COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In times of frustration, IU head coach Archie Miller has tossed off his suit jacket at halftime. He paces up and down the sideline, walks down toward the center of the scorers table and yells out calls to his team on the opposite end. He kneels down, gets up, claps and yells all in a seemingly repetitive cycle.
But when redshirt sophomore forward Race Thompson inbounded the ball to nobody with a little over 10 minutes remaining, Miller stood leaning back against the scorers table, silently shaking his head as Maryland senior guard Anthony Cowan hit a 3-pointer to put his team up 11. The lead just kept building in an eventual 75-59 loss to No. 15 Maryland.
Miller walked into the media room after the game without his tie, the top two buttons of his shirt undone and his hair ruffled. He looked exasperated after his team underwent another stretch of stagnant offense that has all too often befallen it this season.
IU has a clear identity under Miller, to have success on offense, it has shown it needs to feed the post as often as possible. It didn’t do that against the Terrapins.
“Ball’s not going in the basket,” Miller said. “Whether it’s a lay up, whether it’s a free throw or whether its a wide open shot. At some point you have to be able to put it in the basket.”
The Hoosiers only scored 20 points in the first half and only made eight points in the paint. For the game, it only had 22 points in the paint. Maryland had 34. IU only made one of its final 12 field goals in the first half and fell victim to a 14-3 run.
That included a seven minute stretch where IU went without a field goal. On an afternoon where a top-15 Terrapin team struggled to shoot, the Hoosiers were worse and never recovered from the extended blow.
“Not being able to score eventually overwhelmed us a little bit,” Miller said. “There’s a fine line on the road and you’ve got to make all the little things go your way.”
And when IU crawled back, at least to an extent, Maryland landed one final blow with a 21-3 run over 5:18, a run where Cowan and sophomore forward Jalen Smith took over as the stars head coach Mark Turgeon expects them to be.
Cowan finished an and-1 and flexed into the camera and Smith finished a two-handed slam that forced Miller to call a timeout. It was a 69-41 Terps lead. IU was without energy on the floor, without confidence, without rhythm. It had collapsed.
IU’s defense did what was needed overall in Miller’s eyes. It held Maryland under 40% shooting on its home floor. Yet, IU was worse. The Hoosiers made 22-61 from inside the arc and 4-18 beyond it.
It played against a top-15 team, a team regarded to be at the top of the Big Ten conference, and was out-classed.
“You’ve got to make some shots,” Miller said. “Maryland’s field goal percentage wasn’t very good today when you think about playing at home at 38% and 25 from three. With that type of lead do you know how bad you have to be on offense?”
It’s a loss that begins a month where IU has struggled mightily in a fashion similar to seasons past. In January with IU, Miller is now 5-14 overall.
And it punctuates the difficulties IU has in Big Ten play as it falls to 11-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference. IU has been crushed in both of its road games and needed overtime to beat a Nebraska team in December that’s toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
The Hoosiers head back for a Wednesday game at Assembly Hall against a Northwestern team that doesn’t yet have a win in conference play, the only such team in the Big Ten, and is 5-7 overall.
IU has struggled in what has proven to be one of the deepest conferences in college basketball, that matchup with Northwestern has suddenly become a must win game.
The Hoosiers have to score to do so.
“Here in this league, you’re in a deep ocean,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of waves. You have to ride them out.”