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SportInsider: Maddening inconsistency making these Hoosiers hard to peg

18:00  12 january  2019
18:00  12 january  2019 Source:   indystar.com

No. 2 Michigan stays unbeaten, beats No. 21 Indiana 74-63

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Insider: Maddening inconsistency making these Hoosiers hard to peg© Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Indiana Hoosiers head coach Archie Miller reacts to first-half play on Friday.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – What do you expect out of this IU team?

That isn’t a loaded question. It isn’t meant to play on anyone’s emotions or invoke knee-jerk reactions, after a 78-75 defeat at Maryland, when the Hoosiers at one point led by 14.

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It’s more rhetorical. It’s meant to illustrate a point: These Hoosiers, 12-4, 3-2 in the Big Ten, seem to divide opinion in ways that might not be entirely fair. They seem to have locked their fan base into a zero-sum conversation — either this team is young and growing, or wasting its potential, with little middle ground.

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Yet neither of those quite fits.

Friday night’s loss, which saw IU get bullied inside and on the boards, proved undeniably frustrating.

“That was as good of a first half as we've played,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We just couldn't get it done on the glass tonight. 18 second shots, that's going to get you beat. When you look at our line, we only turned it over seven times. We made our free throws and we shot a good percentage. We just gave them 18 second shots, and that was the difference in the game.”

Miller laid out Indiana’s painful calculus succinctly there.

The Hoosiers did so much well that they have not done well for most of the year. They started strong. They didn’t turn the ball over. They laid the groundwork for another career performance (28 points) from Romeo Langford. They hit 41.2 percent of their 3-pointers and all 16 of their free throws.

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Fernando, Cowan rally Maryland past No. 22 Indiana 78-75 Bruno Fernando had a career-high 25 points and 13 rebounds, Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 24 and Maryland used a second-half surge to rally past No. 22 Indiana 78-75. The Terrapins trailed by 14 points early in the game by 10 shortly after halftime before storming back to earn their fifth straight victory. Two of those wins came against ranked foes — then-No. 24 Nebraska and the Hoosiers (12-4, 3-2), who have lost two in a row following a seven-game winning streak. Romeo Langford scored 28 points and Juwan Morgan added 14 for Indiana. The Hoosiers shot 12 for 28 in the second half and were outscored 51-40.

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But they couldn’t stop Anthony Cowan (24 points, seven assists). They couldn’t come close to stopping Bruno Fernando (25 points, 13 rebounds). And they couldn’t keep the Terrapins away from the offensive glass.

After an eight-point halftime lead went to 10 thanks to Juwan Morgan’s quick layup to start the second half, Maryland put a 16-0 run into IU. Langford’s late stab at heroics aside, that was that.

“Anthony Cowan really took it upon himself and really started to attack,” Miller said. “Then in the second half, we had a really hard time in a while containing him off the dribble. Transition defense, things got out of whack to start the first four minutes of the second half. We had a couple shots blocked, had a couple really tough jump shots that I thought got us unorganized. Then they were able to capitalize on that.

“I think they had a 16-2 run to start the second half, which we were unable to dig ourselves out of. We hung in and did some good things, but the inability to get first-time rebounds eventually overwhelmed us.”

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This is a strange team. This is a strange season.

There seemed to exist a feeling among IU fans that this would be a platform-building winter for Miller, a foundational first season to count after 2017-18 felt like year zero. Then Langford committed. Juwan Morgan came back. Robert Phinisee looked like a point guard older than his 19 years early in the season. IU blew Marquette away, lost at Arkansas, then won close against Northwestern, Penn State, Louisville and Butler.

But a team Miller said in the long-ago preseason would be best if it was deep has been saddled with injuries from the start. When one has gone, another has come. Phinisee got his chance because of Devonte Green’s thigh injury, then Green won his starting spot back when Phinisee suffered a concussion.

Then there are the long-term concerns.

Jerome Hunter needed surgery for an unspecified lower-body injury. Race Thompson has been in concussion protocol since November. Both players looked at very least like pieces of Miller’s rotation this season, and there’s no end in sight in either player’s recovery. Zach McRoberts appears to have pushed his chips to the middle and decided to play through his back problem as much as he can.

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All of this — plus Indiana’s youth, Morgan’s and Langford’s brilliance, an on-again-off-again offense and turnover problems — have melted together to create something curious:

A team that in barely more than two months has managed to inspire, infuriate and mostly just confuse its fan base.

Insider: Maddening inconsistency making these Hoosiers hard to peg© Tommy Gilligan, Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Jan 11, 2019; College Park, MD, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Justin Smith (3) shoots as Maryland Terrapins forward Jalen Smith (25) defends during the first half at XFINITY Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

These Hoosiers have looked good in losses and bad in wins, and virtually everywhere in between. Absent Marquette, there hasn’t been a 40-minute performance to adequately define where this team fits in the Big Ten, much less nationally.

IU is ranked, at least for now, thanks as much to the quantity of its wins as the quality. Is that enough? Has it raised the bar too high? Or is an Indiana team now seemingly capable of bending from outstanding to second best in the space of 40 minutes just not consistent enough yet to know?

“I don't think there's one key,” said junior guard Devonte Green, when asked about how the Hoosiers put together a 40-minute performance. “I think it's just sticking with what we do consistently throughout the game.”

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Except that’s the problem. It’s been so hard, because of both what is and isn’t within this team’s power to control, to figure out what consistency looks like for Indiana. The attendant conflict reigns in a fan base that’s spent the last two weeks arguing with itself about what should constitute success for IU men’s basketball in 2019.

Social media being a grossly imperfect barometer, fan frustration didn’t seem to reach the same fever pitch last Sunday’s loss at Michigan triggered. Maybe that’s because it was a Friday night. Maybe everyone was worrying about the approaching snowstorm.

Maybe it’s because it’s mid-January, and for a laundry list of reasons, it’s still not clear what’s reasonable to expect of this team.

Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Insider: Maddening inconsistency making these Hoosiers hard to peg

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Insider: Maddening inconsistency making these Hoosiers hard to peg

No. 5 Michigan keeps rolling with 69-46 win at Indiana.
Ignas Brazdeikis scored 20 points and Zavier Simpson added 12 as No. 5 Michigan started fast and pulled away for a 69-46 victory at Indiana on Friday night. The Wolverines (18-1, 7-1 Big Ten) have won two straight overall since their first loss of the season. They've won six straight against the Hoosiers. Juwan Morgan finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds for Indiana. Romeo Langford had nine points on a miserable night for the Hoosiers (12-7, 3-5), who have lost six straight overall, five in a row against conference foes and wound up with a season-low point total.

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