Indiana’s Archie Miller isn’t exactly thrilled with his squad as it reenters league play
They teach an array of math courses at Indiana University and even in the most rudimentary of those classes the Hoosier students can figure out that having their favorite basketball team win 20 games this season is going to be challenging.
The Hoosiers (8-6, 1-1 Big Ten) will travel to Wisconsin (8-7, 1-1) tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN) to resume league play for the remainder (16 games) of their regular season.
If Indiana is to get to that magical number of victories, it is going to have to play magnificently over the next eight weeks, which according to first-year Hoosier coach Archie Miller, it hasn’t done of late.
“I think with this current team,” Miller said recently, “we are a low energy team. We are not a hyped team.”
That type of assessment doesn’t exactly send a positive vibe out to the Hoosier Nation with a pair of Big Ten road games coming this week (Indiana will play at Minnesota on Saturday).
“There are not a couple of guys on this team that when the ball goes up, they are coming for you,” Miller continued.
However, there is one in redshirt junior forward Zach McRoberts.
The former Indiana All-Star has surged over the past 30 days and his coach has noticed.
“Zach is moving in that direction,” Miller said. “When he is in there, you know that he is going full throttle.”
And Miller is rewarding McRoberts’ effort with more and more playing time.
After not playing either double figure minutes, or at all, in the Hoosiers’ initial seven games, McRoberts has played anywhere from 12 to 31 minutes in each of the past seven outings.
“He is playing as hard as he can on defense,” Miller said. “He is on the offensive glass. He’s doing the hustle plays on the floor. He will do whatever it takes.”
That level of effort is not something that every Indiana player is putting forth, much to the consternation of Miller.
“We need to get some other guys on this team fired up and ready to go and playing like that,” Miller said. “Right now, I think we’ve got some guys that have deteriorated as the last month has gone by.”
There are a number of Indiana players that fit that description, none bigger, literally or figuratively, than sophomore center De’Ron Davis.
In five of Indiana’s initial seven games to open this season, Davis played 21 minutes. However, that number has been reached just once in the past seven games.
“We’ve got to get De’Ron going right now,” Miller said. “De’Ron, really in my mind, isn’t playing anywhere near where he was a month ago.”
As a result of the lowered playing time, obviously, Davis has not been as productive.
Seven games into the season, Davis was averaging 12 points per game, but he has scored in single digits in five of the last seven contests.
“We’ve got to get him rolling again,” Miller said, “get him back in practice competing. If he’s going to finish in the game, he’s got to finish in practice. He can’t be a guy that’s not giving maximum effort all the time.”
Davis isn’t alone in Miller’s crosshairs.
Through eight games this season, freshman guard Al Durham was averaging over 26 minutes per game and making 48-plus percent of his shots. Those numbers have dropped to 18 minutes per game and just 30 percent shooting over the last six games.
With the rise of McRoberts, the play of freshman forward Justin Smith has decreased.
The athletic youngster has played single-digit minutes in seven of the last eight games after playing double digits in the first six games to start this season.
Sophomore guard Devonte Green has also been mired in a slump.
He is shooting just 26 percent overall and 20 percent from 3-point range over the last five games.
“We have to be a better offensive team,” Miller said. “Right now, we are not shooting the ball anywhere near what our capability is. I think we have four or five guys on our team that start the game with ‘Boy, I hope I make one tonight.'”
“When you have three or four guys thinking like that, and the first one doesn’t go in, next thing you know, you have some guys out there really struggling.”
JONES TO BE A COWBOY
Former Indiana guard Curtis Jones announced Monday that he is transferring to Oklahoma State.
The sophomore left the Hoosier program in early December after averaging just three points per game in 11.4 minutes each outing.
Jones will be eligible for the second semester of the 2018-19 season and have five semesters of eligibility.
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