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COLUMN: Guard play and the final minute were catastrophes for IU against Louisville



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Senior guard Josh Newkirk passes the ball during the Hoosiers' game against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The Hoosiers fell to the Cardinals, 71-62. Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With just under a minute left in Saturday's game, IU had a victory over Louisville within reaching distance. Down three points with 58 seconds left, it was doable. 

Then, suddenly, it was gone.

Sophomore forward De’Ron Davis stepped up to the free throw line with his team down four points in a road game against a tough Cardinal unit. He drained one of two shots from the charity stripe, and a comeback win looked to be on the cards for the Hoosiers.

Senior guard Josh Newkirk, who had been playing relatively well the entire afternoon, made two mental errors within the last minute of the game, which ultimately led to IU’s 71-62 loss against Louisville. 

They were right there, going back and forth with Louisville, and the Hoosiers let yet another game slip away from their grasp.

Newkirk’s two slip-ups were complimented by another turnover made by junior guard Zach McRoberts down the stretch, and the Cardinals pounced on the gifts given to them by IU.

Outside of Newkirk, IU’s backcourt struggled all game, failing to get anything going in the half-court offense in particular.

Senior guard Robert Johnson failed to score and had just two rebounds, one assist and one steal to go along with one turnover. It was Johnson’s worst game of the season by far, shooting 0-6 from the field and 0-4 behind the 3-point line.

“We tell him he’s the best shooter on the team,” Morgan said about Johnson. “Every time, I still believe in his confidence to knock down the three on every shot that he takes. And every time I just tell him ‘Look, you’re thinking too much. You have to let it go. We know you can shoot it.’”

It looked like Johnson was an inexperienced player out on the court with the rest of his teammates. Missing open threes, standing in the corner for long periods of time and the inability to penetrate the lane were just some of the issues he struggled with all game long. 

He looked uncomfortable early on and was never able to get into a rhythm, which made him pretty much a non-factor.

IU’s bright spot came down low, which was a concern coming into Saturday due to Louisville’s size. Junior forward Juwan Morgan and Davis totaled a combined 31 points and 16 rebounds. Their play kept IU in the game and was a primary factor of why the Hoosiers had a one-point lead going into halftime.

The Hoosiers weren’t able to keep consistent play throughout the entirety of the game, and they struggled once again to finish in the final minutes. Similar to the Duke game, IU had its opponent right where it wanted it. 

The issue for the Hoosiers is executing late in the game and keeping pace with their opponents.

IU wasn’t able to answer Louisville’s made shots within the last minute of the game, and mental errors ended up sealing the deal for the Cardinals. Lazy passes down the stretch by Newkirk overshadowed his play, which was one of his best performances of the season.

Two of his four turnovers were made in the final minute of the game, when his team needed him the most.

Johnson’s presence, or lack thereof, didn’t help the cause either. Other than Newkirk, IU’s guards shot a combined 3-16 and turned the ball over eight times to top it off.

Another game, another inconsistent performance, and once again IU found a hole in its roster’s performance. The problem is, that hole was made primarily by Johnson, who was supposed to be one of IU’s consistent scorers coming into this season.

He looked outmatched against Louisville’s frontcourt, and size can't be a deciding factor between a good game and a bad one for him. His inability to get to the rim was shocking and his shooting was, once again, disappointing.

Post play was good for IU on Friday, but the Hoosier guards overshadowed Morgan and Davis’ performance. It’s time for both facets to come together to complete the puzzle for the Hoosiers.

michrami@umail.iu.edu

@michrami_ 

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