IU Insider Blog: Running in place

Against Wisconsin, IU took a giant leap forward. Against Northwestern, Indiana stumbled several steps back. The Michigan State game was some good, some not so good. But if IU is to make a run in the Big Ten this season the Hoosiers need to start taking multiple steps forward.

Last week's theme for the Indiana basketball team was one step forward, two steps back.

The Wisconsin victory was actually more like a leap ahead and the Northwestern loss was closer to slipping on the stairs and tumbling backwards.

Tuesday night's 71-66 loss to Michigan State was far from a step back after the Northwestern game but it wasn't a major step forward either.

It was somewhere in the middle.

But the one thing I took out of Tuesday night's loss in the Breslin Center is that this Indiana team is far from done. Sure, at 2-4 in Big Ten play the Hoosiers have a long road to climb but with more consistent play Indiana could get there.

Having said that though, the reality with the Hoosiers though is the most consistent thing about them is their general inconsistency. That's something it seems we can always count on.

The shooting was light years better than it was against Northwestern in Assembly Hall. But then IU doubled it turnover count from Saturday in the loss at Michigan State. Against the Spartans IU turned it over 18 times after a nine-turnover effort against the Wildcats.

One step forward, one step back.

IU does a great job all night at the free throw line. The Hoosiers hit 22-of-26 foul shots and in many ways it allowed IU to hang around. But though Indiana only missed one foul shot in the second half it was a costly one. It was the front end of a one-and-one by Noah Vonleh, generally a good free throw shooter. It came with 7 minutes to play and IU trailing 54-50.

One step forward, one step back.

Noah Vonleh is once again a beast inside. In the first half he has nine points and looks as if he could own the Spartans in the paint. Every player they put on him gets into foul trouble. In the second half, he is limited to four points. Yes, he gets fouled and that accounts for some of his inability to score but he also missed a few good looks inside, too.

One step forward, one step back.

The point is that taking one step forward followed by one step back is akin to running in place. And for an Indiana team that very likely will need to finish at least .500 or a game above in Big Ten play to have a realistic shot at getting back to the NCAA Tournament, running in place won't cut it.

What Indiana needs is several steps forward, then a step to the side, and a few more forward again.

The Hoosiers face Illinois at home, Nebraska on the road and then Michigan at home in the next three. It will be a huge stretch of games for Indiana and will give the Hoosiers a good feel for where they stand at the halfway point of the conference race.

The running in place days have to end soon for this Indiana basketball team.

The next opportunity comes Sunday at home and IU fans simply hope for the team that showed up against Wisconsin or even Michigan State and not the one that played against Northwestern.

Asking too much? We'll see.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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