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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 11, 2017 4:10 am

What to make of Hoosiers' opening dud?

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON — Even if Archie Miller coaches Indiana for 10 years, this might be one of the ugliest performances of his tenure.

The Hoosiers' 90-69 loss to Indiana State was a colossal mess to start the season. IU turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes, and it snowballed from there, with awful performances on both offense and defense.

To add injury to insult, Miller revealed that Collin Hartman, who did not play, has a groin injury. Miller said the senior forward injured it Thursday. Hartman had been set for his first regular-season action since March 6, 2016.

"The day before the game, he tweaks his groin," Miller said. "We'll deal with it. I expect him to be out a long period of time. We're going to deal day to day. Couple of weeks? I don't know, but I feel bad for him. He's worked hard. Hopefully he catches a break here soon."

The best treatment for groin injuries is rest, so Miller was not kidding.

OK, back to the game.

First, let's give credit where credit is due. Indiana State is talented, has just enough quality size to play with the big boys and shot the lights out to win in Assembly Hall.

"I can't say that it's not a great win and you can't celebrate," Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said. "It's great for our fans. We made a bunch of shots. We threw some stuff in at the end of the shot clock. We're not trying to take a back seat to anybody. I love it for those guys in the royal blue shirts in the locker room and our fans in the royal blue in the stands for letting them enjoy it."

Indiana State earned every pat on the back.

Now that we've got that out of the way ... I'm sorry, but this was one of the worst season openers in IU history. I thought the Hoosiers were too tentative and undisciplined at both ends, and it's hard to write it off as a bad night when these are some of the same problems that plagued them last year.

Afterward, Miller answered all the questions, but there really are no answers yet. He admitted, "We're soft."

Whoa. That's a pretty harsh assessment for a coach to make, especially after his first game at a new job.

"Tell the truth," Miller said. "I'm disappointed for our fans. I'm really disappointed for all the positive things that have happened around here for such a long time. It obviously wasn't the effort level that we're accustomed to, and it wasn't the start that we had hoped for."

This year, if it's going to be successful, Robert Johnson needs to lead. There's really no telling what any of the other players will do this season. Johnson was supposed to be the one sure thing, and he probably will be, but Johnson had an off night Friday, netting just seven points. It happens.

De'Ron Davis is also pretty clearly one of the keys. He had 14 points but got in foul trouble and didn't do enough on the boards. Four-star recruit Justin Smith does not appear college ready; he took Hartman's minutes at backup power forward and got out of position on multiple occasions.

Regardless of how the season goes, IU has positioned itself well for the future. Its good young players have remaining eligibility for the next several years, Miller has signed a touted recruiting class for next fall, and, yet this fall, don't bet against natural year-to-year improvement one might expect from young players.

What advice do the Hoosiers need for their next game, Sunday at home against Howard?

"Move on," Miller said.

Sounds like a good strategy for fans and everyone in the IU program.