BLOOMINGTON – A loss to Butler is unlikely to derail Indiana’s quest to earn a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But it still meant the Hoosiers would be subjected to 48 hours of nonstop chatter about the chinks in their armor.
James Blackmon Jr. and Co. are back in action tonight, and it’ll be at home against Delaware State, a quick chance to wash away any lasting bad taste from Saturday’s 83-78 loss to Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
"Really, it was a mindset thing, energy," Blackmon said. "That’s what we’re upset about – the way we came out in the first half. We got in a hole in the beginning of the game. We can’t let that happen."
Indiana (8-2) surrendered 47 percent shooting to the Bulldogs (10-1) and sent them to the line 25 times, while offensively the Hoosiers fell into too much one-on-one play and posted only 11 assists, a season low that came on the heels of a 12-assist output in last month’s defeat at IPFW.
"(IU coach) Tom (Crean) would probably say they missed some clean ones in the first half that they normally make, and I think that’s the reality," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "I think we left Blackmon a few times when we shouldn’t have. But we wanted to be aware of help and yet not overhelp. When you overhelp against a team that moves the ball as well as Indiana, their ability to drive the ball and shoot it from all different spots presents terrific problems."
Nonetheless, some of the Hoosiers’ other warts shined through as they fell to 3-3 in the annual Crossroads Classic.
Start with freshmen Curtis Jones, Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis, a trio that shot 0 for 7 and has vanished from sight in Indiana’s two losses.
Floor general Josh Newkirk is still shooting quite errantly inside the 3-point arc, where he’s converting just 37.2 percent of his shots.
Up front, sophomore Juwan Morgan competed gamely with an undisclosed injury but has been an offensive drag in both losses (10 points combined).
"Juwan never got into the sync," Crean said. "Juwan wasn’t cleared until (Saturday) morning because he got injured in practice the other day, and he wasn’t himself."
And while the Hoosiers most certainly think they win with balance, it’s evident from their two losses just how much OG Anunoby means to this team. He was sick and lasted all of 13 ineffective minutes at IPFW, then needed a full half Saturday to shake off the rust following a three-game layoff.
"But that’s no excuse," Crean said. "Those are just things that we dealt with."
Delaware State (3-9) comes to Assembly Hall as a heavy underdog, an undersized Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe that ranks last in the nation in defensive rebound rate.
Still, Blackmon wants teammates to realize that this game and Thursday’s against Austin Peay are the final dress rehearsals prior to the Big Ten opener on Dec. 28.
"That’s one thing we want to focus on," Blackmon said. "No matter who we’re playing, definitely play like we’re us and not play to the opponent."