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COLUMN: IU basketball accepts its fate in loss at Minnesota



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IU men’s basketball Coach Archie Miller yells after the Hoosiers are fouled Nov. 20 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have now lost 10 of their last 11 games. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

The IU basketball team has been searching for its soul all season.

The Hoosiers have trekked through one erratic performance after another, trying to find the answer to the question that seemingly every fan has had since last season ended: what is this team's identity?

During IU’s 84-63 loss on the road at Minnesota on Saturday, that search finally fizzled out. 

An identity has been discovered, and it’s a disappointing one. There’s actually some consistency with this team now, but it’s of sluggishness and half-hearted effort.

Saturday’s game confirmed all of that for the Hoosiers on both ends of the floor.

It showed that IU is a team on the brink of giving up after losing 10 of its last 11 games and a team that has seemingly forgotten how to use weapons like the unbelievable talent of freshman guard Romeo Langford and senior forward Juwan Morgan.

The Hoosiers’ offense? What offense? The discombobulated mess that Coach Archie Miller continues to roll out each game looks miles behind the well-oiled machines of other Big Ten opponents such as Michigan, Michigan State and yes, even Purdue. 

IU is a poor-shooting team that inexplicably continues to fire up outside shots — a team that stands and watches instead of cutting and rotating. 

As for the defense, the Hoosiers met Minnesota on Saturday with the resistance of a wet paper bag. The Golden Gophers relied on senior forward Jordan Murphy, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, going through any passive defender IU threw at him. 

Murphy hustled and muscled his way to every point he earned on the day and in the process, made IU look like a bunch of whipped pups.

Maybe this identity was evident much earlier in this tumultuous stretch for IU, but Saturday felt different. This felt like the Hoosiers finally accepting this woeful existence as a below-average Big Ten team.

IU's two previous matchups, home games against Iowa and Ohio State, were met with at least a shred of hope. Saturday was approached with apathy.

Yet if this is the identity IU players have decided to accept, another question arises: Is this truly the way the Hoosiers want this season to end?

This isn’t a question of ability. IU has proven this season that it can compete with quality teams. 

Rather, this is a question of character. A question of will.

Is this how Morgan wants his career to come to a close? This is a guy that has poured pounds of sweat for this program. He’s a guy that battled through an uncooperative shoulder that had an annoying tendency to pop out of place and leave him writhing in excruciating pain. 

He put the team on his back over these past two seasons when nobody else had the guts to do it, and somehow it’s all going to end with a collapse of a season.

Is this what Langford, who will likely be gone for the NBA Draft once this campaign expires, wants his legacy to be? A career that was once met with so much anticipation has become one of frustration and too many dreary-eyed, unaggressive performances.

There’s still time for Morgan, Langford and the others to answer these questions. The opportunities are still there for the taking. 

Embroiled in one of the most putrid NCAA Tournament bubbles in recent memory, the Hoosiers still somehow technically have a shot at extending their season in March. 

A win in the team's next game at home over Purdue would not only shoot some much-needed excitement back into the fan base, but it would give IU another quality victory on its résumé right up there with Michigan State, University of Louisville and Marquette University. 

Yet, besides their upset victory at Michigan State on Feb. 2, the Hoosiers haven’t shown the ability to earn those kinds of wins in the second half of this season.

These last few games are an opportunity for the players to show they haven’t completely given up just yet.

They still have time to show they care about what happens to this season.

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