A week ago this evening, Indiana basketball was sitting on Cloud Nine.
The Hoosiers had just put on an impressive display in pounding No. 8/13 Maryland 89-70 at Assembly Hall.
The win gave the Hoosiers a 15-4 overall record and a 5-1 mark in Big Ten play. That moved IU to a first place tie in the conference standings with Wisconsin.
Everything was right in Hoosier Nation. Fans were giddy as they talked about how this IU basketball team, that was picked ninth in the Big Ten before the season began, was over-achieving at such a high level.
I wrote in a column after that game that if the Hoosiers could just find a way to split one of the next two road games against Ohio State and Purdue that IU would put itself in a great position heading into the second half of the Big Ten season.
Now today, seven days later, IU is 5-3 after two disappointing efforts against the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers.
Which leads to the obvious question: Which is the REAL INDIANA BASKETBALL TEAM? Is it the one that looked good on the road against Illinois and then came home and put the hurt on a Maryland team that was 17-2 going into that game?
Or is it the bunch that hasn’t looked competitive the last two games against Ohio State and Purdue?
It’s a good question and one that needs to be answered.
To my way of thinking it’s not a big deal to go on the road and drop back-to-back games against Ohio State. It’s a tough league when you go on the road. Any time you can steal one away from home is huge and in Indiana’s case the Hoosiers already have road victories at Nebraska and Illinois.
So for me, it’s not a big deal to lose the last two games.
What is a big deal, however, is the way that Indiana has lost those games. What stands out is that IU simply hasn’t been competitive. With the exception of the start it had against Ohio State where it knocked down its first eight shots, Indiana hasn’t put up much of a fight the last two games.
Now, can the Hoosiers turn it around? Sure. Saturday IU plays at home against Rutgers and one would think that would be exactly the kind of game that the Hoosiers need at this point. In less than a week though, IU is back on the road at Wisconsin.
If you can garner a split in those two games you would be 6-4 in Big Ten play with eight to go. And people have looked at that eight-game stretch for a while thinking that IU has a good chance to be successful. The Hoosiers play five of the eight games at home, and two of the three road games are against Northwestern and Rutgers, teams that IU should at least be competitive with on the road.
But there’s that word again: competitive. More than anything Indiana needs to regain its competitive edge and fight again. The Hoosiers certainly had it on the road at Illinois and that was a game where Hanner Mosquera-Perea was out as well. Perea will still be out a few more weeks though and IU needs to find a way to be competitive on the interior.
You would certainly think that IU’s opponents will be studying the Ohio State and Purdue tape when formulating a game plan against the Hoosiers. That much is a given. But IU needs to get competitive again. Do that and this ship can be righted.
Everyone always says that this Indiana basketball team is so much fun to watch. And I agree with that.
But the last two games the Hoosiers have been downright unwatchable at times.
That needs to change in a hurry.