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Familiar slow start dooms IU men’s basketball against Nebraska



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Sophomore forward Justin Smith dunks the ball against Nebraska on Jan. 14 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Smith scored 5 out of 51 points, and IU lost 51-66. Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

Inconsistency has been the only consistency in junior guard Devonte Green’s game this season.

Trailing 25-7, roughly nine minutes into Monday’s loss to Nebraska at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Green took charge of the offense.

Dribbling to his left, sophomore forward Justin Smith set a screen and slipped free toward the basket.

Instead of finding Smith on what would have been a simple finish, Green continued his dribble to the left, where an entry pass to senior forward Juwan Morgan on the block deflected off Morgan’s fingertips, out of bounds.

The boos ensued.

For a moment, Assembly Hall may well have been Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska’s home floor, as the crowd jeered IU’s hapless start.

“Do something running the offense,” one fan yelled off to the side of the media seating at center court.

In what has become an overdrawn narrative for the No. 25-ranked Hoosiers, a slow start doomed them from the start in a 66-51 loss to the Cornhuskers.

“I think it will come with time,” Morgan said of fixing the slow starts. “But at the same time, it's just something that you've got to have. Like you can't wake somebody up and then they haM

On an otherwise forgetful night, there were a few moments of reprieve for the Hoosiers — but they were short at best.

As Nebraska battled through over five minutes of scoreless basketball, IU cut the deficit to 26-20 with 1:12 remaining in the first half.

But a 3-pointer from Huskers senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr. and an uncontested dunk by senior guard James Palmer Jr. in the closing minute quashed any semblance of hope that crept into Assembly Hall.

Nebraska marched into halftime with a 31-22 lead.

The second half brought more of the same. 

The Hoosiers used a quick 7-2 run to get within three points, 3:29 into the frame.

Again, Nebraska had the answer. A layup by senior forward Tanner Borchardt and back-to-back threes from senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. dashed the Hoosiers’ hopes once more.

“You know, you look for the answers,” IU Coach Archie Miller said after the game. “You watch the film, and I can probably pretty much tell you what I'm going to see on this film was a team that didn't play to its identity. And at the end of the day, you can't do that in this league. Doesn't matter if you're home or away.”

Miller also pointed to the inverse linear regression of IU’s performance Monday night. When the offense stepped up the defense fell off. When the Hoosiers netted a defensive stop, a poor shot, turnover or downright sloppy possession ensued.

“We've got to get our grip back out on our identity,” Miller said. “We've got to start to play harder again. We've got to get our defensive sort of rules and stuff. I think there's just too much slippage, and from an offensive perspective, we'll see what we can do to keep getting better.” 

After three straight losses, IU now sits at 12-5 and 3-3 in the Big Ten. 

The schedule also doesn't do the Hoosiers any favors. Still searching for an identity, IU heads into a brutal two-week stretch where it travels to Purdue and Northwestern before returning home Jan. 25 to face No. 2 Michigan.

“You can't get caught up in the schedule because if you get caught up in the schedule, at the end of the day, you're worrying about the wrong things,” Miller said. “We've got to get back to work. We've got to put some things together here. Our guys gotta start to regroup, and our staff has got to do a good job with that. We have to prepare to play Purdue.”

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