
“I wish I did know,” Moore said. “We needed to have the fight that we had in the last five minutes for the whole 40 minutes. It was just a tough, disappointing effort.”
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