Indiana dropped its Big Ten 74-67 debut Wednesday night to Northwestern at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers struggled to defend Chase Audige in the home stretch, had many long goal droughts and dropped to 5-3 overall as a result.
Here are five lessons from the loss to the Wildcats:
• Another uninspired start: Indiana was able to overcome a slow start on Saturday against Butler with a second leg to put the Bulldogs with fewer people away. The Hoosiers did not have that luxury on Wednesday against Northwestern, which was full of confidence after a 14-point victory over Michigan State on Sunday.
Indiana’s start was so bad that it lost 15 points at the 5:31 mark of the first half in a game Northwestern led for more than 29 minutes. This was not a casual loss, as the Hoosiers were defeated at both ends for most of the game.
“I thought we stank at both ends of the floor,” said Archie Miller after the game. “There were a lot of breakdowns, a lot of sloppiness and that defeated us.”
Ultimately, the blame begins and ends with Miller, who took full responsibility at the post-game press conference. The challenge for Miller is to find the slow starts and keep them from happening. Against a relentless Big Ten schedule, Hoosiers cannot afford to dig big holes in the beginning and hope to succeed.
• Indiana offers little defensive resistance: The Hoosiers entered Wednesday’s game ranked in the top 10 nationally defensively in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. No opponent has scored more than one point for possession against IU in the first seven games.
Northwestern, however, set Indiana on fire within the 3-point line, making 67.7 percent of its 2s. Wildcats were 12 out of 16 (75 percent) in dunks and layups and 9 out of 15 (60 percent) in their other 2-point attempts. Indiana blocked just two shots, failed to stop the dribble from penetrating and the great northwest reserve, Ryan Young, scored 13 points and grabbed four offensive rebounds in 21 minutes.
Indiana is clearly losing the depth that Joey Brunk would have provided in the post if for no other reason than his absence forced Trayce Jackson-Davis to play big minutes in every game. Jackson-Davis recorded almost 36 minutes on Wednesday and has played 34 or more minutes in four of the last five games.
“We’re going to have to bite the bullet here and we’re going to have to go a little deeper,” said Miller. “Play more guys to be able to sustain the depth that we will need throughout the season defensively.”
• Long droughts persist: Indiana’s offensive development lagged behind defense throughout Miller’s era in Bloomington. Poor free throws and 3-point shots have been persistent throughout Miller’s term, and while Indiana hit almost 39% of the 3s on Wednesday, it only hit 62.5% on free throws in 16 attempts.
Wednesday’s offensive performance was known to have had several prolonged droughts. The Hoosiers had four different situations in which they spent more than 2:12 of the game time without scoring. Two of those occurrences saw Indiana go without goals for more than 3:36.
The most damaging drought came after Indiana led by four in 54-50 with 8:56 in a pair of free throws from Race Thompson. Indiana did not score again until the 4:49 mark. At that time, Northwestern had opened an eight-point lead that it would not abandon.
• Turnover remains a major problem: In Miller’s first three years, he used to quote 12 turnovers or less as a goal for his teams.
This season, he mentioned a more ambitious goal of 10 or fewer turnovers per game, which has only been achieved twice. Indiana turned eight times against Tennessee Tech in his debut and nine times against Providence. Indiana had 16 comebacks against Northwestern. In the last six games, the Hoosiers have averaged 15.1 turnovers per game.
In the defeat of the Northwest, Jackson-Davis struggled with some of the readings he needed to do defensively and had five turnovers. Trey Galloway had four twists in 22 minutes off the bench. Armaan Franklin, despite all the improvements he showed, had three twists in the defeat and 16 in the last five games. Mistakes are a problem for the entire team that left Miller thinking about changes when he talked about the turnover on Wednesday night.
“We have a lot of moves that are not going to work for us advancing in this league,” said Miller. “We cannot turn the ball more than 16 times at home. We cannot turn the ball 16 times, we are not very good. There are five or six games now that need to be reduced. We may need to slow down. We are not playing with so many guys anyway and if we keep turning the ball in the transition with the numbers, then we may just have to slow down a bit to make sure we don’t come. “
• Audige, after an invisible first half, carries Northwestern along the stretch: It was a tale of two halves for Northwest guard Chase Audige in his first Big Ten road game.
After playing just three minutes in the first half due to fouls, Audige fired in the second half at Assembly Hall. In 15 minutes of the second half, William & Mary’s transfer hit 6 of 8 from the field and scored 17 points. It was an amazing performance by a player who scored just 16 points in Northwestern’s two previous games against the main competition.
“I give Audige a lot of credit,” explained Miller. “In the first half he was eliminated for fouls, but in the second half he was confident. He came and made some really important moves for them and some big shots ”.
The two veteran Indiana guards, however, were almost invisibly offensive. Al Durham Jr. scored just two points in 36 minutes and Rob Phinisee scored just four points in 23 minutes. The pair combined to shoot 1 of 9 from the ground.
Filed Under: Archie Miller, Northwestern Wildcats