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COLUMN: IU's season ended the way it started — in disappointment


Senior guards Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson sit in the locker room after the Hoosiers' game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday during the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Hoosiers fell to the Scarlet Knights, 76-69. Evan De Stefano

NEW YORK — Disappointment is the only word to describe the Hoosiers’ Big Ten Tournament run, or lack thereof.

It looked like the Hoosiers were going to roll through Rutgers in the first 10 minutes of the game, but things spiraled out of control and no matter what IU did in response, it wasn’t enough to douse the red-hot Scarlet Knights.

The 76-69 loss was uncharacteristic of a much-improved Hoosier squad, but they showed signs of the team that took the court back on Nov. 10, 2017, against Indiana State. This performance came after one of the best stretches of basketball we’ve seen from this team all season long. The loss of this caliber was unexpected, and it didn’t feel real watching it.

It didn’t feel real because of the strides the Hoosiers have made throughout the season. We saw a team whose identity was to outscore opponents while giving up a barrage of points every single game turn into a defensive-reliant squad.

IU looked like a defensive force in opening minutes of the game, and the Scarlet Knights couldn’t get anything to fall through the hoop. Until they did.

When it rains, it pours. That was the case for Rutgers on Thursday night.

Scarlet Knight guard Corey Sanders led the way, scoring 28 points on 60-percent shooting. His mid-range jumper got it going for him against the Hoosiers, and there was nothing IU could do to stop it. Even when heavily contested, or extremely off-balance, Sanders found a way to hit his mark no matter who was guarding him.

Hoosier guards tried desperately to respond to Sanders’ performance, but it only caused more frustration when nothing fell and all the Hoosiers could do was hang their heads.

“They were jumping lanes, jumping gaps,” senior forward Collin Hartman said. “Guys were picking up the ball instead of keeping their dribble and then we would get stuck and throw long passes and they’d jump the lanes. It’s just the little things.”

It truly was the little things. A bad pass here, a bad feed to the post there. IU had boneheaded plays left and right. The weird part was, this wasn’t something that we’ve gotten used to watching, especially at the end of the regular season.

These types of mistakes are identical to the ones made at the beginning of the season when the Hoosiers were still trying to find themselves. That’s when déjà vu hit Hoosiers fans everywhere.

The fans had seen it before, but those memories were supposed to be locked up and never spoken of forever because of the improvement the Hoosiers were showing under IU Coach Archie Miller.

That’s why the season ended the way it started. In disappointment. It doesn’t matter how you compare the season-opening loss and the season-ending loss. The result was the same, and the feeling around it was, too.

It’s highly doubtful that IU will get another taste of a basketball game this season. Being on the bubble of the NIT was bad enough. Losing to the worst team in the Big Ten doesn’t help the Hoosiers’ case.

It’s now a time to sit back and reflect on what this season has been. It’s been a rollercoaster to say the least, but this loss will put a stain on any sort of hope or positive vibes the Hoosier faithful had at any point in the season.

IU got popped in the mouth. It wasn’t expected and it wasn’t a legitimate thought coming in, but it happened. The good thing is, IU won’t have to dread any more disappointment for the rest of the season.

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