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January 16, 2013

Where'd the offense go?

For all of the offensive prowess No. 2 Indiana has shown most of the season, Tuesday night was an aberration of considerable proportions.

Ball movement? Poor.

Cutting and movement? Not good at all.

Reversing the ball consistently? Didn't happen.

Bench production? Two points.

Outside of a stunning first half for sophomore center Cody Zeller and a handful or so of nice plays, Indiana's offense flow fell into a hodge-podge of missed shots, rushed shots and generally uncharacteristic inconsistent play in its 64-59 loss to Wisconsin in front of another sellout crowd at Assembly Hall.

It wasn't just the season-low 59 points, it was what didn't happen throughout the game for IU.

In the first half, Zeller shot 8-for-8 but the rest of the team went 5-for-20. In the second half, Zeller was 1-for-6 as the Hoosiers shot 27 percent (7-for-26) after halftime.

Indiana shot 37 percent for the game, its lowest of the season. But outside of Zeller's first half, Indiana shot 27 percent (12-for-46) for the game. Its worst shooting entering the game so far this season was 40 percent at Iowa.

Indiana's effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the value of 3-pointers, was 39.8 against Wisconsin Tuesday night, its lowest since the start of the 2011-12 season. IU's effective field goal percentage on the season is 56.7 percent, ninth best in the country.

The Hoosiers (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) didn't get their third basket of the second half until 9:36 remained in the game as unranked Wisconsin (13-4, 4-0) took over sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

Indiana did get some points from the foul line, going 12-for-14 in the second half, but getting only two baskets for more than a 10-minute stretch is quite uncharacteristic.

"Some nights shots just don't fall, whether it's inside guys or guys on the outside," said Zeller, who finished with a game-high 23 points, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor and 5-for-7 from the line. "That's how basketball is sometimes."

While that's true, the issues went deeper than that for Indiana on Tuesday.

The offense simply didn't have much flow.
Indiana entered the game leading the nation in scoring at 87.1 points per game. Beyond that, the Hoosiers were the top field goal shooting and 3-point shooting team in the country since the start of the 2011-12 season.

"There were a couple times with the side pick and roll that we just weren't attacking the switches and getting the ball to the other side," IU coach Tom Crean said. "We were staying too long - and we had really worked the last couple days - we were staying too long with the first option, which is rarely going to be there against Wisconsin. You just have to keep reversing the ball. … We just started looking and standing rather than keeping the ball moving.

"We're a ball-reversal team. We're a high execution-percentage level team when we're reversing it two and three times, and we didn't do a great job of that."

Those issues - combined with some defensive mistakes - let Wisconsin push its winning streak against IU to 11, tied for the second-most consecutive times the Hoosiers have lost to one opponent. Wisconsin won 11 in a row against IU from 1912-1919, and Purdue won 12 in a row from 1908-1914.

Regardless of the historical matter, the offensive issue are more germane at the moment for the Hoosiers.

Wisconsin's pace keeps the score of games down, and IU wasn't going to have a chance to put up the 88 points as it did a game ago on then-No. 8 Minnesota. But there were lengthy stretches when IU struggled to score, and certainly struggled to get points from anyone other than Zeller.

After Jordan Hulls' jumper brought IU within 24-22 with 7:22 left in the first half, no player other than Zeller scored for the Hoosiers until Christian Watford's 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in the half.

In the second half, Victor Oladipo hit a layup with 18:32 to play and Watford scored inside at the 15:34 mark, but the Hoosiers didn't get another basket until Watford's with 9:36 to play.

The backcourt of Hulls and Yogi Ferrell shot a combined 4-for-16 from the floor.

"We really wanted to get the ball in the post tonight, and we did. But it's got to come in. It's got to come out. It's got to get swung side to side," Crean said. "There just has to be more movement."

Another issue has become the lack of scoring from the bench.

IU entered the game second in the Big Ten in points from the bench at 26.4 per game. Some of that was inflated due to non-conference blowouts, but the Hoosiers got 16 points off the bench at Iowa, 18 at Penn State.

Indiana got only two points from the reserves against Wisconsin - a Jeremy Hollowell drive - after getting only three against Minnesota, all on free throws. Will Sheehey, averaging 11.1 points per game, has gone scoreless the past two games, shooting 0-for-7 combined.

"I'm not as concerned about lack of offense from the bench. I concerned with the lack of creating pace of the game," Crean said.

Indiana made only three 3-pointers in each of its losses to Wisconsin last year and again made only three Tuesday night.

"We missed a lot of shots. What'd we do? We missed 34 shots," Crean said, glancing down at the stat shoot to make sure than number was correct. "… You've got to shoot the ball well against Wisconsin. That's part of it. When teams play well against them, they shoot the ball well against them. And we didn't. That's the bottom line to me as much as anything else."



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