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Indiana Hoosiers still searching for an identity

At 5-5, the Indiana Hoosiers head to the Crossroads Classic still searching for who they are.

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NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Louisville Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers played one of their best games on the road Saturday, but costly turnovers squashed any opportunity to knock off Louisville. Costly turnovers and 0-12 from three in the second half were the sticking points to a tough loss.

Indiana basketball will be entering Indianapolis still searching for an identity. A team that nearly knocked off No. 1 Duke a few weeks ago is also the same team blown out at home by the second worst team in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Hoosiers have been built in years past on pace-and-space, three-point scoring but the reality might be a cause for change.

The Hoosiers are shooting 32.3% from behind the arc and the once reliable three-point threats that returned this season look like a shell of themselves.

One thing that is working? Indiana’s frontcourt tandem in Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis. Junior forward Juwan Morgan is quickly becoming one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten early in this season.

Coach Archie Miller’s adjustments to get both guys involved earlier on in games could help Indiana snap out of their long-range shooting slump. It could also be a glaring reality that Indiana doesn’t have the shooters it once had in seasons past.

By The Numbers

  • Believe it or not, Indiana has two of the Top-10 players in Offensive Rating in the Big Ten Conference this season. Indiana’s Juwan Morgan with an offensive rating of 133.3 (No. 5) and De’Ron Davis at 125.7 (No. 10).
  • Speaking of Indiana’s frontcourt, Juwan Morgan has been exceptional for the Hoosiers in their last four games. Morgan is averaging 17.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and shooting 61.4%, recording his second double-double of the season in a win against Iowa. Morgan also notches the 10th best true shooting percentage in the Big Ten at 64%.
  • Growing concerns have surrounded Robert Johnson’s scoring early this season. Johnson failed to score a single point in their loss to Louisville, only the fourth time in his college career to do so (108 games played). Over the last four games, Johnson is shooting 30.3% (10-33) and 12.5% (2-16) from beyond the arc.
  • Indiana has only shot under 25% from three as a team five times in the past two seasons. This season, the Hoosiers have shot below 25% three times already (23.8% vs. Duke, 22.2% vs. Indiana State, 21.7% vs. Louisville).
  • Indiana heads to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday to take on the 8-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are No. 21 in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting a collective 50.8%. The Irish are the fifth best team in the nation when it comes to preventing turnovers (89).

Curtis Jones decides to transfer

I know this may be a little bit late, but for those who might not know, guard Curtis Jones filed for transfer after the fall semester at the start of December. Jones was a Tom Crean recruit who was unable to crack Archie Miller’s rotation consistently. Jones said in a press release, “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the IU basketball program and look forward to finding a new situation where I can achieve the goals I have as a basketball player and as a student."

In 40 games for Indiana, Jones averaged 11.4 min, 3.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and shot 33.6% from the field. The highlight of Jones career at Indiana came in his debut with the Hoosiers during the Armed Forces Classic in 2016. He scored 15 points and helped lead the Hoosiers to an upset victory over No. 3 Kansas in overtime.

Indiana’s Front Court

Over the last half-decade or so, the emphasis on the three-point shot for Indiana was first priority bar none. In just 10 games under Archie Miller, the three has been important but not the most forceful weapon in the team’s arsenal. Besides Josh Newkirk’s slight uptick, the Hoosiers three-point threats have regressed in three-point shooting percentage from last season.

So what does a team do with a handful of important veteran players do when the three-point game has been etched into their basketball brains?

Archie Miller has made adjustments and continues to allow his frontcourt to flourish. When the Hoosiers Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis are not battling foul trouble, they are dominating the offensive side of the ball. Morgan and Davis are Indiana’s two leading scorers and they will vital to the Hoosiers game plan if the three-point game continues to trend downward.

Morgan even addressed establishing the inside game as a team after the loss to Louisville, “We don’t do it as much or as efficiently as we need to. I think we have to start off games that way. Instead of trying to just cash 3s, we have to start establishing De’Ron a lot earlier, myself, even Collin (Hartman), Justin (Smith), getting it in the paint and then working to the outside.”

Morgan and Davis have the third and fourth highest Player Efficiency ratings in the Big Ten Conference so far, 30.2 and 29.4 respectively. Both players are also on the Top-10 leaderboard for 2-point field goal percentage, offensive rating, offensive rebounds, blocks, and true shooting percentage. The Hoosiers will need all of their offense and more when they take on Notre Dame in Indianapolis.

I’ll leave you with this...

Victor Oladipo putting everyone on notice.