Realistically, nobody expected IU to go into the Kohl Center and beat one of the best teams in the country. That’s too much to ask of this young, broken team.
However, young and broken aren’t excuses for getting embarrassed 92-78 on national television. That score doesn’t look too bad, but this game was a poor showing for the Hoosiers.
I wrote before tipoff that IU would have to play a perfect game if it hoped to knock off No. 5 Wisconsin, and that is just too much to ask.
The Hoosiers started out looking about as good as anyone could hope and were down just four points with two minutes left in the first half.
However, don’t start thinking IU did anything to contain Wisconsin. The Badgers dominated and pounded the ball inside, just like everyone knew they would.
Wisconsin’s frontcourt owned the paint and consistently made IU look foolish. The only reason IU was even close in the first half was some incredible shooting.
The Hoosiers shot spectacularly from deep, and that trend continued for the whole game. IU finished 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) from behind the arc. They climbed back to within a respectable score of the Badgers, but this game was over four minutes into the second half.
IU’s poor defensive effort throughout the game turned into straight sloppiness after the intermission, and it looked almost as if everyone had given up. There were unforced turnovers, bad box outs and an overall weak effort on defense.
Of course, the injury excuse will get thrown around. The Hoosiers were obviously without junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who has been out for several weeks, but freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. also sat Tuesday.
At one point against Rutgers on Saturday, Blackmon looked hobbled at the end of the floor, but continued to play. Apparently, the injury was more serious than the team originally thought.
Regardless, Blackmon wouldn’t have changed this game much. He’s a brilliant scorer when he’s on, and, as we saw Saturday, can score 20 points without even standing out. But Blackmon struggles on defense and certainly can’t play in the post, which is where this game was decided.
IU started conference play on a 5-1 streak and was tied for the Big Ten lead at one point. Since then, the Hoosiers have dropped three of four, two of which have been humiliating losses — Wisconsin and Purdue. The lone win was a too-close home victory against lowly Rutgers.
Something has gone wrong in Bloomington since the Hoosiers’ hot start. Maybe it’s just that teams have figured IU out. Sophomore forward Collin Hartman adds another weapon that the offense was lacking with Mosquera-Perea on the floor, but IU has been pummeled inside starting with the second Ohio State game.
IU Coach Tom Crean has said in each loss since then the Hoosiers need to help out their post defenders by pressuring the ball and playing good transition defense.
Either the players aren’t buying into that or it’s just not working because there hasn’t been any improvement during that time.
All that said, this was a matchup nightmare for IU. Wisconsin has one of the top three big men in the country in Kaminsky, and the Badgers other forwards — junior Sam Dekker and sophomore Nigel Hayes — were sure to cause problems for IU as well.
I wrote after the Purdue game IU should remember that loss and let it simmer. The Hoosiers should be thinking of that game the next time they go out and be angry about it.
This one is different. Wisconsin is a better team than IU. They have more talent, size and play better together. IU was never going to win this game. It took making 8-of-11 threes in the first half just to keep it close.
Sometimes you just need to move past a game and forget about it. That’s what IU should do here. Figure out what you did wrong, how you can do it better and then move forward. Focus on the Michigan game Sunday.