Indiana reached the low point of its season on Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette. And it doesn't get any easier from here.
The Hoosiers, losers of three straight games against beatable teams, must recover in a hurry because No. 15 Iowa comes to town on Tuesday night. The game will be televised on ESPN at 9 p.m.
Indiana (14-11, 4-8 Big Ten) is coming off a devastating week in which it lost to Penn State at home and fell at Purdue by 18 points. On his radio show on Monday night, Indiana coach Tom Crean said Wednesday's last-second loss to the Nittany Lions carried over to Saturday's game in West Lafayette.
"I think we really underestimated how much that one really devastated us," Crean said.
There's no doubt that part of Indiana's problem of late has been mental. Crean was asked about just that after the loss at Purdue, and his answer was interesting.
Crean said he's not big on bringing in sports psychologists to talk to his team, but admitted his team's struggles aren't due entirely to physical issues.
"You get your strength from your teammates," Crean said. "You gotta shut out the negativity and the doubts as much as you can, and then you can't let them creep in when the game's going on. We've gotta get more strength and confidence from our teammates on the floor.
"I've dealt with doubts most of my life. I'm pretty good at dealing with that, and I'm pretty good at spotting when other people have them, and I don't tolerate it."
The Hoosiers have played much better this season against good teams, which bodes well for them heading into Tuesday night against Iowa. Indiana has beaten both Wisconsin and Michigan at home this season, and pushed Michigan State to the brink in East Lansing.
Iowa (19-6, 8-4) has been one of the nation's top teams all season long, but the Hawkeyes have been a little inconsistent on the road in conference play. They enter Tuesday's game 4-2 in Big Ten road games, but three of those wins came against Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois.
Iowa is one of the nation's most offensively efficient teams, scoring 120.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks fourth (Duke, Creighton, Michigan). The Hawkeyes also excel on the offensive glass, rebounding 38.5 percent of their misses (15th).
It reminds me when we watch them – and it has been this way all year – of what we had last year with our team with the experience, shooting, scoring and guys that have been there in a lot of hard game," Crean said.
"We have to challenge shots. They are as good as anyone in this league at getting out (on the fast break) after makes or misses. There are some very good transition teams in this league, but they are as good as any. Not only because they get the ball up the court with the dribble or down the middle, but the way they shoot the 3-pointer in transition. So we have to be really good there."
Iowa has scored 80 or more points in three of its last four games, so the Hoosiers will have to come up with enough offense to hang with the Hawkeyes. As usual, that will begin with sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell, who poured in 27 points and made 7-of-8 3-pointers against then-No. 10 Michigan on Feb. 2.
Ferrell is averaging 17.9 points per game, but is just 15-of-46 from the field in his last three games. He scored 27 points but made only 6-of-17 shots from the field against Purdue.
"He has been impressive to me," said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. "Obviously, he was a very good player last year. His role was different with Zeller, Oladipo, Watford, etc. They had so many weapons. Now this year, he is ‘the guy'. That is a much more difficult transition than people think. When all of a sudden, you were a guy that could score but (last year) he was facilitating victory. Now this year, you have to go make sure your team wins by scoring, rebounding and defending and distributing. That is a very difficult task and I think he has done it really well. Little by little, you are seeing these young guys that Indiana has develop. They are able to do that because they know they have one of the best players in the country with the ball."