Indiana coach channels his inner Bob Knight to reinforce expectations

Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller talks to his team during a timeout after a slow start during the first half against Tennessee Tech in a game in Bloomington Thursday. (By The Associated Press)

There probably weren’t reverberations of pop can after pop can after pop can (just keep counting until an entire case is gone) exploding off of the wall in the bowels of Assembly Hall earlier this week, but that isn’t a stretch in terms of how first-year Hoosier men’s basketball coach Archie Miller handled his team getting annihilated and embarrassed for the second time in his very brief tenure.

The Hoosiers got smoked by Indiana State last month and Fort Wayne this week – both in Bloomington – and Miller had to channel his inner Bob Knight to get his team to return to form.

“I think I’m going to have to be a raving lunatic every day regardless of whether you win by 30 or lose by 30,” Miller said Thursday after his team easily handled Tennessee Tech 87-59. “It’s got to be the same.”

Knight once took his frustrations out on a case of pop following a disappointing performance by the Hoosiers, while Miller did on a player by player basis in practices over the past 72 hours.

“Guys need to be challenged,” Miller said, “everyone from Rob Johnson to Collin Hartman. Every single guy needed challenged this week. It’s not easy to be negative, but at the same time, the reality is that it’s unacceptable. It was just unacceptable what happened (against Fort Wayne).”

After allowing the Sycamores and Mastodons to each hit 17 3-point shots and win by 21 and 20 points, respectively, Miller stressed a couple of things in workouts this week: Defense and competition.

If an Indiana player lacked in either, he wasn’t going to get off of the bench, according to Miller.

“The drive in practice these next couple days, and hopefully for the rest of our time here, is that there is an understanding that when you practice, it is competitive,” Miller said. “You have to win your minutes. You have to earn it.”

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Miller didn’t alter his starters against Tennessee Tech, but as the game wore on, it was evident that he didn’t need to.

The Hoosiers (7-6) limited the Golden Eagles (8-5) to just five made 3-pointers and Indiana lowered its turnovers from 18 (against Fort Wayne) to 10 Thursday.

Miller said the key started directly at the point of defense.

“Ball pressure,” Miller stated emphatically regarding where his defense improved from Monday to Thursday. “Working on the ball, everything starts and stops with something and in our program it has to start with the ability to really defend the ball. If you watch the two games they’ll be night and day.”

Fort Wayne made 17 of 30 3-point shots and many were absolutely wide open. Miller referred to his team’s attitude, behavior and performance against the Mastodons as “perplexing.”

“Our Fort Wayne performance on the ball was as soft as we’ve probably had since Indiana State considering some of the teams we’ve played and competed with,” Miller said. “That’s where it’s got to start and stop with our team. There’s got to be a nonnegotiable there when it comes how you work on the ball defense.”

The coach was clear that an easy win over Tennessee Tech, or even another against upcoming Youngstown State (Dec. 29, 8 p.m., BTN), won’t allow his players the luxury of letting down their guard (figuratively or literally on defense) for the rest of the season.

“There’s an approach here that is easy to come off of a high and make you feel good,” Miller explained, “and a lack of responsibility to understand how every game is important. So yeah, I’m probably going to have a lot of headaches over the next couple of months.”

Enduring “headaches” in practices may be the cure for not having many on game nights, however.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.