Ofall the storylines and subplots that have filled the IU men’s basketball season, it's the concept of urgency that has been a continuous theme for the Hoosiers.
During nonconference play, the urgency came in the form of spotting lesser teams' early leads in games, forcing the Hoosiers to use more energy and play starters like senior forward Juwan Morgan for more minutes. In Big Ten play, the same sluggish starts have often plagued IU, but Head Coach Archie Miller and his team have been unable to overcome the early deficits.
Thus, as has been the case since November, the urgency with which IU plays to start games remains an on-court concern with few off-court answers.
“We’re just flat-footed, and we let the other team hit us first before hitting them,” freshman guard Romeo Langford said. “It’s been a common theme throughout the season, us starting off slow, but we’re still working every day to get better, be better than we were the last game.”
Langford was spot-on with his assessment of IU’s season-long struggles in the opening minutes of games.
IU has trailed at the under-12 media timeout in half of its 24 games this season. In those 12 games, IU has a 5-7 record, but six of the losses have come in 2019 in the midst of a disastrous conference season for the Hoosiers.
Last week’s home losses to then-No. 20 Iowa and Ohio State both fell in that category.
“Yeah, it was a hard week for us, make no mistake about it,” Miller said Monday night during his weekly radio show, “Inside IU Basketball.” “Had a chance to win both games but just weren’t good enough in certain areas over the course of the game or at the end of the game being able to finish it properly.”
As IU’s poor starts to games have continued, the focus has shifted for Miller to end-of-game situations. Four of the Hoosiers’ last five losses have come by single digits, leading Miller to want better execution from his team in the closing minutes of games.
The most direct result of IU failing to heed this urgency, both at the start and end of games, is the predicament the Hoosiers face with seven regular season games to go.
IU’s 13-11 overall record, in particular the 4-9 mark in conference games, has the Hoosiers on the fringes of the discussion to be included in the NCAA Tournament. The next stretch of games for the team presents a chance for it to either play itself back into, or completely out of, the postseason picture for college basketball’s premier tournament.
This week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll features four of IU’s next five opponents, with three of those games taking place at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
IU’s four-game home losing streak has decreased any kind of intimidation factor Assembly Hall might have had this season, but the next three weeks provide IU with opportunities to restore potential to this once promising season.
“I think there’s definitely a sense of urgency starting everything that we do,” junior guard Devonte Green said. “Starting and finishing the same way.”
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