WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana struggled offensively in the second half, failed to get critical stops and fell to Michigan, 70-58, before an announced 2,254 at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers, who closed the first half on an 18-6 run, led by six points at halftime, but failed to build on that momentum in the second half. Making matters worse, Indiana shot only 1-for-13 from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes, finishing with a 26 percent (6-for-23) mark from beyond the arc. While Indiana’s offense was a in a lull, Michigan started the second half 8-for-8 from the field, while connecting on each of its first five free throws in that span. The Hoosiers didn’t force a stop until the 11:45 mark of the second half. By that point, the Wolverines’ lead stood at seven points and only grew from there.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Shannon Smith led Michigan with 23 points, but the Wolverines did not rely solely on her. Michigan finished with four players in double figures, while Tabitha Gerardot led Indiana with a season-high 22 points.
Once again, Indiana hasn’t been able to get all areas of its team to gel simultaneously. On this night, Gerardot got in an early groove and led the team from inside and around the paint — she also went 2-for-6 from beyond the arc. For Gerardot, it was her 12th double figure game of the season. She accounted for 16 of the team’s 32 first-half points.
“She got in a rhythm tonight,” Miller said. “I thought she was consistent and I thought she was hunting for shots. I really like Tabitha’s mindset to hunt for shots here late in the season and not be afraid to miss. Sometimes kids are afraid to miss and that’s why they miss. Tabitha has been really aggressive offensively in the last few games. I thought she deserved tonight to play (more) minutes and, offensively, I thought she was giving us something, so we rolled with her longer. Lyndsay Leikem (four points) has had a really good year coming off the bench, so we got good minutes from that position. We scored 26 points from our power forward position tonight.”
Meanwhile, Indiana’s starting guards — Larryn Brooks, Taylor Agler and Alexis Gassion — combined to go 6-for-28 on the night.
“I can’t wait to get everybody rolling on the same night,” Miller said. “Some nights we get our guards rolling and don’t get anything out of the post. Some nights we get our wings going and don’t get anything (else). I’m waiting for us to step back up and have a really good game at all of our positions and have a really fun night.”
KEY STAT: Indiana shot 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the second half. Pair that with Michigan’s refusal to miss over its first eight shots of the half — or Indiana’s inability to stop them — and you’re looking at a clear recipe for a loss.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “We understand how hard it is to win on the road in conference play. We would really like for this young team that’s ahead of schedule and has exceeded expectations this year to really be rewarded. We’d love to send out the senior class with a postseason bid, but we don’t know if we’ve quite secured it yet. So, we knew this week is a very big week. We don’t talk a lot about it with the team, but the coaching staff knows it’s a big week.”
— IU coach Curt Miller on potentially securing a postseason tournament bid with a win over Michigan.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?: Michigan is a good team, but one that looked supremely beatable. The Hoosiers recognize they blew an opportunity to add another quality win to their postseason resume. On their home floor — and with only three games to go, one at home — it was big, big missed opportunity for the program. Now, a win in Saturday’s Senior Day game against Illinois becomes a near necessity for a postseason berth because back-to-back, season-ending road trips to Minnesota and Michigan State follow. They won’t be easy. The Wolverines, who own an 8-6 conference record and sit in the middle of the Big Ten pack, would have represented another quality win for the Hoosiers. If Indiana doesn’t find a way to snap its skid and beat Illinois, it could potentially enter the Big Ten Tournament on a six-game losing streak.
But, once again, this season wasn’t supposed to be about wins and losses. The mantra has been — and remains — exceeding expectations. The Hoosiers have done that and then some. A failure to earn a postseason bid would not indicate a setback for Curt Miller’s second-year program. It would merely be a nice reward for continuing Indiana’s upward trend.
Miller is absolutely correct about this: the Hoosiers need different positions to have good games at the same time. It’s no coincidence that the last time that happened, Indiana won back-to-back contests against Wisconsin and Illinois earlier this month. The Hoosiers waxed the Illini in Champaign and need a repeat performance Saturday in Bloomington.
Otherwise, a season that has already been classified as a success, won’t have an opportunity to reach its full potential.
— Indiana recorded 18 assists on 23 field goals. Nine different players had at least one assist.
— The Hoosiers committed less than 10 turnovers (nine) for the eighth time this season.
— Larryn Brooks scored nine points, but connected on only one field goal in the second half. She added five rebounds and five assists.
— Alexis Gassion scored eight points and grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds. She also had three assists and three steals.
— In her penultimate regular season game at Assembly Hall, Simone Deloach scored six points and pulled down six rebounds.
Video above courtesy of IU Athletics