Indiana basketball is in the middle of a disappointing stretch of the season that has seen postseason hopes dim. The Hoosiers have gone from a team that looked to have turned a corner to a team searching for answers, with more questions continuing to arise.
Indiana has lost four of the last six games, including two in a row. Going back to December 9, Indiana is just 5-6 in the last 11 games.
Following a 12-point loss to No. 11 Wisconsin on Friday, Indiana has eight days between games — a break that could be coming at the right time.
Why? Because Indiana needs to work on the disconnect that is clear on the floor.
“We gotta figure out a way to be one on a court, all five of us sometimes feel disconnected in some ways,” Indiana basketball sophomore forward Malik Reneau said after the loss to Wisconsin. ” … this disconnect happens when they (opponents) go on their runs and I feel like we stop trusting each other. Just have to get back to the drawing board and trust the extra pass, trust our teammates to make the next play.”
Indiana enters the midway point of Big Ten play at 12-7 overall and 4-4 in league games. The issues leading to the recent skid are long. Whether it’s leadership, discipline, effort or pride — it’s a long list.
Head coach Mike Woodson believes they are close and the competitive level of practice makes him think they are close to making the right shift.
“Our practices are competitive,” Woodson said Monday on his weekly radio show. “I’m hard in practice. When you lose, I don’t think you can’t afford to not push guys at a high level. So practices are not pretty. They’re brutal. We run and we work and guys hit the floor. That’s how it should be. Until they learn the level of play I expect them to me, you have to work your way through it.”
It’s clear Woodson is not going to change his system or scheme at this point in the season — although with the current way the roster is constructed, the argument could be made that continuing to pound the message and expecting it to break through is not the right step.
So, it’s more of the same message — for now — for Woodson.
“They struggle sometimes,” Woodson said of the players in practice. “There is so much thrown at these young players. We just expect when you get new players, that whatever we roll out, they’re supposed to understand it. Well, it’s not that way. It’s not that way with your studies. When you go to your math class, because the teacher rolls it out there, hell, that doesn’t mean you’re going to pick it up right away.
” … Listen, nobody wants to win more than Mike Woodson. The fans — I know they want to win. But nobody wants to win more than me. That’s the reason why I took the job and I’m going to keep pushing these guys until we get where we need to be.”
Indiana’s next three games are at No. 10 Illinois, then two home games against Iowa and Penn State. If there was ever a time to start a streak, it would be now.
But, he’s going to need preparation from everyone — players and coaches. And that includes getting the leadership he wants and needs from his veteran players.
“We’ve been always searching in that area,” Woodson said of leadership on the team. “When you have seniors, they have to have the power to give you the leadership you’re looking for. The fact that we have so many new players that haven’t played together, we have to have leadership. And that’s been struggle. That comes with winning. When you’re winning everything looks good. When you lose, you start pointing the fingers. Within my camp, I’m not pointing at anyone. We just have to make sure when we step on the floor we are prepared.”
So, while Woodson isn’t a huge fan of the layoff, he knows it could be a good break for some. But, coming out on the other side, there needs to be a clear difference in the play on the floor. Otherwise, there is no potential for the rest of the season.
“Yeah, it gives us an opportunity to soul search and work,” Woodson said. “We’ll have another day off which is tomorrow (Tuesday) because that’s mandatory. If it was up to me you’d get no days off, but that’s just the NCAA rules. So we’ll be off tomorrow and I’ll go and recruit tomorrow and then we’ll get ready for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then head up and play Saturday.
“It’s going to take a total team effort, but we’re going to keep fighting, I can promise you that.”
SEE ALSO: Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson takes exception to CJ Gunn’s ejection: ‘I’ve expressed that at the top after that ball game’
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