Have you ever removed a load of clean clothes from the dryer and decided to power through without a laundry basket?
Unless you’re dealing with a particularly sparse bundle, you’re liable to drop something. A pair of underwear flops on the floor, you reach to pick it up and suddenly a sock comes loose and takes its place.
Throughout the second half of IU’s 84-76 victory over Nebraska, I couldn’t shake the mental image of head coach Archie Miller desperately trying to corral an oversized mass of linens to no avail.
The Hoosiers came out swinging, rocketing to a 46-34 halftime lead thanks largely to junior guard Rob Phinisee’s 16 points.
The Cornhuskers didn’t clamp down on defense as much as they politely asked the Hoosiers not to score. IU distributed the ball accurately and shot 7-13 from beyond the arc.
That being said, the Hoosiers were far from a brick wall when trying to stop the Cornhuskers. With Nebraska 4% better from the field than its season average, defense was more of a suggestion throughout the contest.
While IU enjoyed success from the perimeter, sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis struggled early on.
Seeing Jackson-Davis held to only two points in the first half was sort of like watching your dad throw out his back while sneezing, a sobering reminder that even the strongest among us are not invincible.
Although Jackson-Davis is easily the Hoosiers’ most valuable asset, a stubborn reliance on him to score has repeatedly hamstrung their offense. This time around, IU cut its parachute off and trusted Jackson-Davis’ supporting cast to make plays.
That strategy worked wonders when Phinisee and senior guard Al Durham were sending rainbows through the net, but became untenable once Nebraska started tightening up on defense.
A pair of scoring runs propelled the Cornhuskers to a late lead, while the Hoosiers’ seemingly vast shooting range shrank like cotton in a hot dryer. It took Jackson-Davis and junior forward Race Thompson’s combined efforts to secure an expected victory for IU.
The Hoosiers have had plenty of flaws this year, from poor shooting to turnovers to simply getting pushed around by more aggressive groups.
At its worst, IU completely combusts on offense and gets blown out. At its best, there is still usually one glaring defect that hamstrings the Hoosiers — the proverbial sock falling to the ground.
Against Nebraska, IU controlled the glass and passed the ball with confidence. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers also allowed the Cornhuskers to shoot nearly 40% from 3-point range and seriously eased off the gas in the second half.
This was supposed to be a matchup between totally disparate teams. IU is a school obsessed with past memories, while Nebraska wants to forget its basketball program ever existed.
However, both squads blurred together like freshly dyed T-shirts in the washer, an indiscriminate blur of unnecessarily specific shades of red and white.
It’s a bit silly to complain about a road win, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing IU’s potential is so much more than what it regularly displays. I doubt Miller and his athletes relish in moral victories or sloppy triumphs. Besides, I can only write so many words describing how awesome it is to see Jackson-Davis attack the rim with slam dunks or Phinisee drain a 3-pointer.
Tonight, the Hoosiers made it out of the laundry room with a win, but occasionally appeared weighed down by questionable play. Needless to say, there are plenty of future Big Ten opponents capable of throwing far more dirty laundry at IU than Nebraska did.
For the Hoosiers to be the team I’m still somewhat hopeful they can be, they’ll have to iron out some wrinkles and neatly fold their roster together. Above all, IU needs consistency, a way of keeping their meticulously cleaned stack of clothing from tumbling apart.
Both on the court and in the laundry room, most of the time you just need a basket.