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The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball isn’t good enough to hang with nation’s best

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For more photos, see PHOTOS: Indiana men's basketball comes up short on the road against Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. – Trey Galloway stood in the left corner, hands on head, staring in disbelief. Moments later, Indiana’s senior guard and team captain flung his hands down in frustration. 

To his right, Wisconsin junior guard Max Klesmit was engulfed by teammates on the bench, celebrating his and-one 3-pointer that spearheaded his own 14-2 run. 

The Hoosiers (12-7, 4-4 Big Ten) had no answer for Klesmit or the No. 14 Badgers (14-4, 6-1 Big Ten), suffering a lopsided 91-79 defeat Friday night at the Kohl Center. 

The loss continues Indiana’s season-long struggles against nationally ranked opponents, as the Hoosiers are now 0-5 in such games – and only one, a 75-71 loss to the University of Kansas on Dec. 16, has been decided by less than 12 points. 

It comes just three days after Indiana’s 87-66 home loss to Purdue, which spelled trouble, but Friday night’s loss in Madison did so tenfold. 

Indiana’s nearly halfway through Big Ten play. It still doesn’t have a Quadrant 1 victory and entered the day ranked No. 99 in the country in NET. The Hoosiers’ resume is lackluster. 

All the while, Indiana head coach Mike Woodson, as he has several times this season, continues to point towards inexperience as the reason for the Hoosiers’ issues. 

“We’re a new team,” Woodson said. “I’m not using that as an excuse — you've got 10 new players, and we’re still trying to figure each other out.” 

But it’s the middle of January. Indiana doesn’t have much more time to find itself. There are only 12 more Big Ten games, with just three coming against teams that are currently ranked. 

The Hoosiers’ resume needs more — fast. The problem is they appear far too flawed to add to it. 

Indiana’s allowed 178 points over the past two games. It’s given up at least 86 points in three of its last four losses. Wisconsin’s 91-point showing was its most in a Big Ten game since Feb. 3, 2015, which also came against the Hoosiers. 

Woodson said postgame Indiana’s defensive effort has been fine, but its rotations are awful, as was the on-court product. 

“You ain’t going to beat nobody in the Big Ten, and that’s on me — 91 points, it’s a lot of points,” Woodson said. “We were getting beat off the bounce a lot tonight, and that generated a lot — they made 25 free throws. That’s a bit much. We’ve got to get that fixed.” 

Woodson noted the absence of sophomore center Kel’el Ware, who didn’t play due to an ankle injury suffered in practice, was a factor in the Hoosiers’ struggles, as holes opened in the paint. 

But Indiana still let Wisconsin shoot 59.6% from the field and 47.6% from 3-point range, both over 10% better than the Badgers’ season average. 

Indiana’s defensive struggles paired with offensive inconsistencies paved the way for Wisconsin to go on a 32-13 run over a 13-minute stretch in the first half, giving the Badgers a commanding 39-26 halftime lead. 

Klesmit’s personal run in the second half, which came after a 9-0 Hoosiers push, proved similarly damaging to Indiana’s hopes. 

These runs reveal a deflating flaw — sophomore forward Malik Reneau said postgame the droughts are sparked by a lack of trust between teammates. 

“We’ve got to figure out a way to be one on the court,” Reneau said. “I feel like we’re kind of disconnected in some ways, but we’re going to fix that, get it right.” 

The focus shifts to Indiana’s senior leaders: guards Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal and forward Anthony Walker. 

Woodson previously said he has no complaints about Leal and didn’t mention him Friday. Woodson said postgame Johnson tried to lead and will have a chance to return to the starting lineup after a three-game hiatus. 

But Woodson left Friday needing more from Walker, who had only 2 points and no rebounds in seven minutes, and Galloway, who posted 10 points. 

“It still starts with our seniors,” Woodson said. “I didn’t think Walker was very good. Gallo had a stretch he was horrendous that really cost us about 10 points. Those are things that are correctable that we’ve got to clean up if we’re going to move forward and stay in the hunt.” 

Reneau singled out Johnson and Galloway as being present and ready to calm teammates in times of angst, but the Hoosiers have been called for four flagrant fouls in the last four games. Three of those have been emotion-related, including the latest instance Friday, when sophomore guard CJ Gunn elbowed Klesmit’s jaw. 

Be it the runs, lack of discipline or evidently poor body language, Indiana’s leadership appears questionable. Woodson said he needs better guard play, and the defense hasn’t been consistent enough to win in the Big Ten. 

The Hoosiers have eight days to self-reflect entering a Jan. 27 road trip to No. 14 Illinois. Woodson said there’s no secret sauce, just work. That work starts in practice — but like everything else, Indiana’s practices haven’t been good enough to win consistently this season. 

“We’ve really got to go harder in practice and understand what Woody’s talking about and applying it on the court,” Reneau said. “I feel we’re not doing that, and that’s when they go on their runs, and it’s hard to fight back. It’s tough when you build that deficit.” 

Indiana has made the NCAA Tournament in each of Woodson’s first two seasons. It appears unlikely to continue the trend this year, barring a late push. 

The Hoosiers may be young — but they’re also a long way from being competitive against the nation’s best teams and have a short time to figure out how to close the gap. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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