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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball isn’t there yet

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Hoosier daddy? 

That was the question posed aloud by several thousand blue-clad fans in Allen Fieldhouse with four minutes remaining in No. 14 Indiana men’s basketball’s 84-62 loss to the No. 8 University of Kansas early Saturday afternoon. 

Paternal status aside, it’s safe to say Kansas is better than Indiana.  

[Related: Indiana men’s basketball is run out of Kansas 84-62, continues to underperform]

Granted, I imagine plenty of teams would look better than this iteration of Indiana, which committed 23 turnovers, shot 38% from the floor and lost graduate student guard Xavier Johnson to a foot injury midway through the first half.  

Before we dive into what is by necessity a rather negative commentary on the Hoosiers, I want to make something clear.  

I do not hate Indiana. You might be surprised to learn that when the men’s basketball team of the school from which I will soon graduate — fingers crossed, that is — gets absolutely obliterated, it actually doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  

So, try not to label me as a world-class hater when I tell you that even though the Hoosiers are still pretty good, they are leagues behind where they and their fans wish they were.  

There aren’t many teams whose players are as big, fast or strong as Indiana’s. However, in the last eight days, the Hoosiers played two such teams and lost by a combined 36 points.  

[Related: No. 14 Indiana men’s basketball suffers humiliating loss to No. 8 Kansas in all-too-familiar fashion]

Just like last Saturday’s matchup against the No. 9 University of Arizona, Indiana fell behind by double digits early and never fully recovered. Unlike last Saturday, Indiana didn’t even get close to a comeback this time. 

The Jayhawks clogged the Hoosiers’ passing lanes and repeatedly turned errant floating passes into scores in transition. Indiana star senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis logged a mystifying nine blocks, but he wasn’t on the perimeter to prevent Kansas knocking down 44% of its 3-point attempts. 

He also couldn’t reasonably be relied upon to take the ball up the court or distribute it to open shooters. Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino performed commendably as the Hoosiers’ field general in his return from injury, but his resurgence was overshadowed by Johnson’s gutting injury.  

Losing your starting point guard is a brutal test, one which I wouldn’t really fault Indiana for failing on the road against a top-10 team. But it’s not like the Hoosiers looked especially fearsome before Johnson’s injury — the Jayhawks led 23-12 when Johnson exited the game — nor was Johnson the only player taking shots or playing defense. 

Despite Hood-Schifino’s impressive 11-point return, Jackson-Davis’ remarkable defense and graduate student forward Race Thompson’s continued improved shooting, Indiana looked largely outclassed. 

Every time Kansas sank a 3-pointer or threw down a dunk, you’d find Kansas’ jarringly tall mascot Big Jay bobbing its head and clapping its hands on the sideline. Just when you thought the taunt was over, you’d look to the opposite sideline and find Kansas’ other, much more diminutive mascot Baby Jay doing the same, parading around in its admittedly sort of adorable No. ½ jersey. 

By the time you had finished contemplating the relationship between Big Jay and Baby Jay, Kansas had already scored again.  

Are they siblings? Kansas dunk. Is Big Jay Baby Jay’s mom? Kansas 3-pointer. Is this a beautiful and inspiring display of single motherhood, or is it a grim microcosm of child labor? Kansas just went up by 20 again. 

I think it’s unfair to say Indiana is bad or that the Hoosiers are definitely going to get embarrassed in the NCAA Tournament if they reach it. I mean, you could say those things and I wouldn’t have a great rebuttal, but it’s still early in the season. 

For now though, Indiana fans are left with little more than questions — how it all went wrong against Kansas, how to muster up the courage to believe again, how far they could drop kick Baby Jay if they got a running start — and a sinking feeling in their stomachs.  

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 
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