The story goes that it once rained for 40 days and 40 nights.
But it’s been 41 days since IU’s last victory, as one-by-one the Hoosiers have been hit by a storm of losses ever since the Jan. 21 victory at Penn State.
The 10-game losing streak began against Iowa on Jan. 24, but the Hoosiers’ season truly began to unravel after a 78-75 loss to Purdue on Feb. 4. IU has since lost each of its seven games by double figures, with an average margin of defeat of 20 points during that span.
At this point, something must change.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but IU coach Tom Crean should be approaching these final games a bit differently.
Crean spoke about the team’s narrow margin for error Tuesday, adding that, as the program’s coach and leader, he needs to focus on what is going right for his team, not what the Hoosiers have done poorly.
IU did well in pressuring the ball and attacking the basket Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa – but that came only in the closing minute, with the game long out of reach.
Whatever the Hoosiers’ game plan was on Feb. 4 versus Purdue, it seemed to work.
But regardless of whether the Boilermakers had forward Robbie Hummel in the lineup, that same approach probably isn’t going to work at Mackey Arena.
Not the way IU has been playing. Not the way Purdue has been playing.
IU is getting outplayed early and the players have shown they hardly have enough in them to compete after the break.
Rather than calling a timeout and making adjustments at the first sign of a Purdue run tonight, Crean should instead try setting the tone early defensively — going back to the full-court press.
Crean has credited the Boilermakers for their “relentless” pressure on both sides of the ball. Purdue has one of the better defenses in the Big Ten and its offense thrives off of it.
“They score so much off of their defense, a lot more than they get credit for,” Crean said.
Anyone who watched IU’s 73-57 loss to Iowa three days ago saw first-hand how the Hoosiers’ late-game pressure defense not only troubled Iowa but also gave the IU offense a boost.
As freshman guard Jordan Hulls said Tuesday, IU needs its defense to “create energy” for the team.
Against a bigger, more talented and more experienced Purdue team — even without Hummel — IU has to be the attacker and not let the Boilermakers control the game’s tempo.
Crean has rarely turned to a full-court press, but it isn’t going to cause any harm testing it tonight in West Lafayette. IU is not a solid defensive team and could use a new identity.
While rushing offensively has plagued the Hoosiers in recent games, speeding things up on defense might be worth a shot.
Crean has talked about short-term evaluation but is also “evaluating for the long-term.”
So while on the subject of making changes – even if temporary and experimental – can the Hoosier faithful get a higher dosage of Bawa?
Freshman center Bawa Muniru has played just 58 minutes, but seven of those came in the nail-biting losses to Illinois and Purdue.
If Crean trusted the Ghana native in those more critical situations, surely it’s time for him to think long-term and get the 6-foot-11 big man on the court. He can only get better with more playing time.
So what do you say, coach?
Cohen’s prediction —
Purdue 67 — IU 55
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