DURHAM, N.C. (WDRB) – Indiana vs. Duke was created to be The Main Event in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night.

ESPN booked it for the prime 9:15 p.m. time slot. Dick Vitale worked one microphone. Grant Hill, Fuzzy Zoeller, Jim Harbaugh, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Danny Ferry and dozens of NBA scouts wedged into steamy Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The officiating coordinators sent a Final Four crew.

A Who’s Who of Indiana boosters were tucked in the first row behind the Hoosiers’ bench, led by Cindy Simon Skjodt. You might not recognize her name. You will next season when it goes on Assembly Hall because of the $40 million she donated to renovate Indiana’s home arena.

Then The Main Event dissolved into a lame event.

Indiana disappeared into another defensive abyss, free-falling from six points ahead to 25 points behind while losing to Duke, 94-74.

Cue the howling about IU coach Tom Crean and whether he’ll be around for the Assembly Hall re-dedication in three, two, one …

The grumbling about Indiana basketball has not been this loud and persistent since Mike Davis resigned in the middle of the 2006 season.It's inescapable.

The faithful don’t like turnovers. They were raised on Bob Knight who did not tolerate persistent silliness with the basketball.

They can’t be fooled by insincere defense. Knight demanded a barbed-wire man-to-man. He turned defense into the Hoosiers’ calling card during three NCAA championship seasons.

And they certainly don’t like turnovers mixed with invisible defense when it results in the Hoosiers’ third loss in five games.

“It’ll be December 3rd here in about 30 seconds,” Crean said in a brief post-game press conference that included only three questions. “It’s early in the season.”

It might be early in the season, but it’s already getting late for the Hoosiers to show they’re the team they were supposed to be with four returning starters and three McDonald’s all-Americans.

Didn’t show it against Wake Forest in the first round of the Maui Invitational. Didn’t show it in the fifth-place game against UNLV. Didn’t show it over the final 25 minutes against Duke.

Write the 20-point gap down as the largest losing margin of any of the 14 ACC/Big Ten Challenge games. Duke’s 94 was the most points the Hoosiers have allowed since Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the rest of Kentucky’s 2012 NCAA title team hung 102 on IU in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Duke doesn’t have Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, although it looked that way Wednesday night.

You know the reason. Indiana played defense the same way the Hoosiers played it in Maui last week.

That put Crean in an irritated and fatigued mood where he reminded questioners several times that it’s Dec. 3 and the Hoosiers have played eight games. 

It is December 3, although it feels more like last February or March of 2014 around the Indiana basketball program. The only thing defensive about the Hoosiers is the way they respond when somebody asks about the way Indiana defends.

On a night when Indiana shot nearly 51 percent from the field, turned the ball over nine times and shot six more free throws than the home team, the Hoosiers were routed because they simply don’t make anybody uncomfortable on the defensive end of the floor. Zone defense? It should be junked.

“We thought we could drive and get offensive boards,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

No ball pressure. No heat in the passing lanes. No consistent forcing of drivers to their off hands. No blocking out.

“We were not nearly good enough on the ball tonight defensively, which forced us to help, which is what we don’t want to do against a team that has shooters like that,” Crean said.

The result?

Duke averaged 1.52 points per possession, and you don’t have to be a stats guru to understand that is a monstrous number, especially for a Duke team that no longer features Jahlil Okafor or Tyus Jones.

Open on the perimeter, the Blue Devils stuck 11 of 24 threes. When the threes were not there, Duke feasted around the rim, pounding the Hoosiers for 19 offensive rebounds. That is how you outscore the opposing team 26-8 in the paint.

“We got destroyed basically on rebounds, really,” said IU’s Troy Williams. “We got outrebounded. We had two of our starters (center Thomas Bryant and forward Collin Hartman) not even get rebounds. That’s huge for us.”

Great Duke offense or miserable Indiana defense?

“We have guys who can break you down,” Krzyzewski said. “Like we spread it out … I’m sure they would have wanted to play better defense. We were playing pretty good offense … for a period of time there we just kind of scored. “

And scored. And scored.

Crean’s guys played defense when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were in town three seasons ago. His Marquette teams usually had no problem bending their knees and getting into the defensive stance.

But lately?

“I think effort is as much of it as anything,” said IU guard Yogi Ferrell. “You can’t teach effort. Effort has to come from something within. We can get by with technical errors on defense. We can’t get by with guys not giving effort on defense.”

This team either A) has not received the memo or B) is ignoring the memo. In the end, the choices don’t matter. What matters is that Crean will have to fix the issue quickly because losing three out of every eight games with a team that started the season ranked in the Top 15 is only going to stir more bile around the IU program.

“It’s only December 3,” Troy Williams said, repeating the tag line for the night.

Yes, it is, but for Crean it is Year Eight, not Year Three. And it feels much, much later than Dec. 3 for this Indiana basketball team.

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