Hoosier MVP…Instead of handing out an award that quite honestly isn't deserved by anyone on the IU roster, we'll refrain from giving anyone the honor by default. Whether the IU player suited up for 31 minutes like Robert Vaden and Marshall Strickland or just two like Earl Calloway, every player contributed significantly to Indiana's worst effort of the season on both ends of the floor.
If there was an MVP from this contest, it would be the player or players who stepped forward either in the locker room after the game or on the plane ride home to Bloomington and voiced their displeasure with what unfolded at Williams Arena and insisted that sort of effort would no longer be tolerated. On a team that features four seniors (Sean Kline, Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe, Marshall Strickland), that sort of leadership should come naturally…but it's unclear whether or not there is a player or two who would take that sort of vocal leadership role.
Pivotal Stretch…One could break apart the first-half in a whole slew of ways to show Indiana's futility on both ends of the floor. But when Marco Killingsworth went to the bench with a second foul at the 12:22 mark of the first half, the wheels came off. After the two teams exchanged baskets to make the score 17-11, Minnesota hit six straight baskets, Indiana missed seven straight, and Minnesota was up 19, 30-11.
While Killingsworth had only two points at the time, his absence obviously fueled Minnesota's fire while also unsettling the Hoosiers. A.J. Ratliff said afterwards that the team had "no idea what we were doing" during that span. Even when the Hoosiers' 6-8, 270-pound man in the middle is struggling offensively, he still commands double teams whenever he touches the ball, which frees up open looks on the perimeter. But with him on the bench and no one on the IU roster looking to attack the basket, Indiana settled for shots from the perimeter. During the seven-minute, 13-0 Minnesota run, Indiana had a desperation shot from Strickland as the shot clock was nearing zero and six missed 3-pointers, including an ill-advised deep 3-point attempt from Calloway. As the game began to get out of control, Vaden tried to force a couple of 3s to stem the tide, but to no avail.
What I Found Most Concerning… Mike Davis pretty well hit the nail on the head with his postgame comments when he said Minnesota obviously wanted to be 1-6 a lot more than Indiana wanted to be 5-2. It's hard to argue with that fact considering what unfolded, but the question that begs to be asked is why? Indiana had an opportunity to climb into a five-way tie for first-place in the Big Ten with a home game coming up on Wednesday against a very beatable Northwestern team. Instead, Indiana played with no energy or intensity, all but rolling over and playing dead against a team that hadn't won a basketball game in a month. The lack of resolve that was evident from this Indiana team makes one hard-pressed to believe that it can suddenly turn things around on the road. It's also befuddling to see a team that is devoutly loyal to its coach, Mike Davis, not put forth a better effort when the team's season, and some would argue Davis' job, is on the line. What unfolded Sunday wasn't about IU's gameplan. It was about the inability of the players to match Minnesota's guts and guile.
What I Found Most Surprising… How one-dimensional Indiana became when Killingsworth left the game. Minnesota extended its pressure on the perimeter, and Indiana's guards were either unwilling or unable to attack off the dribble. Instead, the Hoosiers settled for 13 first-half 3-point attempts compared to only nine attempts from inside the 3-point arc. With Killingsworth out, Indiana looked very much like it did at times during the last two seasons. Ben Allen is a terrific outside shooter, but he's yet to develop into someone who can establish position around the basket and command the ball. It's not that he needs to force a double team in the same way that Killingsworth does, but he needs to present a target on the block. That hasn't happened when he's been on the floor. His touches down low have been few and far between.
What I Found Most Impressive…You can take this game and turn it inside out and upside down, and there was nothing impressive about it from Indiana's perspective. Perhaps the fact that the 11th-ranked Hoosiers got behind so big, so early, they erased any doubt of the game's outcome and perhaps kept the 11,000-plus Gopher fans from rushing the floor to celebrate when the final horn sounded. But all joking aside, what would be impressive would be for Indiana to bounce back this week against a Northwestern team that won by eight early this season at Minnesota and against the nation's top-ranked UConn Huskies.
IU Coach Mike Davis on the possibility of shaking up IU's lineup in the wake of Sunday's performance:
""Who are you going to shake? Do you shake Marco (Killingsworth)? Do you shake (Robert) Vaden? Do you shake Strick (Marshall Strickland)? We just have some guys that have to get used to playing on the road. At home, we're a pretty good basketball team. It's no different than Iowa losing by 33 at Michigan State. We've got to figure out a way to win games on the road."
IU Coach Mike Davis on what the 19-point loss means:
" You lose by two, you lose by 40, you lose by 80, that's a loss. They're not going to write about how you almost won a game. They lost the basketball game. And we know as a staff, our guys have got to get better on the road."
IU Coach Mike Davis on his team's performance:
""I'm not going to insult you guys' intelligence at all by saying that we were ready to play. We weren't ready to play. This is our third road game and all three games have been the same. We look like a team that's afraid to play on the road."
Minnesota Coach Dan Monson on his decision to start Abu-Shamala and Puchtel:
"You can't just keep marching out the same way every game when you're 0-6. And think that as a coach, you're giving them every opportunity."
Random Thoughts…Indiana went up against the two worst shooting teams in the Big Ten statistically last week in Iowa and Minnesota, yet both shot better than 50 percent against the Hoosiers…After scoring at least 67 points in each of its first 13 games, IU has averaged 56.5 in its last four contests, scoring 62, 62, 60 and 42. Indiana has also seen its shooting percentage dip as well. IU shots 40.8% against Illinois; 39.1% against Purdue; 36.7% at Iowa; and 32.1% at Minnesota…while Indiana did just lose a road game Sunday, it was at a venue where Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern have already won this year…Marshall Strickland has been struggling mightily since Big Ten play opened. After shooting 54.3 percent (44-of-81) from the field during non-conference play, Indiana's senior guard is shooting just 32.6 percent (14-of-43) in six Big Ten contests.
Upon Further Review…Minnesota
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