IU had everyone fooled for a minute. For a split-second, fans thought the Hoosiers had found their groove as the team that strung together three strong performances against Nebraska, Michigan State and Maryland.
IU instilled its will on the offensive end, getting easy scoring chances inside and shooting more than 45% from the field in each of those three games. For the first time since their easy matchups during non-conference play, the Hoosiers’ identity of having a physical low-post offense was coming to fruition.
The one caveat to IU’s success was that two of those three wins came at home.
Despite a road win against a struggling Nebraska team, once IU leaves the familiar confines of Assembly Hall it falls apart. In University Park, Pennsylvania, it was no different when the Hoosiers had their worst performance of the season in a 64-49 thrashing at the hands of the Nittany Lions.
In the first half, IU hung with Penn State because both teams were equally abysmal.
Both teams shot 34% while struggling to knock down open 3-pointers as the two sides combined to hit 3 of 15 from deep. IU turned the ball over six times — which was somehow better than its second-half performance — yet Penn State only turned those turnovers into six points.
Each side was probably equally horrified by how poorly they played in the first half and thrilled that it was tied. However, while the Nittany Lions were able to correct their mistakes going forward, the Hoosiers somehow got worse.
Midway through the second half, senior guard Devonte Green drove to the basket, drawing freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis’ defender. Instead of making the easy bounce-pass to Jackson-Davis, Green threw an alley-oop that bounced off the top of the backboard and led to a transition 3-pointer from sophomore guard Myles Dread. It was poor judgement from Green that jumpstarted a 8-0 Penn State run, leaving IU in a hole it couldn’t climb out of.
All IU head coach Archie Miller could do was stand next to the bench with his palms to the sky as assistant coach Mike Roberts yelled at Green from his chair.
That play defined the Hoosiers’ performance.
Instead of making easy plays, IU consistently made stupid mistakes that allowed Penn State to run away with the game in the second half.
In the first eight minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers only managed to make one shot while committing five turnovers and were outscored 13-4. While IU seemingly banged its head against a wall for almost a quarter of the game, Penn State stretched out a nine-point lead that felt more like 15 based on how hard it was for each team to score.
Scoring droughts have been the norm for IU this season, but once they’ve ended, the team has often been able to respond while finding ways to win. That certainly wasn’t the case against the Nittany Lions.
IU’s beatdown at the hands of Penn State just shows how powerful recency bias can be. It went from a team with deep flaws to an impressive contender in the Big Ten in just three games.
Don’t be fooled, IU is occasionally able to cover its flaws and make everyone believe it has finally turned the corner, but the team’s deficiencies are hiding just under the surface. On Wednesday, the Hoosiers tripped and fell all over them.
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