Upon Further Review: Loyola (Maryland)

A disastrous first half for Indiana gave way to a miraculous second-half comeback in Indiana's 72-67 loss to Loyola Tuesday night. Hoosier Nation looks back at the loss and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Jeremiah Rivers. No one truly had an MVP performance for the Hoosiers, and that includes Rivers. After all, the junior guard did commit a costly turnover on an in-bounds pass that allowed Loyola to tie the game with three minutes remaining, and he missed four free throws in the game's final 2:03 that might have changed the game's outcome. But with all that said, Indiana wouldn't have made the comeback from 24 points down without Rivers' efforts. Rivers finished with a season-high 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals while playing a team-high 34 minutes. He scored only one point during IU's 15-0 second-half run that got Tom Crean's team back in the game, but he had a rebound, two assists and two steals to help spearhead the comeback. Rivers continued to be involved as IU whittled down the lead, making a 12 footer in the lane to close the deficit to one, 61-60, and he then put IU in the lead with a conventional three-point play on another mid-range jumper at the 3:48 mark. The final three minutes of the game didn't go as Rivers or the Hoosiers had hoped, but Rivers was very involved in enabling IU to get back into the game after a dismal first half.

Biggest Surprise… The inability of Maurice Creek to get many quality looks. The nation's leading freshman scorer entering the game, Creek was held scoreless until the 13:22 mark of the second half when he connected on back-to-back 3-pointers during IU's 15-0 run. He followed that up with a conventional three-point play at the 11:04 mark that cut the deficit to eight, 58-50, but that nine-point, 2:18 stretch was all the scoring Indiana got from its leading scorer. Afterwards, Crean said it wasn't necessarily anything that Loyola was doing from a schematic standpoint to keep Creek from getting shots, but the Hoosiers being in too much of a hurry in the opening half and players getting away from the offense and trying to do a little too much on their own. As a result, Creek attempted only six shots for the game in 27 minutes and was held to single-digit points for just the second time all season.

What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana's stick-to-it-ness in the second half. Tom Crean might have been fully convinced that his team was going to figure out a way to win the game in the second half, but there probably weren't very many in the crowd of 11,321 that shared his faith. After all, the Hoosiers had done nothing in the game's opening 20 minutes to suggest they were capable of outscoring Loyola by 18 in the second half. But Indiana did just that, erasing a 20-point second half deficit with a 27-4, nine-minute run that gave IU a 65-62 lead with 3:48 left. While there are no moral victories to be taken from a loss to a MAAC team on one's home floor, there is something to be said for Indiana's ability to climb out of a seemingly cavernous hole with the second-half rally.

What I Found Most Concerning… Christian Watford's struggles. Loyola had some good length on its frontline with Shane Walker and Julius Brooks, but they didn't appear to be the types that could make Watford look like, well, a freshman. But that was the case, particularly early on. By the time Loyola had built its 24-4 lead by the 10:30 mark of the first half, Watford had already missed seven of eight shots and committed three turnovers. He'd had a couple of shots blocked when he didn't finish strong around the rim, and he also had a couple of careless turnovers against Loyola's fullcourt press. Those are the kinds of things that you often come to expect from younger players as they make the adjustment to the college game, but IU doesn't have the luxury of turning to veterans when Watford isn't at his best.

Turning Point: The game was won in the final three minutes when Loyola's Brett Harvey scored eight of his game-high 25 points and IU missed two shots, four free throws, and turned the ball over three times. But the tone of the game was set at the start when Loyola raced to a 24-4 lead early on. By the time Christian Watford scored on a layup to get IU on the board, the Hoosiers had already turned it over 10 times and missed their first five shots. By the time it was 24-4, IU was just 1-of-10 from the floor and had turned it over 12 times. Indiana spent the rest of the game trying to climb out of that hole, finally taking a lead in the closing four minutes. But that probably took its toll as well and could have resulted in a small let-up from IU once the comeback was complete.

Quotable:
"We thought we had them. They made plays at the end. We fought hard and we did a lot of things that we didn't think we were capable of doing…they made big plays at the end and it went their way." – Maurice Creek

"We were pretty stunned. They hit a lot of tough shots, they hit a lot of open shots. We were wishing they could backfire from the tough shots, but they didn't." – Creek

"It was a disappointment for our team. We came in sharp, we'd been practicing real well. I think we were a little shocked out how we came out." – Jeremiah Rivers

"It was a series of unfortunate events for me. It was unfortunate how things went down in the last 2 ½ minutes. I tried to get out there when he shot that 3. I guess I fouled him. I don't really want to get into that…I missed free throws at the end. That's all I've been working on the last few months, so I'm not going to worry about it. It just happened. I don't really have an explanation for that." –Rivers

"That was a trap game for them. They're young, they think they're going on vacation. You know how I know that? I've been coaching 21 years." – Loyola (Md.) Coach Jimmy Patsos

"This place is magic. If it's that loud with 12,000, I don't want to play here when there are 17,000." – Patsos

"We're here partly because I'm friends with John Harbaugh the Ravens' coach, who probably isn't going to let me go to any more games since that's his brother in law that I just coached against." – Patsos

"There are so many lessons that we're going through. This is a hard one in a lot of respects. We just spent a lot of time talking about what we need to learn from it. It was really, of all the games I think I've coached, a tale of two games, more than anything I've ever seen." – Tom Crean

"The second half, it was a very collective effort to understand we're not winning it individually, we're not winning it in a couple of minutes, we're going to have to play together no matter what." – Crean

"What it reinforces for me is that we've got a tremendous amount of learning to do. When I come in (to the press room) and tell you we don't have that leadership, hand-me-down quality that teams have, this is what I'm talking about." – Crean

"Everybody wants it back as soon as possible. Man, I know I do. But there's no secret formula, no magic wand, we are in a restoration project, and we learned a hard lesson tonight." – Crean

"When you look at what happened here over a period of time, when you walk in and have the absolute worst GPA in the history of the program, an absolute embarrassment to anyone who's ever gone to Indiana, and then you get a group of guys that have 10 guys (with a 3.0 GPA or above) that's pretty strong." – Crean

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