BLOOMINGTON- The Indiana Hoosiers lost another Big Ten game Saturday, falling to Penn State, 65-55. The final score, however, doesn't tell the whole story. For the third time in the last three games, Indiana got off to a slow start and was never able to recover.
IU didn't score for nearly three and a half minutes, with their first points coming on a Tom Pritchard layup. Before Pritchard's basket IU missed four shots, committed two turnovers, and three fouls.
Those kind of statistics are the ones that allow teams to get a head start on the Hoosiers, and Saturday was no different as Penn State jumped to a 27-13 lead midway through the first half.
Tom Crean is well aware of his team's slow starts. "Too many little holes, and we kept digging but we got ourselves a little too far," Crean said.
Part of Indiana's struggles have been defending the 3-point shot. Penn State started 4-of-6 from behind the arc to help build their lead. Ohio State started 8-for-9 from deep in its 77-53 win over IU Tuesday, while Illinois started 6 for 7 last weekend.
"Half of those threes in the last five games were us being there, without really being there," Crean said. "A hand not up, one step short."
When a team gets behind early, it uses up so much energy to come back that there's nothing left in the tank to get over the hump. On Saturday, Indiana climbed to within four with 40 seconds left, thanks to two Matt Roth three-pointers. If Indiana were able to avoid putting itself in such a big hole early, a desperate come back would not be necessary.
Freshman point guard Verdell Jones, III said it's something they've been working on in practice.
"It affects our play a lot," Jones said. "That's why a lot of teams get those big leads and it's hard to come back from. It's something we're working on in practice and it just hasn't come over to the game yet, so hopefully it comes soon. We're getting more confidence each day. When we were down 14, we still thought we could win. The crowd got behind us and we just started fighting back."
Senior forward Kyle Taber thinks IU can improve its pregame routine in order to get off to a better start.
"We just gotta be ready to play," Taber said. "Sometimes we have practices that start like that, and practices translate to games. We gotta work on not coming out slow and then trying to play catch up."
As the only senior on the team, Taber is the only player on the roster with significant Big Ten experience. He says the team can do a better job of preparing itself to be ready from the opening tip.
"I think our warm-ups need to be better," Taber said. "We need to get our mind right and get loose and get a good sweat going."
Getting off to better starts is all part of putting together a complete 40-minute game – something this Indiana team has had a hard time doing. Crean said his team is still struggling to understand how long the game really is.
"Young players have such a hard time understanding how long the game is, and how much you can lengthen the game," Crean said.
Slow Starts Continue to Plague Hoosiers
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