BOZICH | Indiana's season on the brink after blizzard of turnove - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana's season on the brink after blizzard of turnovers in Maui

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Indiana expected to play for the title of the Maui Invitational, but the Hoosiers finished sixth. Indiana expected to play for the title of the Maui Invitational, but the Hoosiers finished sixth.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – For nearly three decades I have resisted using the phrase “Season on the Brink,” while discussing the Indiana University basketball team.

Too easy. Worn out and overused. Had to be a better way.

John Feinstein retired those four words when he wrote his best-selling book about Bob Knight’s program at IU in 1986.

Today it’s time to break my rule. Wednesday was a Season on the Brink game for the Hoosiers and primarily coach Tom Crean at the Maui Invitational. The Hoosiers, ranked 13th, lost this one, 72-69, against a UNLV squad ranked 106th in Ken Pomeroy’s latest computer power rankings, throwing the ball away on nearly 29 percent of their possessions.

It’s difficult to say what will disappear faster – the Hoosiers (4-2) from the Associated Press Top 25 or the dwindling support Crean still has banked from an IU fan base increasingly agitated by careless handling of the ball and indifferent defense, basic fundamental flaws no coach can tolerate.

By game’s end Crean was a trending topic nationally on Twitter for the second time in three nights – both after IU defeats to inferior teams. In Year Eight, fans expect trophies not excuses.

If you’re looking for a snapshot of Indiana’s performance in this fifth-place game, this one works: In the time it took you to read those six paragraphs Indiana turned the ball over six times and let two Running Rebels drive untouched to the basket.

Don’t be deceived by the final score. Indiana failed to lead for a single second. Even after they rallied from a 15-point hole to tie the game at 46 early in the second half, they suffered (what else?) three turnovers and a missed three-point shot on their next four possessions.

After turning the ball over 21 times and missing 9 of 19 free throws, Indiana still had two chances to tie the game with 3.9 seconds to play.

They could not get the basketball to the rim – with two chances. (Just as they failed to get a shot on their final possession of a close loss to Wake Forest Monday.)

The first time, with Yogi Ferrell, their senior all-American candidate, handling the ball, they never got the ball in play. A five-second violation, which was actually called after Ferrell held the ball for seven seconds, resulted in Indiana’s 21st and final turnover.

But the Hoosiers were not done making themselves look poorly prepared. They forced a UNLV turnover and earned another shot. This time they did work the basketball to a shooter, but Nick Zeisloft’s attempt from the right wing was swatted away.

End of game. Start of the collective MRI on what is the problem with a team that was generally expected to finish no worse than fourth in the Big Ten – and no worse than third in the Maui Invitational.

Why can’t these guys stop opposing ball handlers from driving directly to the rim? Crean understands the value of ball pressure. Why can’t he convince or rally his guys to deliver it?

An Indiana team that went to Hawaii expecting to play Kansas in the Maui championship game Wednesday night finished the event in sixth place –  just one spot better than the Hoosiers finished in Maui seven years ago when Crean took over a program gutted by NCAA sanctions and transfers and played with walk-ons and freshmen.

A perplexing come-from-ahead loss Monday to Wake Forest. Large stretches of indifferent defense while outlasting a mediocre St. John’s team Tuesday. Then falling behind 27-12 to UNLV before you could order a Pina Colada because of another blizzard of turnovers.

In three games in Maui, the Hoosiers kicked sand in their own faces with 51 turnovers.

It’s hard to imagine how this trip could have gone worse.

Turnovers.

Puzzling defense.

Reckless shot selection.

Turnovers.

The benching of three starters.

Indifferent defense.

In-game, on-the-court squabbling between a freshman (Thomas Bryant) and a senior (Yogi Ferrell) Wednesday against UNLV.

Social media critiquing of the coaching staff by the mother of a benched player (Troy Williams).

Leaving shooters uncovered.

More turnovers.

And losses to Wake Forest, a team picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and UNLV, a program that lost 15 games and failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season.

What’s next for Crean and IU?

A home game Monday night against Alcorn State that will be attended by fans eager to vent. Then a Wednesday night trip to Durham, to play Duke, a team ranked sixth after winning the national title last season.

That trip to Krzyzewskiville has now become a game Indiana needs to win to regain any mojo and optimism they carried into this season.

And stop the prevailing narrative about a season -- and a coach -- on the brink.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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