INDIANAPOLIS — IU Coach Tom Crean said prior to Saturday afternoon’s contest against Louisville at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis the Hoosiers could not let the Cardinals control the pace of the game.
That’s exactly what Louisville did. The Cardinals put on a defensive showcase by holding the Hoosiers to just 32-percent shooting from the field and 19-percent from distance, handing IU its second straight loss, 77-62.
IU had problems handling the ball in the first half, much like it did against Nebraska in the Big Ten opener, accounting for 11 turnovers and just seven made field goals through the first 20 minutes. They were aided by offensive rebounding and second chance efforts to keep the game within one with 5:29 to play, but zero made field goals and a 14-3 run to end the first half by Louisville put the Cardinals up 12 and they never let the Hoosiers back in.
“I don’t see us shooting that way very often, like hardly ever,” Crean said. “It was not a good day for us offensively at all and I would like to tell you that I think it was a lot of their length, when we didn’t make the next pass it was their length and sometimes when we settled it was their length, but every time we moved and cut without the ball something good happened.”
In the second half, the Hoosiers started to put the ball on the deck and drive to the basket, which resulted in five free throw attempts and the Cardinals picking up their seventh team foul with over 12 minutes left to play in the game.
The Hoosiers were able to cut the deficit to six on a pair of free throws by junior guard Robert Johnson but Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell quickly rattled off eight points of his own from two 3-pointers and a fast-break layup to increase the Cardinals lead to 12.
Mitchell ended any hope of an IU comeback and finished with a game high 25 points off the bench.
Crean was pleased with the effort that Hoosiers showed, even when they were down by double digits.
“My team did not stop coming back to play,” Crean said. “We didn’t play as aggressively we needed to on defense when it came to getting up into the ball, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to work with them tomorrow.”
IU was able to figure out its turnover woes in the second half, committing just three, but couldn’t overcome shooting struggles.
The only place IU thrived Saturday was on the glass, out-rebounding Louisville 39-28 with a 19-6 advantage on the offensive boards resulting in 21 second-chance points for the Hoosiers.
Freshman forward De’Ron Davis scored eight points and nabbed eight rebounds in his first career start and was an important piece down low for the Hoosiers. Davis was just 3-of-10 from the field however, and many IU player field goal percentages mimicked his.
Junior forward OG Anunoby finished with a team high 14 points off the bench, but struggled to execute from the free throw line. James Blackmon Jr. registered a double-double, with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but made just three field goals in the game. Johnson, IU’s most consistent scorer, shot just 1-for-13 from the field and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc.
“When we’re not shooting the ball well, we’ve got to outgrow quickly not playing as well as we need to play on defense,” Crean said. “If there’s a common theme of when we struggle, it’s when the shooting isn’t where it needs to be and we don’t continue to come down there and bust out those stops and that’s the tipping point right there.”
The Hoosiers dropped back-to-back games for the first time since the end of the 2015 season against Maryland in the Big Ten tournament and Wichita State in the NCAA tournament.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for them either as they welcome No. 14 Wisconsin Tuesday into Assembly Hall as they seek to turn their season around.
“We can’t look in the past or go back to games that we can’t control,” Blackmon Jr. said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff and we’ve just got to buy in and have a short term memory to get a win on Tuesday.”