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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

OPINION: It turns out IU men’s basketball can’t win without making shots.


One of these days, IU men’s basketball will beat two good teams in a row.  

There is plenty to like about this year’s Hoosiers lineup. It just so happens hardly any of that manifested in IU’s 66-44 loss to No. 17 University of Texas in the second round of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday.

In terms of upsides, the Hoosiers’ defense played with tremendous focus and aggression, stymieing the Longhorns to 39% shooting and generating 15 turnovers. A unit that can keep up in transition and force uncomfortable shots is invaluable, especially when your offense does the Division I equivalent of picking dandelions on the soccer field. 

Nevertheless, senior guard Al Durham displayed a nice touch compared to his teammates, tallying eight much-needed points on a pair of crisp jump shots.  The Hoosiers’ striking range has been comparable to that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s arms, so a little reach goes a long way.

Unfortunately, Durham suffered an ankle injury in the second half, a significant blow not only for a group lacking shooting prowess but for a locker room relying on Durham’s leadership and camaraderie. 

All you had to do was listen to, not even watch, ESPN’s broadcast of this contest to understand the gist of it. 

The rare genuine compliment ESPN analyst Bill Walton issued to anybody not on Texas’ roster in the first half was to his own dog, Potter, who celebrated his birthday while IU failed to drain more than one bucket in a nearly nine-minute stretch to end the first half. 

The Longhorn defense seemed impenetrable in the post, forcing the Hoosiers to whip the ball to one another around the 3-point line until someone finally mustered up the courage to launch an inaccurate jumper. 

In response, IU unrolled the bold offensive strategy of passing the ball to sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis at the top of the key so he could pivot erratically for a few seconds before floating a heavily contested hook shot. 

While this approach did not result in many points, I can sleep soundly knowing Jackson-Davis’ hip flexors have never been looser. 

A propensity for turnovers returned to plague the Hoosiers, but neither squad was immune to unforced errors. Both teams should have checked out a couple of Rick Steves books before taking the court if they planned on traveling so much. 

Texas’ seven 3-pointers were probably exhilarating for the average viewer, but IU must have felt like 19th-century farmers witnessing electricity for the first time. A made basket from beyond the arc? What black magic is this? 

The Hoosiers eventually found open looks throughout the afternoon, but if you sat through the last episodes of “Lost,” “Game of Thrones” or “How I Met Your Mother,” you've already seen how strong IU finished each play. 

Basketball is by nature a game of momentum, with opponents trading bursts of points to gain an advantage. However, the Hoosiers could barely manage a scoring stroll, let alone a scoring run. 

A 22-point defeat is always hard to swallow, but it’s especially unpalatable when it comes off the back of a powerful defensive showing.

In a vacuum, IU is capable of being an excellent team, but we can’t expect Jackson-Davis to cobble together a double-double or junior forward Race Thompson to have statistical career highs every outing. There’s certainly a world in which the Hoosiers attain consistency and emerge as a formidable force in the Big Ten, but the current trajectory isn’t inspiring.

There isn’t a lot of profound investigation required when discerning the Hoosiers’ critical flaw. The name of the sport is a combination of basket and ball — IU just needs to start putting one through the other.

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