BY Nathan Brown, AllHoosiers.com
In non-conference play, the Hoosiers played a weak enough schedule to mask their turnover issue heading into Big Ten play. Sure, most die-hard IU fans knew that nearly 16 turnovers per game against the likes of Nicholls State and Oakland wasn't going to hold up in one of the toughest conference's in the country, but a 10-3 record delayed the worries for the time being.
But 23 turnovers in their first conference game of the season (yes, including five extra minutes in overtime) shows this young team isn't equipped to hold their own when it matters most.
Tom Crean has been saying all non-conference that the turnover problem would settle down. Just some young guys getting used to playing quick, he claimed. Turnovers committed while trying to execute the game plan are okay, he reasoned.
Not now, not anymore. The time to iron out sloppy play while running the court too quickly or making a daring pass was at home against teams IU could beat handily, even with a poor game.
But against a team like Illinois, IU continued to turn the ball over in bunches – including five-straight possessions in the first half. The Hoosiers were lucky to head into the locker room tied - due in large part to hitting five 3-pointers in the first half.
Early in the second half, the turnovers went away briefly. Not surprisingly, the Hoosiers grabbed a seven-point lead, but they were also the exact reason IU made just three field goals in the final nine minutes of regulation.
Five turnovers, with just six shots.
Yogi Ferrell put together an impressive night on the offensive end with a career-high 30 points, but in my eyes, it will forever be marred by his six turnovers he committed in the process. He's grown with his scoring abilities, sure, but IU won't gain much traction when its leader is either making shots or giving opportunities to shoot them away.
IU needs all the opportunities for shots the team can muster with such a shaky field goal shooting team. Ferrell has proven himself as a consistent scorer from the floor, but I'm not convinced that anyone else – even Noah Vonleh – can be relied on to knock down shots in bunches nearly every night.
To me, this IU squad looks like it's much closer to the 2010-11 Hoosier team that finished the season 12-20 than the NCAA title contending team of just a year ago, and it all goes back to the team's often weak control of the ball.
No, I'm not saying IU is going to win just two more games this season. In fact, I think they'll finish somewhere in the middle of a rugged Big Ten conference.
Turnovers, though, will continue to take away opportunities on the offensive end from a team that needs them desperately.