My Two Cents: Some Nights Archie Miller Doesn't Have Anyone To Turn To
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Just look at the pained look on his face. That's what road games in the Big Ten do to coaches these days.
Indiana went out on the road again Wednesday night and the results were just as bad as the previous road trips. Spanked at Wisconsin, down by 30 at one time? Yes. The same at Maryland? Check. And Wednesday night? Yep, more of the same.
Indiana lost 59-50, its lowest scoring output of the year. The Hoosiers shot 31 percent from the field and missed their first 14 3-point shots. Rutgers was begging them to shoot from the outside, and the Hoosiers couldn't make anything, going just 2-for-19 on the night.
Miller tried everything, too. No one really played particularly well, and when Miller went to the bench searching for answers, he got literally nothing.
That happens some nights. Indiana got only five points off the bench in the ugly win over Northwestern last week, but then got 31 in the huge win against Ohio State.
And Wednesday night? It was awful. Check out these numbers:
- The group of De'Ron Davis, Devonte Green, Jerome Hunter, Damezi Anderson and Armaan Franklin played a combined 53 minutes — and scored a grand total of TWO POINTS.
- They were 1-for-14 from the field, with Hunter making the only basket.
- They were 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
- They had ZERO assists, ZERO blocked shots and one steal.
- They committed five turnovers.
You can complain about the coaching and offensive schemes all you want, but it still comes down to players making shots, and when Indiana heads out on the road, they just don't do it. Sure it's harder in the league for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is that teams scout so well that they know what you want to do.
Rutgers attacked freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis in a big way Wednesday, intent on taking him out of the Indiana offense. It worked, He scored only four points, and only got six shots off.
They forced Indiana to beat them on the perimeter. Miller tried everyone, and no one could step up.
They were lucky to score 50, to be honest.
"Starting the second half and then a little bit midway through the second half, you have to be able to cash in the ones that you can. We had some point-blank shots and those have to go down,'' Miller said. "You've got to get to the foul line, which we didn't.
"Throughout the course of the game, I thought our guys really continued to stay with it. They played hard and climbed their way back into it, but you can't have 16 turnovers on the road. That was a huge problem.''
The biggest problem, it seemed, was that Indiana could never get into its offense. Rutgers was just too powerful, taking away post plays and really putting a lot of pressure on the ball. And it never got better.
Missing open shots, especially from 3-point range, really hurts. When you lose by nine points, it's simple math to know that just making three more 3-pointers changes the game completely.
"We were 2-for-19 from three, and that's not definitely not going to get it done,'' Miller said. "We have to be able to find a way to make a couple of the open ones, especially on the road. That keeps you in the game and helps you.
"And for the first time in a long time, we only had 12 free throw attempts in the game. We just didn't get to the line, and that probably has a lot to do with our inability on offense to run clean stuff. And then when we did get around the basket, you know, and it was one of those games when you have to finish through it. We didn't.
Indiana leads the nation in free throws attempted and free throws made, so it was rare to see them only shoot 12 free throws. They made 10, which is good, shooting 83.3 percent, but they just didn't get there enough. They did a poor job of finishing around the basket.
Losing on the road in the Big Ten is never meant to be an excuse. It's hard, period, and for a lot of reasons. Miller's learned that over two-plus seasons, and he knows Indiana has to be better when they play at Nebraska on Saturday night.
"You're going to have to find a couple shots that go down on the road or a guy just has to have one of those days every once in a while where he makes four or five shots and it really helps,'' Miller said. "That's difficult as well.
"But the Big Ten, I've said this toughest league in the country to win on the road, because of the venues, the styles, the coaches, the teams. And this league in particular right now, I mean you're, you're starting to see a really deep league that's playing for a lot right now.''
Holding serve at home is one thing. Indiana's been good there, going 3-0. But they're 0-3 on the road and they need to find a way to win a few road games to help secure an NCAA Tournament berth.
That can start Saturday night. Based on analytics, that's the Hoosiers' best chance at winning a road game in the league this year. So it's important to go to Nebraska and win.
That will start with turning to the bench when you need them, and expecting a response. You can't play 53 minutes and score two points again. That's a recipe for disaster, especially when a starter or two is struggling.
Get better on the road. Find a way.
You don't need to win them all, but you need to win a few. And that starts Saturday in Lincoln.