COLUMBUS, Ohio — Only 10 minutes had passed since the tipoff and the Hoosiers appeared to have all but accepted their inevitable 68-59 defeat to Ohio State.
IU head coach Archie Miller paced up and down the sideline as the team went on another long scoring drought, this one lasting over six minutes.He searched for a way to spark the Hoosiers’ offense.
Behind him on the bench, the players looked as if they had already given up. Senior guard Devonte Green sat with a towel draped over his head while junior forward Justin Smith sat next to him, tugging on the one that hung around his neck.
It’s one thing to come out slow on the road, especially when playing in an environment that lacked energy for much of the afternoon as it was in Value City Arena, but after the initial few possessions, that excuse goes away. No team that considers itself competitive should ever play with the lack of passion IU showed against Ohio State.
Even when Green drained a 40-foot buzzer beater at the end of the first half, the team seemed to barely care. IU had been searching the entire half for something that could energize the team and when it finally happened, all they did was hang their heads and sulk to the locker room.
“The energy level and getting after balls — it just isn’t there right now,” Miller said
A halfcourt shot at the horn to cut the deficit to single digits should have been a moment IU rallied to prepare for a second-half comeback.
It’s easy to have energy and cheer when the ball is going in the basket. What separates teams is the resilience they show when things aren’t going their way. Instead of trying to fight their way back into the game like they’ve done so many times, the Hoosiers just gave up.
The biggest area that the Hoosiers’ lack of effort manifested itself was inside as they were pushed around by the Buckeyes’ forwards. IU is a team that often bullies others with their size and strength, but against Ohio State the team looked like wimps.
“You can’t play hard and practice soft,” Miller said. “With us, we have to get back to being a hard-playing team that rebounds and can dig some things out."
If IU had given any effort in the frontcourt, the nine-point loss could have looked a lot different.
The Hoosiers were outrebounded for just the fourth time all season and failed to score any second-chance points.
IU is one of the biggest and best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, and it’s unacceptable that Ohio State was able to dominate in the paint. If IU came even close to the type of production the team typically relies on from its forwards, the team is likely sitting as a near-lock for the NCAA Tournament .
This brutal stretch for the Hoosiers in which they played four ranked teams and four road games in their last six contests has clearly taken its toll on them. IU’s performance has dropped off in its last few games and crashed in the previous two matchups against Penn State and Ohio State.
With a week off before the first meeting against Purdue at home, IU needs to find that spark if the team wants to end its three-game losing streak and avoid falling back onto the bubble.
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