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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, March 14, 2019 6:20 pm

Hoosiers fall in Big Ten Tournament

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

CHICAGO – In its biggest game of the season – probably the biggest game in the Archie Miller Era – Indiana came out flat.

It's been a season-long theme for the Hoosiers: start slowly and then battle back furiously in the game's final stretches, so it's fitting that that's exactly what happened when Indiana simply couldn't afford it. The last seven minutes of the game were on par with some of the best basketball the Hoosiers have played this season. The problem was the first 33 minutes, which were as bad as any during that brutal stretch of 12 losses in 13 games.

Center De'Ron Davis was at a loss for words when asked what had happened at the beginning of the game. He repeated "I don't know" a couple of times before coming up with something to say.

"It was actually surprising because of how we handled stuff this morning," Davis said. "Waking up 7:45 (a.m.), 11 (a.m.) tip is really early so I was happy and surprised how our team handled it, especially the young guys. Everybody got up, everybody was ready, eating breakfast. It was kind of disappointing to see how hard we worked, especially over the last three weeks and then be at this point right now."

The Hoosiers came out a little flat and they fell behind in part because they couldn't hit a shot from the outside (what else is new?). For the game, Devonte Green hit 8 for 10 from beyond the arc, but the rest of the team was 3 for 17 and that just wasn't good enough against an Ohio State team that was as physical as any the Hoosiers have played inside.

The biggest problem was turnovers. The Buckeyes did a tremendous job of playing aggressively and getting in to passing lanes, forcing 10 turnovers in the first half and 17 overall, leading to a whopping 24 Ohio State points. Indiana was already struggling to score and so many transition opportunities for the Buckeyes were back-breaking.

"They did a great job disrupting ball screens and things like that, switching on different actions," Juwan Morgan said of Ohio State. "I think they game-planned really well, but at the same time, at the end of the day you just have to make a basketball play. When things aren't going the way you want, can't get into something, guys just gotta go and make a one-on-one play and I don't think we did that as well as we could have."

The final seven minutes were a different story. After falling behind by 20, Indiana began forcing the issue in a way it hadn't all afternoon. Green got hot from beyond the arc, hitting four 3-pointers in the final 7:10 on his way to a career-high 26 points, Romeo Langford began attacking the rim and Ohio State's lead melted away. Langford had a huge layup-tie-up-layup sequence with less than 90 seconds to go that got the Hoosiers within 72-69 in the final minute.

In the end, however, Indiana just couldn't get the one big stop it needed. The Hoosiers had dug themselves too deep a hole and didn't have enough time to climb out. Davis said several times that if they'd played the first 36 minutes like they played the last four, it would have been a very different outcome.

Instead, the Hoosiers are headed home from the Big Ten Tournament after one game for the 10th time in 15 seasons and their NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support. There will need to be an extraordinary decision by the selection committee for Indiana to get a bid and the NIT is probably making out its invitation to the Hoosiers as I type this. I would be surprised if Indiana turns down a bid to the lesser tournament after missing out on the postseason entirely a year ago, meaning there could be more basketball at Assembly Hall this season.

For his part, Morgan said he hopes he hasn't played his last game with the Hoosiers.

"I don't want it to end yet," the All-Big Ten forward said. "I've been through a lot in my time here at Indiana, but nothing like losing 12 of 13. Fighting with these guys in practice, regardless of what everybody else was saying, we knew what we had in this (locker) room. I still believe in us."

dsinn@jg.net