BLOOMINGTON – Replayed a day later, his word’s may have sent a bit of a chill down a Hoosiers fan’s back.
In a preview interview conducted by the Indiana University Video Productions, Tom Crean spoke about his team’s need to be forgetful a few days removed from a memorable win over Wisconsin.
“I’m concerned with the young group if we’re gonna have the focus we’ve had the last couple of games,” said Crean on Friday. “What they need to understand is there is nothing that’s not a tremendous challenge in this league. Nothing.
“And when you have success, just like when you have failure, you’ve got to learn from it and you’ve got to move right on.”
About 24 hours later, those words would seem eerily prophetic to his Indiana team and the fan base that saw a turn in emotions in two hours on Saturday afternoon.
Sub-par shooting from the field and a lack of offensive kept Indiana from creating any momentum against Northwestern over 40 minutes, which allowed a patient Northwestern team to hold onto the lead for most of the game and then pull away late for a 54-47 victory Saturday at Assembly Hall.
It comes just four days after the Hoosiers’ exhilarating triumph over the Badgers on the very same court, which ended with hundreds of fans scattering on the court with joy. Now those rooters were quick to get to the exits wondering how fates had changed so quickly for a young Hoosiers team.
Crean, meanwhile, knew exactly what was going on.
“We weren’t mature enough to handle a great win and come in here and play the way that we needed to play,” said Crean simply of his team’s loss to the Wildcats, which drops them to 2-3 in Big Ten play. “I’m disappointed in that.”
All game long Indiana was hampered by poor shooting as they finished the game with just 15 made field goals in 60 attempts-good for a 25 percent success rate. The Hoosiers led by one point in the first half and three in the second half, but the advantages didn’t last.
Drew Crawford’s 17 points for Northwestern along with 15 from Tre Demps were enough to keep the Hoosiers from gaining any momentum in a somewhat demoralizing defeat after the high of the Wisconsin win.
“It was a very big disappointment because, I mean, just to get it moving, we actually took a step back now,” said guard Stanford Robinson-who was 1-of-4 from the field with five points. “We have to take a couple steps forward just to catch up to where we were.”
While trying to guard against a letdown, Crean said he saw signs of it coming the day before during practice when the team’s mindset seemed off from where it had been over the past week.
“Lack of focus. Inconsistencies,” said Crean when asked about what he saw that bothered him on Friday. “It’s part of it. It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time, but it was there, and it was addressed, and it was addressed frequently, and it was addressed last night.
“We tried to shake it out of it this morning and it just didn’t fall that way.”
Maybe that’s why the Hoosiers shots weren’t falling at all for most of the contest. Unable to drive as they had against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers only scored six points in the first 13 minutes of the game and finished the first half with a 19 percent field goal percentage. Northwestern wasn’t much better (27 percent from the field) so the Hoosiers were down just three at the break.
“I think we did force them,” said guard Yogi Ferrell, who shot just 2-of-14 from the field. “I know I did personally.”
Noah Vonleh had more success than others getting the ball in the hoop in the second half as he had three field goals and ten points in the final 20 minutes as the Hoosiers were able to build a three-point lead. But Demps exploded after that for Northwestern, scoring 13 consecutive points to put the Wildcats up by seven, a deficit which Indiana would never recover.
“We come out to play every game in a different mindset. We don’t really try to think about previous games when we play next. It was disappointing,” said guard Will Sheehey, who missed some of the second half after turning his ankle. “We obviously didn’t, starting with me, didn’t play our best game tonight and it showed.”
So did Crean’s biggest fears after the Hoosiers’ biggest victory of the season-and he wishes he could do something about it immediately.
“If it was legal to practice at midnight, we would,” said Crean. “It’s not, so we’ll start when it’s legal, tomorrow morning. But we’re not going to sit back and look at any part of this as being acceptable.”
Even if 24 hours ago, it may have seemed a bit predictable.