IU Insider Blog: Nebraska all over again

Indiana had an opportunity Saturday to show if it learned anything 10 days ago when it played a stellar first half against Nebraska only to lose on the road with a less than inspiring second half effort. Unfortunately for IU, the answer is that very little was learned based on Saturday's second half against Minnesota.

During our in-game thread that we conducted for Saturday's Indiana-Minnesota game at Williams Arena, I made a point at halftime looking ahead to the second half.

That point was simple: We were about to find out what, if anything, Indiana learned in the 60-55 loss at Nebraska on Jan. 30.

The answer: Very little. Ten days after a similar second half collapse in Lincoln, Indiana repeated the effort against the Golden Gophers in the Barn.

They were two games that easily could have ended up in the win column and yet instead IU has two losses to show for their efforts. IU now sits at 14-9 and 4-6 in Big Ten play. The sad thing is that based on those two games that record could be a much more palatable 16-7 overall and 6-4 in conference play.

But the reality is that Indiana turned the ball over way too many times in the second half (11 times in the final 20 minutes) and the Hoosiers were unable to hit enough big shots. The stellar defensive effort that had been there last Sunday against Michigan wasn't there when IU needed it the most against Minnesota.

The story lines between IU's performance against Nebraska and the game against Minnesota had some clear similarities.

In the first half of both games Indiana was clearly in control and had the home team on the ropes. Against Nebraska, IU jumped out to a 16-point lead and still led by 13 at the break. Against Minnesota Saturday night, IU had the same kind of spirited play. The Hoosiers led by 13 with 8:30 to play in the half and still had a double-digit lead at 10 with 1:22 remaining. And even when the IU lead slipped to six at halftime against the Golden Gophers, Indiana fans had to have felt like the Hoosiers turned in a pretty good half of basketball on the road.

But the second half efforts just weren't there. Now I will say that I thought Indiana answered Minnesota's first charge a lot better than IU did down the stretch against Nebraska. After Minnesota quickly tied the game at 38 three minutes into the second half Saturday and all the ‘Here we go again' thoughts were creeping into your head, the Hoosiers did respond with an 8-0 run to re-establish the eight point advantage at 46-38.

When Will Sheehey followed a missed Yogi Ferrell 3-point attempt with 13:57 to play, IU still had an eight-point edge at 48-40.

But that's when the wheels came off. IU's next field goal didn't come until 7:46 on a left-handed shot by Noah Vonleh coming across the lane. That's more than six minutes without a field goal. IU then scored a total of three field goals pretty quickly, the last one coming on a Vonleh drive at the 5:54 mark. IU still led by three at that point, 56-53.

But once again that's when the struggles hit again. IU went until the 1:27 point in the game before making another field goal, that a shot clock beating contested jump shot by Ferrell.

But you simply can't have those kinds of droughts on the road in the Big Ten and expect to come away with victories. It is just not going to happen.

I think the most disappointing thing as I watched the game from my living room in Indianapolis Saturday night was simply the feeling that when this team plays at a high level, they look like an NCAA Tournament team.

When Vonleh is aggressive inside and taking the ball hard to the basket and cleaning up the glass on both ends of the floor, IU can be very good.

When Williams looks like he did for the first 4 minutes of the game when he scored IU's opening nine points, Indiana has a different dimension.

When Yogi is flying around the court and making things happen, and knocking down difficult shots in the process, IU can be pretty good.

The same is true with Sheehey and Jeremy Hollowell and even Hanner Mosquera-Perea at times off the bench. You look at Indiana and you think it is all beginning to click.

And then comes a second half performance like Saturday night and you're left to wonder just where this team will ultimately end up when the season comes to an end.

There is still lots of time for this IU bunch to get things figured out. But those opportunities are beginning to slip away, too.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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