CRAWFORD | Hoosiers must find ways to win when shots don't fall - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Hoosiers must find ways to win when shots aren't falling

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BLOOMINGTON, IND. (WDRB) -- For Indiana, playing Wisconsin is like playing against your dad in the driveway. He's got that old-school haircut and old-school game, but you haven't quite been able to get the better of him.

At least, that's the Hoosiers' side of things after losing an 11th straight game to the Bo Ryan Badgers, 64-59 in Assembly Hall on Tuesday night.

This was a bit different from the previous ten. IU was heavily favored and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Wisconsin came in unranked.

Didn't matter. Ol' Dad handled the Hoosiers, then sent them to the movies -- or at least the video room -- with their Christian Watford-beats-Kentucky popcorn boxes and a few things to think about.

In at least this one respect, the Hoosiers will need to grow up: They must find a way to win games when they aren't at their best offensively -- like in the second half Tuesday, when the Hoosiers shot just 26.9 percent from the field.

Tom Crean, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo probably uttered the following words a dozen times between them after the loss: "We just didn't make shots."

IU makes shots like few other teams in the nation. It can put five players on the court who can burn you inside and out. It's the most impressive offensive team in the land when it has things going.

What it needs now is to figure out a way to win when things aren't going, when shots aren't falling.

Tuesday night, Crean said, "We weren't making enough shots. . . . And when we didn't make our shots we didn't come down and stay as disciplined as we needed to defensively."

Wisconsin's offense sometimes resembles this -- cross midcourt, pretend to spend 30 seconds figuring out how to dribble and pass, then make a big three or drive to score.

Too many times, Crean said afterward, the Hoosiers made small errors that led to the big upset. They weren't big mistakes, lack of energy or effort. But in games like Wisconsin gets you into, technical execution becomes magnified.

"They beat us off the dribble a little bit and the first half our main problem was that we were holding our rotations too long and over-helping on defense, which is something you don't need to do against Wisconsin," Crean said. "What Wisconsin does is they bait you with their drives and then beat you with their kicks, and we didn't do a good job against that. When we over-helped they made shots. In the second half they made some shots at the shot clock that reminded me of the McDonald's Michael Jordan-Larry Bird H-O-R-S-E commercials. When you get momentum going it's amazing what can happen. They played really hard and they got the momentum. We didn't make shots like we do and it affected us because now you have to come down and play 35 seconds of defense."

Against Wisconsin, to impose tempo you need to build a decent lead early. Indiana couldn't do that, despite 8-of-8 shooting and 17 first-half points from Zeller. Indiana tried to turn up the ball pressure, and even used full-court pressure defense for a good portion of the game, but was able to generate only seven Wisconsin turnovers out of it. Crean said he was not so much looking for turnovers as to quicken the pace with the press, but in the second half, Indiana couldn't dictate that, because it shot 26 percent from the field and was outrebouned.

"We try to take away giving up easy baskets," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "I think everybody in the country says that and then you've got to do it and our guys have bought into that, especially tonight because Indiana is that good. They can run it right down your throat. They can get 100 on you. They have the potential to do that."

After his big first half, Zeller missed his first seven shots of the second half and did not score a field goal until just 16.1 seconds remained.

IU twice cut its deficit to one in the closing minutes, and followed it up with good defensive possessions, but Wisconsin hit a couple of challenged shots to take the lead.

You can talk about missed shots, and Crean and his players did, a lot. But there's also the reality that slow offensive nights happen, particularly against good defensive teams or teams that want to limit possessions.

Wisconsin took away the fast break (each team scored only three fast-break points), covered three-pointers well and made Indiana work deeper into its offensive patterns than many teams are able to do.

"We weren't moving the ball like we should have or like we normally do," Crean said. "I think when we see the film it wasn't as much them as it was us. They played really well and I'm not taking anything away from the way they played, but we missed shots, especially the open ones, and we didn't guard the dribble the way we needed too. That's how they got the win.

". . .  I think once we got down in it we didn't keep reversing the ball. There were a couple times with the side pick-and-roll that we just weren't attacking the switches and getting the ball to the other side. We started looking and standing rather than keeping the ball moving. We are a ball reversal team. We are a high execution level team when we are reversing it two and three times and we didn't do a great job of that tonight."

With Big Ten play now here, Indiana is going to face more of the conference grind. If it wants tempo, it'll need to force it with its improved defense. But games like Tuesday night's are inevitable, and the Hoosiers are going to have to find ways to win a few games in the sixties, whether the shots are falling or not.

This IU team is better built to do that than its predecessors. But as games like Butler and Wisconsin show, it still has some building to do.

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