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  • Associated Press Indiana's Justin Smith scored a season-high 15 points in the Hoosiers' loss to Purdue and will try to help them snap a four-game losing streak on the road tonight against Northwestern. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 1:00 am

Poor shooting latest IU problem

Hoosiers look to end 4-game losing streak

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana

at Northwestern

Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill.

When: 9 p.m. today

Records: Indiana (12-6, 3-4 Big Ten), Northwestern (11-7, 2-5)

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM

Indiana has lost four games in a row twice since Archie Miller took over as head coach before last season.

The first time was late January and early February of last season, and the Hoosiers bounced back with four straight wins, including two on the road. The second time is in progress and the response is to be determined.

Indiana travels to Evanston, Illinois, to take on Northwestern tonight, trying to avoid the program's first five-game losing streak since late in Tom Crean's last season, when the Hoosiers squandered a potential NCAA Tournament berth with a February swoon. If Indiana wants to avoid a similar fate this season, it will need to figure out a rapid cure for its current ailments.

“To me, we've lost our confidence defensively,” Miller said before the Hoosiers' loss to Purdue on Saturday. “The one thing we have always hung our hat on, especially at the very beginning (of the season) was the identity that this team was going to have to play with and how hard they were going to have to compete and dig in.”

The Hoosiers (12-6, 3-4 Big Ten) improved defensively against Purdue, holding Carsen Edwards, the Big Ten's leading scorer, to 6-for-18 shooting. Still, the Boilermakers were able to shoot 49 percent overall and score 70 points, and the Hoosiers' offense was inept, hitting just 43 percent and an abysmal 4 of 20 from beyond the 3-point line.

The team's energy was much better after a lackluster effort against Nebraska, but it wasn't consistent.

“I was proud of the guys and how they competed (against Purdue), just getting back into things,” forward Juwan Morgan said. “But at the end of the day, a loss is a loss, you can't really take moral victories.

“(The key against Northwestern) is just bottling up that energy that you saw for eight or nine minutes and using it throughout the whole 40 minutes.”

The Hoosiers and Wildcats (11-7, 2-5) met once this season already, in each team's Big Ten-opener on Dec. 1. Indiana emerged with a narrow 68-66 win behind 20 points and five rebounds for Romeo Langford. 

That last matchup against Northwestern was a bounce-back victory for Indiana and Langford after the Hoosiers lost to Duke by 21, a game in which the star freshman shot just 3 for 15. The Hoosiers are hoping Langford will be able to respond in a similar manner this time. He went just 2 for 10 against Purdue and scored a season-low four points, easily his worst game as a Hoosier.

“He wasn't at his best today,” Miller said of Langford's performance. “But he'll be fine. He's a bounce-back guy.”

Northwestern is a good matchup for Langford and the Hoosiers' drive-oriented offense because the Wildcats focus on defending the perimeter. Opposing teams have made just 87 3-pointers against Northwestern this year, the third-fewest in the country.

In these teams' first matchup in December, Langford was able to get to the rim, going 7 for 10 from 2-point range. It was the exact opposite of the game plan Purdue used to frustrate him Saturday: pack the lane and dare him to shoot.

Langford and the entire Hoosiers team could use a boost of confidence. Getting to the rim early for a few easy baskets would be an ideal start to a bounce-back game.

dsinn@jg.net