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COLUMN: Oh, what could've been



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Senior guard Josh Newkirk passes the ball while driving inbound during the Hoosiers' game against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Feb. 17 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. The Hoosiers are the No. 6 seed for the 2018 Big Ten Conference men's basketball tournament.  Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

IU had the chance to earn its fifth straight victory Tuesday night, and instead, played an embarrassingly sloppy game in a 66-57 defeat to Nebraska.

The Hoosiers committed 19 turnovers, and instead of heading back to Bloomington with all the momentum in the world, it feels like the team has just taken another step back.

From the opening tip, IU seemed to struggle with the concept of taking care of the basketball, and the issue bled into the second half as well. Sophomore guard Devonte Green struggled mightily, looked like he was trying too hard and ultimately led to rash decision-making. Multiple Hoosiers were trying to do too much with the ball and it cost them big time.

Nebraska was able to score 26 points off IU's turnovers, and most of those points came from the fast break. IU’s transition defense was subpar on top of this and it created a recipe for disaster.

The sad part is, the Hoosiers still had chances to take control of the game despite doing a poor job of taking care of the ball.

Guard play was the difference-maker Tuesday night. Green and senior guard Josh Newkirk combined for nine turnovers, and that’s not including senior guard Robert Johnson’s three of his own.

Junior guard Zach McRoberts had one of the worst games of the season, and ended up fouling out with zero points, two rebounds and two turnovers. McRoberts wasn’t his usual self against Nebraska and lacked the prowess he’s shown in the past on defense. Players are going to have games like that every now and again. McRoberts’ dud just came at the wrong time for the Hoosiers.

McRoberts is the type of player who can help dig teams out of those situations, and his limited role due to foul trouble hampered IU’s effort on top of the rest of the guard play.

Simply put, it was just an ugly game.

This was a game IU should’ve had, and the volume of mental errors were just too much to overcome. Being on the road against a mid-to-top tier Big Ten opponent doesn’t help, and it could’ve been a solid win for IU Coach Archie Miller and company.

Instead, the Hoosiers snapped a four-game win streak and have to head home to face an Ohio State team, which will be coming off a 79-52 beat down of Rutgers.

IU can’t afford another poor performance like this one against Ohio State. In what will be the final game for the regular season, this team needs momentum to be on its side, and the Hoosiers have to get back to the way they were playing before Tuesday. It was the best stretch of basketball we’ve seen from them this season, and it will be crucial that they play well going into the Big Ten Tournament.

It’s intriguing to think IU had just played great basketball in the four games prior to this one, and you wouldn’t have been able to tell by the way they performed.

IU can’t play the same way against Ohio State or else you’re going to see this team exit the Big Ten Tournament after the first game they play in New York City.

If that’s the case, then brace yourselves.

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