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One step forward, three steps back for Indiana Basketball

Riding high after an overtime win against No. 18 Notre Dame, Indiana is blown out at home by Fort Wayne.

NCAA Basketball: Crossroads Classic-Indiana at Notre Dame Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers were coming off their biggest win of the season after they took down No. 18 Notre Dame in overtime this past Saturday. Riding high on this win, you would think returning home for a game against Fort Wayne would be a pass, right?

That wouldn’t be Indiana basketball though. Just 48 hours later, the Hoosiers look like a complete shell of themselves. The inability to defend the three-point shot, coupled with embarrassing turnovers, equated to a 20-point blowout loss Monday night to Fort Wayne, the second loss in as many seasons.

Tom Crean may have left campus eight months ago, but clearly he didn’t take the ‘play to the level of your competition’ mentality with him. The Hoosiers were energized, focused, and determined to knock off the Fighting Irish at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Where was that same mentality Monday? Apparently it was left in Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers were flat from the very beginning and gave up just minutes into the second half. At one point, coach Archie Miller took a seat, internally exploding at Indiana’s lack of effort.

Twelve games into the season, I don’t think anyone truly knows who this Indiana team really is. One thing is crystal clear - if the Hoosiers exert the type of effort they showed against Fort Wayne, they’ll be lucky to hang with any Big Ten team.

By The Numbers

  • Indiana shot a season-low 17.5-percent, shooting 4-for-24 from behind the arc. The last time the Hoosiers shot under 18-percent with a minimum of 15 attempts was January 30th, 2016 where they shot 2-for-18 (11.1-percent) in a win over Minnesota.
  • Robert Johnson has turned the ball over six times in each of the last two games.
  • Juwan Morgan had a breakout game against Notre Dame, scoring 34 points on 17 shot attempts and grabbing 11 rebounds. Morgan added 14 points and 12 rebounds on Monday. Morgan clear cut the Hoosiers best offensive weapon, hopefully, the guards begin to realize this.
  • For the fourth time this season, Indiana has allowed its opponent to shoot above 50-percent from the field. In those four games, three of those opponents also shot above 50-percent from three. Monday, Fort Wayne shot 17-for-30 (56.7-percent) from behind the arc.
  • Indiana’s 18 turnovers on Monday turned into 29 points for Fort Wayne, the Hoosiers second-most turnovers in a game this season (19 vs. Indiana State).

Indiana Perimeter Defense

This is obviously a growing concern if you have been paying any sort of attention to the Hoosiers through the first 12 games. As well as noted above, the Hoosiers have allowed their opponents to reign around the arc this season.

Allowing teams like Indiana State and Fort Wayne to come into Assembly Hall and shoot a combined 34-for-56 (60.7-percent) from three is jaw-dropping.

Granted, Archie Miller’s style of pack-line defense exposes even great defensive teams to opponent’s three-point success. Tom Crean’s switch-style defense has been drilled into many of the players that returned to this roster, it could be possible they continue to struggle to adapt to the new system.

Indiana goes as far as Juwan Morgan takes them

One of the most important aspects of this Indiana roster is junior forward Juwan Morgan. I talked about Indiana’s frontcourt late last week, but it becomes even clearer that Indiana needs to work through Morgan.

After his 34-point, 11-rebound game against No. 18 Notre Dame, Morgan was named the Big Ten Conference’s Player of the Week. This was the first time a Hoosier was named to the honor since James Blackmon Jr. last season.

Juwan Morgan has to allow Indiana to be able to work off his success by staying out of foul trouble. It’s a no-brainer, Morgan stays out of early foul trouble, he stays on the floor. Morgan picked up two fouls in the first six minutes against Fort Wayne. The early fouls make it extremely difficult for Coach Miller to establish his big man.

The Hoosiers have an extremely talented frontcourt in Morgan and De’Ron Davis. It’s clear that the Hoosiers three-point struggles are more than just an inconsistent start. Indiana’s past teams were built for cross country meets and unloading threes.

Indiana can be successful if they buy into the idea playing inside-out, especially early on. Juwan Morgan will be especially important if the Hoosiers want any chance at staying competitive in the Big Ten.

Indiana’s season filled with growing pains

Most of the Indiana basketball fans understood this year would be about growth, development, and transformation of the program with first-year coach Archie Miller. None of the players on the roster were Archie Miller’s recruits, so laying the foundation for the future seemed like the plan this season.

The one thing that most didn’t expect, especially this early, is the willingness of players to give up on games. We saw it in the opener against Indiana State, the Hoosiers mirrored that performance in the Monday’s loss.

This roster lacks talent in spots and the only way the Hoosiers can make up for that is with effort. They showed it for 37 minutes against No. 1 Duke and 45 minutes against No. 18 Notre Dame. So why does that disappear against ‘lesser’ opponents? It’s a question many Indiana fans will probably be asking themselves all season long.

Lack of effort is certainly not something Archie Miller’s players are known for in the past, and one can only assume that this week’s practices will best reflect that.

Gus Johnson’s Call

I know Hoosiers fans love Don Fischer (who doesn’t?), but for those who were watching the television broadcast - Gus Johnson gave you as much effort as the Hoosiers did on Saturday.