After an 11-1 start, Indiana is facing some adversity for the first time this season. The Hoosiers have dropped two in a row, including a loss to Maryland in which they trailed by 30 points in the second half, and have scored fewer than 65 points in four of their last five games.
“The ball's not going in the basket,” coach Archie Miller said. “Whether it's a layup, whether it's a free throw or whether it's a wide open shot. At some point, you have to be able to put it in the basket.
“We have enough guys who can do that.”
With the Hoosiers struggling, tonight's matchup against Northwestern at Assembly Hall may be just what they need to get back on track. The Wildcats are in last place in the Big Ten, with losses to Merrimack, Radford and Hartford. They are the only winless team in Big Ten conference play and come in off four straight losses.
“We gotta keep playing hard,” Miller said. “(Tonight) is a big one for us at home. In this league, you're in a deep ocean, man, there's a lot of waves. You're going to have to ride them out and find a way to survive it.”
Miller has emphasized recently that he has no problem with his players' effort, which was more than adequate during Saturday's 75-59 loss to Maryland. Where the Hoosiers are falling short is on the offensive end, especially in outside shooting.
Shooting from long distance has been a consistent problem for the Hoosiers before during Miller's tenure. In Indiana's first two seasons under Miller, the team has ranked 315th and 317th out of 353 Division I teams in 3-point shooting percentage.
This year, Indiana (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) got off to a much better start, but have recently hit a tremendous slump from downtown. Over the last six games, Indiana is making just 24.1% of its 3-point attempts, including a 4-for-18 performance against the Terrapins.
“I feel like we need to get cleaner looks, for sure,” guard Al Durham said. “That's really it, we need to get cleaner looks, get the ball moving a little bit more and get more open shots.”
Among the players who have been struggling from beyond the arc is Indiana's best shooter, guard Devonte Green. The senior captain made nearly 52% of his 3-pointers in his first five games, but in his last five has hit just 28.6%. He made three of Indiana's four 3s against Maryland, but his shots came after the game had long been decided.
Miller dismissed the idea that his team can't hit outside shots, calling it “complete B.S.” on his radio show Monday night. Instead, the third-year coach placed the blame on his team's ball movement, pointing out that his guards have to be better at setting up shooters. Of course, that also means that player movement without the ball has to improve, as well.
“We've missed a ton of opportunities in the last few games, especially our guards, to get assists,” Miller said. “We're making it harder on ourselves.”
Regardless of the cause, the scouting report on Indiana right now is simple: pack the paint, deny Trayce Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk the ball down low and make the Hoosiers beat you with jump shots. It worked for Arkansas, which erased a double-digit second half deficit on Dec. 29 to win at Assembly Hall, and Northwestern will likely try it as well.
The young Wildcats, who have four freshmen or sophomores among their top five scorers, are holding opponents to just 31.3% shooting from 3-point range.
Indiana vs. Northwestern
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
Records: Indiana (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten), Northwestern (5-8, 0-3)
TV: Big Ten Network Radio: 1250 AM