It’s an intangible that is taken for granted until it is gone, which is what has happened to the Indiana Hoosiers recently, most notably on Monday night when they were blown out at home against the Nebraska Cornhuskers 66-51.
Whether it’s because of a never-ending flow of injuries preventing the team to gel with each other or that being nationally ranked has inspired opponents to play the Hoosiers tougher without Indiana adjusting, confidence was missing from this IU squad as the Cornhuskers were able to do as they pleased.
“To be honest with you, we have some guys that have lost some confidence,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller, “whether it’s been in and out of lineups, in and out of practices, (we’re) not real sure what we are getting out of certain rotations.”
Indiana’s tendency for slow starts hit rock bottom when the Hoosiers found themselves in a 25-7 hole more than 10 minutes into the first half. The Hoosiers were able to get the deficit down to as little as six points in large part due to the Cornhuskers missing 12 shots in a row but ultimately settled for being down nine at the half despite shooting 29.6% from the floor.
The Hoosiers [12-5 (3-3)] looked to have found their rhythm at the start of the second half when they cut the lead to 35-32 with 16:31 left, but Glynn Watson Jr. helped the Cornhuskers recover quickly as he hit back-to-back threes during a Nebraska 8-0 run that basically iced the game as Indiana never got closer than nine from there.
Watson Jr. ended up scoring 12 of his team-high 15 points in the second half for the Cornhuskers [13-4 (3-3)] and almost got a triple-double out of James Palmer, who finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. In total, Nebraska had six players score at least seven points.
Meanwhile, Indiana had just two such scorers as Romeo Langford (18 points) and Juwan Morgan (17 points) combined for 35 of the team’s 51 points. The lack of help around Langford and Morgan again seems to point to lack of confidence.
In fact, Morgan and Langford scoring the majority of the Hoosiers’ points is trend that has inflated during the past four games. On the season, Morgan and Langford have combined for 600 points (46.6% of the team total) while the rest of the team has scored 688 points.
However, the numbers have drastically shifted since the calendar changed to 2019, with the duo scoring 162 of the Indiana’s 262 points (61.5%) against Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, and Nebraska. The only other player to score in double-figures in the last four games was Devonte Green when he scored 15 against Maryland.
Even if you remove all games against weaker mid-majors, you still have Morgan and Langford accounting for 248 of Indiana’s 508 points (48.8%) it scored against Marquette, Arkansas, Duke, Northwestern, Penn State, Louisville, and Butler.
This seems to indicate a lack of confidence in the Indiana role players as well as an overreliance on Morgan and Langford, something that is not necessarily bad in a vacuum (some teams are built around the scoring of one or two players) but goes against what the Hoosiers had previously succeeded with earlier in the season.
“We’ve got to get our grip on our identity. We’ve got to start to play harder again,” said Miller. “We just need some guys to play with some confidence, and tonight we didn’t have enough guys playing at a high level. Hopefully we can get there and get it back.”
There is no easy solution to regaining confidence, one must find it through hard work and determination. The Hoosiers will need to find that confidence quickly as four of the next five games are on the road with the only home game being against Michigan. Hopefully the loss to Nebraska was a wake-up call that the Hoosiers need to compose themselves in the face of adversity. If they can do that, then their confidence should return.