Hoosier MVP…Indiana might be playing its worst basketball of the season, but a case can be made that senior Marshall Strickland is playing the best basketball of his career. Strickland is averaging 15.3 points/game during IU's current three-game losing streak, including an 18-point performance against Iowa. Not only was Strickland IU's most reliable threat from the perimeter in the game, he also came up with the team's biggest defensive play as well. With Iowa leading 61-53 with 4:13 remaining, Strickland tipped the ball away from Jeff Horner in the backcourt, and then dove between Horner's legs to tie the Hawkeye guard up and force a jump ball that ultimately went to the Hoosiers.
Strickland has also been the front man for the team when it comes to dealing with the slew of questions about the future of Mike Davis and the program. While it's not exactly the spot he hoped to find himself in during his final college basketball season, he continues to handle it well.
Pivotal Stretch…In the final seven minutes of the first half, Iowa wrestled control of the game away from IU and never relinquished it. After a Marshall Strickland 3-pointer at the 7:09 mark closed Iowa's lead to 28-26, Iowa outscored IU 10-4 to finish the half to go into halftime up eight, and that lead quickly jumped to double figures early in the second half.
During the final seven minutes of the first half, Indiana was just 2-for-6 from the field, missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and committed five turnovers. Iowa, meanwhile, wasn't much better, going 2-for-8 and committing a trio of turnovers as well. That suggests, though, that IU failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to go on a run itself to go into halftime with a lead against the Hawkeyes.
What I Found Most Concerning… I'm going to step away from the court on this one and say the most concerning/disturbing thing that came out of Saturday's game was the pre-game talk among IU fans about staging a "blackout" protest at the game. The protest was to stand in contrast to a couple of organized a "whiteouts" for Hoosier home games, where fans were encouraged to wear all white to support the team and create an intimidating atmosphere for the foes. Saturday's idea was for IU fans to wear all black as a message to IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan that it was time to for a coaching change in Bloomington.
While such a protest didn't get off the ground, for people to even contemplate such an idea is disturbing, to say the least. First of all, for people to not appreciate the racial inferences that could be made is mind-boggling. Whether intentional or not, that sort of publicity would be a terrible black eye on the program and on the fans in general, and the subsequent fallout would set back the program years.
It's also troubling to see so many fans willing to turn their backs on the players on the team. While the target of such a protest would have been Davis, it would have sent a terrible message to the current IU players and potential future players as well. It's obvious from talking to IU's players that this current climate around the program has many of them disenchanted with just about everyone outside the IU locker room, and it's unfortunate that they have to deal with that.
What I Found Most Surprising… Mike Davis' absence. Considering the whirlwind of rumors that had circulated in the last couple of days, the coincidence that Davis wouldn't be on the sidelines was bound to fuel speculation about his immediate future with the IU program.
All indications are Davis' explanation of having flu-like symptoms is legitimate. IU team physician Dr. Larry Rink vouched for the severity of Davis' illness, as did IU's players, coaches and administrators. When you consider some of the things he's had to deal with in the past, it's hard to imagine that he'd suddenly try to avoid standing front-and-center with what's been going on in recent days.
With that said, one does have to question the fact that after the game he was able to talk to a pair of media outlets and voice his displeasure with some of the criticism that he's taken, and more specifically how that criticism impacts his players. Without knowing the exact extent of Davis' illness, you'd think that if the head coach was too sick to make it to the game, he'd also be too sick to field reporters' questions as well.
What I Found Most Impressive…Indiana did dig itself a big hole early, but considering everything that's been going on as of late, the team did show some resiliency in the game's final eight minutes. Indiana was down 16 with 8:21 on the clock, but managed to claw its way back. Ultimately, Indiana had two different possessions with an opportunity to tie the game in the game's final minute.
In the end that resiliency wasn't enough to overcome the slow start, and Assistant Head Coach Donnie Marsh talked about how this team is still failing to grasp the need to play for a full 40 minutes every time out. But there was every reason for Indiana to fold in the closing minutes and blame the loss on all of the turmoil that they've dealt with in recent days. They didn't do that, though, which leaves the door open for some sort of turnaround on Wednesday when IU travels to University Park, Penn., to face Penn State.
Marshall Strickland on Iowa:
"They're a tough team. They have so many weapons inside with Brunner and outside with shooters. They stretched us out."
Strickland on the impact of the coaching rumors:
"It's nothing new. It's always something. We just try to keep a tight circle, and we'll fight to the end.."
Donnie Marsh on what needs to change:
"We've got to work past some slow starts and some individual slow starts to be able to put ourselves in a position against good teams where we can not just compete, but we have a chance to win."
Donnie Marsh on what unfolded in the morning with Davis' health:
"He and I talked probably about five times this morning. I think I was up at 6:45, and we talked early. We talked right before pre-game meals early at 8:30, and he said, 'I don't think I'm going to make pre-game. I'm just going to try to ride it out and can be there at 10:30.' We talked again at 10:30, and he was actually feeling worse. Then we talked right before the guys came back in for pre-game, which is about 40 minutes before tip, and I asked, 'How are you feeling?' And he said, 'I just don't think I can make it.' He said, 'Just run with it. You know our stuff and you and Kerry and Coach Green can handle it.' We gave him a call at halftime to get his observations on what we were doing right and what we weren't doing right, and he made some suggestions. So we tried to implement some of those in the second half."
Donnie Marsh on what the subject of his conversation was with Davis after the game:
"It was, 'Man, I really wish I could have been there for the guys.' He said kind of watching it on television, he got a little bit of a different perspective than he would from the bench, and it was kind of like there is some juice that is just not there. We're kind of wandering around at times, so we talked about ways to address that. We talked about some things that we didn't get what we hoped to get from some of our guys that played pretty good minutes for us. Then we talked about preparation for Penn State and going on the road to Penn State."
Upon Further Review…Iowa
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