Hoosier MVP…If there was one player who had the look of someone who was making every effort to try to turn around IU's fortunes Wednesday, it was senior Marshall Strickland. After Indiana fell behind 20-6 in the game's first 10 minutes, Strickland hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 10-0 run that got Indiana back into the game, although only temporarily. Strickland finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and five turnovers, although many of his miscues were with Marco Killingsworth sidelined with foul trouble, and the IU senior guard had to maybe try to do a little too much on his own.
Pivotal Stretch…If Indiana was going to get back into this game, it was going to have to be at the start of the second half, with the Hoosiers facing a nine-point deficit. The opportunities were there, but Indiana didn't capitalize. First, Killingsworth picked up his third foul just 14 seconds into the second half. While that didn't send him to the sidelines, it all but resigned him to being in foul trouble for the remainder of the game. Adding insult to injury was a pair of missed layups from Killingsworth on IU's first two possessions of the half, trips that conceivably could have cut the deficit to five.
Those shots didn't drop, though, and when Alando Tucker hit a 3-pointer at the 18:20 mark, Wisconsin was up by double digits for good. Indiana would cut the lead to 11 on a couple of occasions later in the second half, but with Killingsworth saddled with foul trouble and Indiana's shots not falling, Wisconsin was never in serious jeopardy in the second half.
What I Found Most Concerning… In four games, Indiana has shown absolutely no evidence of having the ability to beat any Big Ten team on the road, let alone a contender like Illinois and Michigan. Indiana has been soundly whipped by four teams by double digits, and with the exception of the Michigan State game, none of these contests were in doubt by the midway point of the second half.
IU Coach Mike Davis has tried to rationalize the losses by saying his team has caught everyone at the wrong time – Michigan State was 0-2 and in desperate need of a win; Iowa was coming off a 30-point loss at Michigan State; Minnesota was due for a win after an 0-6 start; and Wisconsin was riled up after losing five of six. But truth be told, that's simply spin. A case could be made that everyone of IU's foes was actually ripe for the picking due to their recent struggles. In Wisconsin's case, it's hard to make the argument that they were any more desperate after losing five out of six than they were, say, when they traveled to West Lafayette after having dropped four of five. Purdue handled the Badgers by eight, while the Hoosiers were humbled by 18.
Based on the four results, it's hard to imagine how Indiana can get its road woes reversed by next week's trips to Penn State and Illinois. They appear lost when they step on an opposing team's floor, and it's hard to believe that's going to change.
What I Found Most Surprising… No one either on the floor or on the sidelines appears to have any answers for why the team struggles like it does on the road. Maybe that shouldn't come as a surprise considering the team's first three road efforts, but in those a case could be made that Indiana's struggles boiled down to effort. Particularly in the losses to Iowa and Minnesota the Hoosiers started slow and never matched the energy and effort that their foes played with. With that in mind, a couple of lineup changes and the realization that it was do-or-die time was supposed to result in a much better effort in Madison.
That didn't happen, and I don't know that anyone could simply throw a blanket over the loss and chalk it up to effort. Indiana battled on the boards, out-rebounding Wisconsin 42-32. Indiana did turn the ball over 15 times, but that wasn't the determining factor. Indiana couldn't figure out a way to stop Alando Tucker from getting inside and scoring on the baseline or around the bucket, and it couldn't figure out a way to buy a basket, as IU shot a season-low 28.6 percent.
There were no remedies being offered after this game for what needs to change for IU to reverse its fortunes. All the coaches and players could say was that it needs to change. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what needs to change, which leads me to believe that the struggles are going to continue.
What I Found Most Impressive…There wasn't much of anything that happened on the court that was positive, so instead I'll throw some credit Marshall Strickland's way for coming out of the locker room after the game and fielding every reporter's question and handling the situation well. It was certainly an unenviable situation to be in for Strickland, but he didn't shy away from any of the questions and was as honest as he could be about the disappointment in the loss and the team's struggles on the road. The senior didn't necessarily have any answers for what can turn things around, but he did take one for the team in a lot of ways following the 72-54 setback in Madison.
Wisconsin's Alando Tucker on the job he did on Robert Vaden:
"I think he got antsy when he wasn't hitting shots. You want to get (scorers) antsy, get them doing things they don't normally do."
UW Coach Bo Ryan on how his team responded to IU's 10-0 run in the first half that cut a 14-point lead down to four:
"We've hit those stretches before, and what they did a better job this time was getting good looks and knocking them down."
Mike Davis on his decision to go with five guards at the end of the first half:
"We had no one else to put in, and didn't want to get (Killingsworth's) third. We were thin at that position. That's how we had to play."
Mike Davis on if his team was able to push the tempo like he had hoped:
"I think it did (work). We turned the ball over a couple of times. We had drives to the basket, and we missed layups. If you don't take advantage of opportunities it can look like it's not working, but we had opportunities."
Earl Calloway on what has to change:
"We have to go redefine us as a team. Coaches are giving us great plans, great strategy, great pre-games. We have to, as players, execute what they do. They give us the right things, they tell us what to do, and we have to put it on the court."
Random Thoughts…Robert Vaden entered the game having missed only two free throws all season (24-of-26), but missed six out of eight Wednesday. As a result, his free-throw percentage dropped from 93 percent to 76.5 percent…after shooting 52 percent from the floor during the non-conference slate, Indiana is shooting just 41.7 percent since conference play started…it appeared IU Coach Mike Davis was daring official Art McDonald to call a technical foul on him after McDonald whistled Robert Vaden for a charging call with four minutes remaining in the first half…Wisconsin fans, of all people, started a brief "Fire Davis" chant during the closing minutes of the game, although the chant was short-lived.
Upon Further Review…Wisconsin
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