LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Everybody had a lengthy list of reasons why Indiana had to make a coaching change with its basketball program after last season.

Recruiting whiffs. Stale, hard-on-the-eyes offense. MIA from the NCAA Tournament. Yada, yada, yada.

Make sure you put this issue at the top of the list:

Indiana needed a staff that could figure out a way to win close games.

Starting with a one-point home loss to Maryland Jan. 26, 2020, the Hoosiers lost seven of their last 11 games decided by five points or less (or in overtime) coming into this season.

That issue has not disappeared — yet.

As the Hoosiers prepare for a critical Big Ten game Thursday night against No. 13 Ohio State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Indiana is a team that could be 14-0 or 10-4.

The Hoosiers are 11-3. They have played four games decided by five or less and lost three, beating only St. John’s. They are a team trending toward the cut line for the 2022 NCAA Tournament, lacking a victory to impress the Selection Committee.

The trend continues.

Mike Woodson, the coach chosen to fix what Archie Miller could not fix, understands that. He’s had a front row seat.

Two-point double-overtime loss at Syracuse. Five-point road loss to Wisconsin. Three-point road loss to Penn State.

On Wednesday, I asked Woodson if there was a common theme in the defeats. Is it a lack of belief within the locker room that the Hoosiers can deliver at winning time? Is not having guys who can make the plays that need to be made? What’s the reason?

“I think what you just said, it's believing that you can win,” Woodson said.

“This team has been stuck in a rut a little bit, and you know, we've got to get them over. I truly believe that if we had won the Syracuse or the Wisconsin game, they are in a different light. You know, they think totally different.”

“You know, we didn't win them. So again, we've got to figure out how to stay where we are at home (unbeaten in nine games) and then next time we're back out on the road, we have to figure, eventually, I think we'll break the ice.

“That's what I'm hoping, because this team needs it, you know what I mean? These guys, they have had some tough go at it in the past, and they get down on themselves a little bit. It's my job as a coach to try to keep them up and keep them ready to play.”

Some details:

At Syracuse, Indiana had the ball in a tie game with 12 seconds left in overtime and failed to get a shot. The Hoosiers led by four with 4:12 to play in the second overtime and let the Orange score on their final eight possessions.

At Wisconsin, after spitting out nearly every bit of a 22-point first-half lead, Indiana led by six with three minutes to play. Wisconsin scored on five of its final six possessions to win by five.

At Penn State on Sunday, IU cut a 10-point deficit to two with 5:18 to play. Then IU missed five of its last seven shots, along with a free throw. The Hoosiers lost by three to a .500 team with a first-year coach.

There was one particularly brutal Penn State possession that lasted one minute and 18 seconds as the Nittany Lions grabbed three offensive rebounds and missed four shots.

Watching a replay of that was enough to motivate Woodson to put a bubble over the basket at practice Tuesday to force his team to concentrate on rebounding.

“You make guys, you know, block out and rebound the ball,” Woodson said. “You know, they don’t like it, but, hell, I thought that was the difference in the game the other night. That one possession I think we gave three, four offensive rebounds.”

At winning time, Indiana hasn’t had enough people who have made winning plays. Indiana’s best players — Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson — work in the frontcourt. They’re not guys who can consistently take the ball and create their own scoring opportunities

Indiana has not had a player capable of consistently doing that since Yogi Ferrell, which, of course, was the last time (2016) Indiana made the NCAA Tournament. There’s no Ferrell or Troy Williams or Victor Oladipo, somebody who simply takes the basketball and delivers a basket.

“Well, again, you lose a game like Penn State, and you get some heads hanging and stuff,” Woodson said.

“But you can't hang your head. The Big Ten is not going anywhere, you know what I'm saying, guys. It's what it is, and you can't -- you can't reflect on what happened in the past.

“You know, that's easy to do, man, you know, and it's my job to try to keep them from that.

“You know, that's what we're fighting right now, you know what I mean. This team struggled in the Big Ten last year, and I'm trying to get them over the hump where they are not struggling.

“We are not playing bad basketball, but Wisconsin and Penn State were both winnable games. I've got to get them over the hump in those games. We've got to keep grinding, practicing, watching film and learning and everybody's got to be committed, man.

“That's the only way that you're going to get out of the rut that you've been in.”

Indiana’s opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament depends upon it.

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