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COLUMN

Indiana's basketball growing pains continue

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Tipoff: North Florida at Indiana, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1260-AM
TV: BTN

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Syracuse too much for Hoosiers

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 10:54 am

Memo to Indiana's basketball schedule maker -- if a Syracuse official contacts you about playing, run.

Syracuse is not a good matchup for Indiana. That was true last spring when the Hoosiers were veteran sharpshooters and lost 61-50. It was true again Tuesday night when they were young high-flying miss-firers and lost 69-52. It likely will be true no matter how many teams coach Tom Crean brings in.

The No. 4 Orange's 2-3 zone is like water to IU's offensive fire. The Hoosiers see it and go into brain freeze. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is 5-0 against Indiana since losing to the Cream 'n Crimson in the 1987 national title game.

This is really, really annoying to Crean, who has twice devised game plans for Syracuse that, depending on your perspective:

1) Didn't work

2) Weren't executed

3) All of the above

In the final 20 minutes, IU had six field goals and 10 turnovers. It basically went 13 minutes without making a basket.

The Hoosiers (6-2) did get 17 points and six rebounds from freshman forward Noah Vonleh. Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell had 12 points on 4-for-7 three-point shooting.

It wasn't close to being enough.

Syracuse (8-0) went from a 33-33 early second-half tie to its 46th straight home non-conference victory.

The second-half meltdown brought out Crean's tell-it-like-it-is side. There was no excuse, he told Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer after the game, for senior Will Sheehey to not get a rebound or for Ferrell to not take a free throw. Crean slammed the lack of leadership and the submissive second half.

He said the performance “sickened my stomach” and was one of the worst of his coaching life.

“I'll chalk it up to youth, inexperience and lack of leadership,” Crean told Fischer.

MEMO: IU doesn't play again until Saturday against North Florida. If there's any way to move that game to, say, tonight, and delay grueling practices, do it. Players will thank you later.

To be really good, Indiana needs Sheehey to play like one of the Big Ten's best players, which he should be given his talent and the fact he was last year's conference sixth man of the year. Instead, he was 1-for-7 from the field. He had as many fouls (three) as points, and didn't get a rebound.

Indiana needs Ferrell to play smart, aggressive and energetic. He has to play like one of America's top point guards, which means he's at his best in the biggest moments. Two assists against three turnovers, taking and missing just two second-half shots, wasn't close to his best.

Indiana needs guys who can consistently make shots. Tuesday's 15-for-41 effort reflected a season of struggles as much as the Orange's zone.

Indiana needs efficient offense. Its assist-to-turnover ratio was a disaster before its 6-assist-14-turnover mess Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers can rack up 105 points, as they did against Samford, when they're at home and can run at will against a patsy.

Syracuse, and Big Ten heavyweights such as Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, won't let that happen. It certainly won't happen at the Carrier Dome in what was the Hoosiers' road debut.

That's not all bad.

IU learned more by playing at Syracuse than it will learn from a bunch of Chicago State lookalikes at Assembly Hall.

A cynic would say it would learn even more if it played Kentucky at Lucas Oil Stadium rather than Nicholls State at Assembly Hall, but this isn't the time for cynicism and old arguments.

The Hoosiers likely won't lose again in non-conference play. They have five more non-conference games and only a 5-2 Notre Dame (as part of the Crossroads Classic at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse) is a threat.

They will enter Big Ten action with a five-game winning streak and an 11-2 record. A 9-9 conference record, maybe 8-10, will almost certainly get them into the NCAA tourney for a third straight year.

But that's a topic for another day.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.