IU Head Coach Archie Miller and his staff had two tries to get it right.
With 46 seconds left in Sunday afternoon’s 55-52 home loss to Ohio State, IU had the ball with the game tied at 52. Only seven seconds remained on the shot clock for the Hoosiers, whose season craved the stabilizing force of a home win.
IU called a timeout to set up an in-bounds play underneath its own basket. It was then forced to use another right away after the flailing limbs of Ohio State defenders prevented a successful entry pass.
So IU, now 13-11 overall and 4-9 in conference play, did it all again, but the execution of the new play left plenty to be desired.
The pass went to senior forward Juwan Morgan. He then tried to pass the ball to freshman guard Romeo Langford, who was posted up in the paint near the basket, as the shot clock dwindled down. The ball never got there. Ohio State junior forward Andre Wesson stole it.
“You can put that on me,” Miller said. “We tried to get the ball right at the basket with Romeo, maybe get fouled, maybe get a quick bucket, but it was a big turnover.”
An Ohio State timeout then created the game’s winning play, a slip set that caught IU sophomore forward Justin Smith out of position and allowed Wesson to drive to the basket and dunk the ball unimpeded.
A pair of missed 3-pointers, one a deep attempt for the lead from Langford that rimmed out and the other a prayer from junior guard Devonte Green in the closing seconds, rounded out IU’s fourth straight home loss.
It was a fitting way to commemorate a sluggish offensive performance in which the Hoosiers miss 32 of their 53 shots and trail by nine points inside the game’s first five minutes.
The reduced scoring output was felt across the board — Morgan’s three points were his fewest in a game since January 2018, while sophomore guard Al Durham scored just two points and attempted only two shots after scoring 11 or more points in each of the last three games.
“To start the game, our offense was a problem,” Miller said. “They went under a ton of ball screens, and we couldn't really get any rotation, get over the top, and our offense hurt us at that point in time.”
Green said there’s a sense of urgency for IU’s players with seven regular season games to go. That comes as a natural response to losing nine of their last 10 games and winning just twice since the calendar flipped to 2019.
But it’s also the manner in which the losses have occurred. Blowout losses featuring a noticeable lack of energy from IU’s players have come alongside games decided in the second half.
“Obviously when you're able to win some games early in the season, close games, one-possession games, they obviously could have went a number of ways,” Miller said. “In some ways maybe you got fortunate. In some ways maybe you did good things.”
IU’s recent run of form has frittered away the positives from its nonconference season, and while opportunities exist for the Hoosiers to get on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, they will have to return to their old ways of performing in key situations to take advantage of them.
“It comes down possession to possession,” Miller said. “We've won a few like that. There's also obviously — today is one of the instances we weren't able to finish it.”
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