IU coach Archie Miller is a man of many faces.
His on-court emotions, while generally tempered, have demonstrated more looks of disdain than melancholy over the Hoosiers’ five-game losing streak.
In IU’s 73-66 loss at Northwestern on Wednesday night, Miller flashed his oft-seen disbelieving look as IU sophomore guard Al Durham was called for a kick ball on a transition chance, whistling a simple basket opportunity meaningless.
With his hands on his temples and a confused look gracing his face, Miller’s glare perfectly encapsulated the feelings of those around the IU program over the last three weeks — puzzled.
After a 12-2 start, the Hoosiers are far from the Big Ten title threat they were perceived to be just three weeks ago.
IU faces another stiff test in No. 5 Michigan on Friday night. And while the Hoosiers boast a 10-1 record at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall this season, the Wolverines enter the contest at 18-1 and 7-1 in the Big Ten.
Since IU’s losing streak began Jan. 6 at Michigan, things have gone from bad to worse. Near misses against Michigan and Maryland are excusable, but uninspiring efforts against Nebraska, Purdue and Northwestern have IU in a rut.
Aside from the lack of a third scoring option, an underwhelming bench has been an equal thorn in the Hoosiers’ side for much of the season.
Injuries do play a part in the bench issues. Junior forward De’Ron Davis has yet to be the force underneath he was his first two years and top-50 recruit Jerome Hunter will redshirt after an undisclosed leg injury ended his season before it could start.
But after junior guard Devonte Green was suspended indefinitely Tuesday night, a limited bench is now even shorter.
Redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson is back from a concussion but he didn’t see the floor against Northwestern on Tuesday.
As for Friday, the Wolverines have welcomed the return of sophomore forward Isaiah Livers. A scratch in the first meeting, Livers offers a physical presence in the post, while also possessing a solid jump shot from the 3-point line.
Another name to watch is freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis. Though he scored just 10 points on 2 of 7 shooting in the Jan. 6 contest, Brazdeikis is a capable scorer from anywhere on the floor.
It’s worth noting Michigan has had its struggles of late. The Wolverines dropped their first game of the season at Wisconsin on Jan. 19 and blew a 13-point lead in the late stages of a buzzer-beating win over Minnesota.
"Here's what they're all trying to learn the most: What team basketball really looks like,” Michigan coach John Beilein said after the Minnesota win. “People are going to guard you different ways, and they have to continue to grow in that area – that we have to continue to work together and find the best shot for Michigan. That's the biggest thing."
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Assembly Hall.
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