Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller hopes his Hoosiers are properly attired for their game at Rutgers on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to put our big-boy pants on here and start showing up,” Miller said last Friday night.
That was shortly after IU suffered its sixth consecutive loss, 69-46, to No. 5 Michigan at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in a game that was almost over before it started. The Wolverines ran out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back.
Senior forward Juwan Morgan dubbed the defeat “embarrassing,” while Miller offered several frank criticisms of his squad afterward.
“Our team in general right now is soft, and we’re also, for whatever reason right now, scared,” he said. “The fight isn’t there right now, and the confidence isn’t there on either end of the floor to be able to capitalize on any type of opportunity that we have. There’s nothing we’re doing well.
“There’s nowhere to go. You just move on to the next step and try to figure it out. You’ve got to find a way to get some confidence in yourself, which for us, is a preparation to go on the road and play Rutgers, so that’s what we’re worried about right now. But playing against the level of competition in this league right now and what we’ve got going on, we’re just not playing at a high enough level.”
The Hoosiers (12-8, 3-6) will try to get off the collective schnide at 7 p.m. (BTN) against the Scarlet Knights (10-9, 3-6) in a matchup of two teams who entered Tuesday in a four-way tie for ninth place in the league.
“We’ve just got to find a way to regroup, and one win really helps that,” Miller said. “One win would really help a lot of things. That’s the quest … (but) this isn’t the league that you’re really looking around saying, ‘Yeah, the next one will be easy.’ No, it won’t be, it’s not going to be very easy at all. You’ve got to get that notion out of your head and just stay with it. Block out the noise.”
Rutgers has made a little bit of noise recently.
The Scarlet Knights, who have finished in the Big Ten basement every season since joining the conference in 2014, have won back-to-back regular-season league games for the first time. Rutgers beat Nebraska, the same team that handed the Hoosiers a 66-51 loss Jan. 14 at Assembly Hall, 76-69 last Monday, then followed that up with a 64-60 triumph at Penn State on Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights are led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Eugene Omoruyi (13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds per game) and 6-4 sophomore guard Geo Baker (13.5 ppg, 4.1 apg). Baker had 15 points in Rutgers' 76-69 win over IU last March in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Morgan, who had 15 points and nine rebounds in that season-ending loss last year, wants his team to be ready to fight.
“We just can’t keep taking punches,” he said following the Michigan loss. “We can’t just keep laying down whenever we do get punched. We have to be able to fight. I just keep telling the guys that whenever you get hit, you can’t just give up. If one guy is fighting, all five of us are fighting, and that needs to be the way it’s going from here on out.”
If the Hoosiers can do that, and get a win, it would likely lift their collective spirits heading into Saturday's game at No. 6 Michigan State.
“How do you get confidence? The only way you get confidence is you work your butt off — you go back and you rep and you get shots and you work on your game ... and at the end of the day keep showing up because you keep showing up and keep showing up, eventually good things will happen,” Miller said. “But for us right now, it’s our next opportunity. That’s what we worry about right now, Rutgers.”