Mike Botkin is a lifelong Purdue Boilermakers fan. He’ll be offering the dissenting opinion on the IU hoopla all season.
Indiana’s loss to unranked Wisconsin at home is not the end of the world, but it gave Hoosier fans a glimpse of just how quickly the lofty expectations of a season can unravel. Let’s face it: the Big Ten is a brutal conference. IU is going to rack up five or six losses and have a hard time maintaining a high ranking.
The Hoosiers’ second half performance was incredibly poor. Poor shooting, poor defense, poor passing, and poor substitution patterns among other poor play. (See Jordan Hulls’ stat sheet.) IU was lucky to be leading at halftime by one, and they collapsed in the second half. For all the air-time Victor Oladipo received in the first 20 minutes, his name was conspicuously absent from the commentary when Wisconsin was building a 10-point second-half lead. The Badgers went seven minutes without a point and still maintained their advantage.
Plain and simple, IU lost its way in the second half. Cody Zeller scored 18 in the first half on 8-of-8 shooting from the field, then scored five late points in the second. Hulls decided that a fade-away jumper was the shot for him and ended the game with four points and the distinction of being a player who is shuffled on and off the court in late minutes because he can’t play defense. I think Coach Tom Crean must be right: It’s Hulls’ haircut—or lack thereof.
There are those who say that the Hoosiers suffered an “off” shooting night, that Indiana’s inability to make shots affected its offense. But not making shots has nothing to do with players standing around watching when they should have been running the offense. That’s what stagnated IU. Zeller’s first-half offense was superb but the Hoosiers never made it a second-half priority to get the ball inside to the big man. The way he dominated every Badger who tried to defend him in the first half, no offensive set should have been run in the second without Zeller touching the ball. This was a critical mistake. Instead, Hulls decided to heave fall-away jumpers in the lane.
The winner of the Big Ten will be a team like the Badgers that can score road wins and protect their own house. The problem is that by the end of the year, the highest ranked Big Ten team may not even be in the top 10. It’s a good thing that IU has Penn State and Northwestern the next two games, although if the Hoosiers aren’t careful, it could be a repeat of the Feb. 5, 2003, game when the Wildcats defeated the Hoosiers 74-61 at home for the first time in decades and the Indianapolis Star ran the headline: “IU Hits Unimaginable Depth.” Could this be Part Deux?
Photo by Tony Valainis