As he sat at the press room table at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, IU men’s basketball sophomore guard Rob Phinisee seemed unbothered. There were roughly 24 hours before his next game, which would tipoff at noon Saturday against Ohio State, and it had been just over a day since he was a part of IU’s worst offensive performance of the season.
The Hoosiers scored a season low of 49 points on the road against Penn State. It wasn’t for lack of good looks, shots just weren’t going in. Phinisee just wants to forget about it.
“At the end of the day we have to make shots when we need them,” Phinisee said. “We can't dwell on the past, just move forward and win the next game.”
Though performances like IU had against Penn State, have been commonplace on the road. IU’s offensive averages on the road have dipped far below its overall averages this season.
The Hoosiers are shooting 38.8% between their five road games. IU has shot 45.3% overall for the season. On 3-pointers, the team is shooting 23.5% on the road compared to 30.5% overall. The Hoosiers are averaging 11.8-17.2 from the free throw line in road games compared to 16.5-24.2 overall.
IU’s offense is scores 73.5 points per game this season overall, but that drops to 60.8 on the road. All of the Hoosiers’ lowest point totals of the season have all come away from Bloomington.
Even at home, IU’s offense has been far from consistent. But without the feeling of comfort playing on floors they are accustomed to and instead thrust into unfamiliar hotel rooms and in front of the face of hostile crowds, the offensive deficiencies become even harder to overcome. IU is 1-4 on the road as a result. The lone win came against Nebraska, the second-to-last place team in the Big Ten.
Phinisee’s message is one that has applied to the whole team. They don’t want to dwell on the shooting, or lack thereof, that has led to performances consistently falling under season averages.
“You can't get too high after a win and then too low after a loss, we just take it one game at a time,” Phinisee said.
Those road troubles follow IU this weekend. The Hoosiers will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to begin the second half of Big Ten play. IU upset then-No.11 Ohio State in Assembly Hall on Jan. 11. Ohio State has dropped quickly since the start of Big Ten play, losing six of its last eight games.
The Buckeyes defense is only allowing 61.5 points per game overall this season. Even through the struggles Ohio State has had, junior center Kaleb Wesson has consistently been a dominant player. IU head coach Archie Miller talked Friday about his concern defending Wesson on the interior coupled with his ability to stretch the floor from beyond the arc.
“I don't feel very good right now,” Miller said of defending Wesson. “That's one of our big concerns right now is our interior defense. Here recently, especially in our last two games, our interior defense has been nonexistent, and it's resulted in a lot of fouls.”
But with 24 blocks and eight steals this season, Wesson has been just as strong on the defensive end. IU’s offense relies on its interior players as roughly 62% of IU’s points per game come from its forwards.
The offense IU has gotten from its guards has been inconsistent, and in games like Penn State, that inconsistency drives down the whole team. IU played four guards against Penn State, and they combined to shoot 3-26 from the field.
Phinisee has provided a sense of reliability and stability the Hoosiers have consistently looked to. His teammates will have to listen to the message he sent at his press conference. IU will especially need its guards to put what had gone wrong Wednesday night against Penn State behind them. To have a shot to win on the road for just the second time this season, they’ll have to.