EVANSTON, Ill. — Sophomore forward Thomas Bryant was the only IU men’s basketball player who could do anything positive on the offensive end of the floor Sunday night at Northwestern.
With junior guard James Blackmon Jr. out against the Wildcats with a lower leg injury the Hoosiers had to find production from their other guards. In the end IU finished with its lowest scoring output of the season.
“All we did was miss shots. I think it was more on us not so much on the defense, although they did play a great game,” Bryant said. “But I think it falls on us just shooting the ball like we usually do staying in there and keeping confidence.”
The Hoosiers shot just 32 percent from the floor and as a team averaged 0.85 points per possession, its lowest mark of the season since averaging 0.92 points per possession in the loss at Fort Wayne in November.
Freshman guard Devonte Green made his first career start in place of the injured Blackmon but couldn’t provide the spark the Hoosiers needed offensively. Bryant was seven of 13 from the field in the game, and other than him, the rest of the IU starters combined to make only seven shots on 33 attempts.
IU also committed 10 first-half turnovers, including seven in a row at one point, and didn’t execute from the free throw line. The Hoosiers knocked down just 13 of 22.
“We probably needed to recognize earlier with some of the decisions with the ball that would have saved us some turnovers,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “The story of the game for us — the first half is the difference in the turnovers and the points off turnovers and the fact that we got fouled and left six or seven points on the line.”
Without Blackmon it was obvious IU was missing an outside shooting presence beside junior guard Robert Johnson. Johnson was the go-to guy from beyond the arc. He knocked down four of six 3-pointers and finished with 12 points, but he was zero of seven from 2-point range.
Johnson said he didn’t feel any added pressure without Blackmon on the floor tonight and believes every one of his teammates can step up if needed.
“With our offense it really doesn’t change with whoever is out there,” Johnson said. “When we’re playing good and the way we move the ball, move bodies, it really doesn’t make a difference.”
There were times Sunday night when the Hoosiers’ youth and inexperience showed, and without Blackmon it only made things tougher.
Seven of the 10 players who saw time on the floor for IU against Northwestern weren’t on the roster or eligible to play last season. Moving forward Crean said he isn’t concerned with where his team is but knows they need to keep improving every game.
“What we don’t have, we can’t do anything about that, we started the year without Collin Hartman, and it’s continuing on right now it’s apart of it and I don’t have any worries about that,” Crean said. “As far as having confidence and getting better, I’m highly confident.”