LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — There are many ways a guy discovers the full experience of being the head coach of a major-college basketball program.
The first is his introductory press conference. The next might be his first win. Or a recruiting coup.
Here’s another, the one that Indiana coach Archie Miller is primed to experience after his team lost to Purdue, 70-55, Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind:
The howls of a zillion critics, second-guessers and skeptics wondering why Indiana has lost four straight — as well as when the Hoosiers are going to win again?
Sluggish on defense, disjointed on offense and predictably errant from the free throw line, the Hoosiers were blitzed by their in-state rival, trailing by double figures for nearly the entire second half.
"We have to find a way to keep banging on that rock and crack it back open so we can get ourselves feeling good about ourselves in terms of our morale," Miller said.
The Hoosiers were overpowered by Purdue’s stronger and more determined players. The Boilermakers scored around the rim. Indiana did little scoring around the rim.
The Hoosiers' offense has disappeared. IU's point totals in its last two games are its two smallest this season -- 51 against Nebraska, followed by 55 against Purdue. Fixing Indiana's offense is Job One for Miller.
There are not enough easy baskets created by the defense. There is not enough size for low-post success. And you're not going to beat many teams shooting 4 of 20 from distance and 7 of 18 from the free throw line.
"We have to develop more depth," Miller said. "They made things very difficult for us on the offensive end of the floor. Our free throw shooting and inability to make some outside shots isn't freeing anything up.
"At times right now we're really getting a clogged up paint because of the way they're treating what we're trying to do with the spacing."
The Boilermakers were led by Carsen Edwards, who played like the Big Ten's best player, scoring 20 points. Center Matt Haarms punished Indiana inside, making 6 of 8 shots for his 12 points.
Indiana's big two -- Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford -- struggled. Morgan finished with 14 but missed four of five free throws. After a scoreless first half, Langford had a season-low four points. Purdue played him to drive the ball, blocking multiple Langford shots. Langford attempted four free throws. He made none.
"Every player has those games every once in a while when it's not their day," Miller said. "He'll be fine. He's a bounce back guy."
It was the kind of loss that raises a reasonable question: After beating Marquette, Louisville and Butler in non-league play, is Miller’s team playing its way out of the NCAA Tournament? With the loss, Indiana slipped to 12-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten.
It’s the second consecutive season the Hoosiers have lost four consecutive Big Ten games.
On Tuesday they visit Northwestern, a team they struggled to defeat in Bloomington last month. Second-ranked Michigan, which lost for the first time Saturday, comes to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Friday night. A road game to Rutgers follows. Then a trip to indomitable Michigan State.
Miller shuffled his starting lineup for the Boilermakers. Robert Phinisee, in his third game back after missing about three weeks with a concussion, returned to the starting point guard position over Devonte Green.
The other change was made for defense. Josh McRoberts replaced Al Durham. Miller asked McRoberts to guard Edwards, the Purdue guard who is the Big Ten’s leading scorer.
Indiana started poorly. Wash. Rinse. And repeat. The Hoosiers have started poorly game after game after game (with the notable exception of Maryland).
It was 11-2 before the Fox Sports production people could show a fancy, up-close and personal shot of former Purdue coach Gene Keady, who visited Mackey Arena for the game.
Indiana steadied and then rallied, taking a 24-21 edge on a pair of baskets by Morgan. But Purdue finished the half by outscoring the visitors 12-2 run and then continued their dominance with a 16-8 spurt to begin the second half.
From there, Purdue mostly cruised.
Indiana lost four straight Big Ten games in late January/early February last season. The last time the Hoosiers lost five consecutive conference games was Feb. 5-through-21 in 2017, the final season for Tom Crean, who was replaced by Miller less than two months later.
"We're going through a hard time," Miller said. "There's nobody to blame but ourselves. You've got to get the job done."
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