January 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Rod Beard

Big Ten report: Indiana's Tom Crean frustrated after home loss to Northwestern

Indiana head coach Tom Crean, left, here talking to Yogi Ferrell, saw his team upset No. 3 Wisconsin earlier this week and then fall to Northwestern at home for only the third time in school history Saturday. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Indiana coach Tom Crean knows there are going to be ups and downs in the Big Ten this season, especially with a retooled roster after winning the conference title last year.

But this week’s Jekyll-and-Hyde performance is as high and low as a team can go in a short stretch.

The Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3 Big Ten) started the week with a 75-72 home victory over then-No. 3 Wisconsin and followed with an eye-popping 54-47 home loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Indiana shot 25 percent (15-of-60) from the field and lost at home to the Wildcats for just the third time in school history.

Crean was more than a little frustrated with the shocking loss.

“If it was legal to practice at midnight, we would. It’s not, so we’ll start when it’s legal, tomorrow morning,” Crean told reporters. “But we’re not going to sit back and look at any part of this as being acceptable.”

Throughout the week, Crean said he was worried about how the Hoosiers were practicing and the way they carried themselves in preparing for the Wildcats.

“There’s no question Northwestern earned it, but the complacency that we played with today and the sense of settling on offense and we knew there were going to be multiple defensive changes that could come today — whether it be zone, whether it be saggy man.”

Freshman Noah Vonleh (17 points, 12 rebounds) was the only Indiana player in double figures, but missed 10 of his 15 field-goal attempts. Yogi Ferrell (2-of-14), Evan Gordon (3-of-12) and Will Sheehey (1-of-7) didn’t help offensively either, as the Hoosiers managed just 19 points in the first half.

Indiana entered the game ranked third in scoring in the Big Ten at 79.9 points per game. Ferrell (17.9) was the league’s leading scorer and Vonleh (9.0) the leading rebounder.

But the Hoosiers are lacking leadership and chemistry while meshing three new starters in the rotation.

“We have a long way to go, and I can’t just put it on youth because obviously some of the younger guys didn’t play up to their capabilities,” Crean said. “As a team, we did not have the hunger that you need to play with on a daily basis be where it needed to be. Northwestern did.

“I don’t think it would have mattered who we played coming off the win the other day. We weren’t mature enough to handle a great win and come in here and play the way that we needed to play.”

It was another impressive win for Northwestern (9-10, 2-4), which defeated then-No. 23 Illinois last week. First-year coach Chris Collins got his first signature victory and one that he can help build the program with.

The Hoosiers have a quick turnaround to try to get things straightened out, with a matchup at No. 4 Michigan State on Tuesday.

Freefalling

Add Ohio State and Wisconsin to the list of early surprises in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes (15-3, 2-3) have suffered three consecutive losses and have fallen from the top five to likely near the bottom of the Top 25. Losing in overtime at then-No. 5 Michigan State was understandable, but losing at home against then-No. 20 Iowa raised an eyebrow.

But a loss at Minnesota was eye-opening and brings into question whether they can contend in the conference race.

Ohio State is lacking the offense that many predicted they could replace after Deshaun Thomas graduated last year. LaQuinton Ross (15 points) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12 points) have picked up some of the slack, but there hasn’t been a third consistent scorer.

Wisconsin (16-2, 3-2) has lost two straight — at Indiana and at home to Michigan. The Badgers had dominated Michigan at the Kohl Center, winning 11 straight in the series, dating back to 1999.

Defense has been the culprit for Wisconsin, as Indiana drove the lane and finished at the rim. Michigan converted 62 percent of its field goals in the first half, decimating the Badgers on the pick-and-roll.

“I know the weaknesses and other people will find out eventually,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “The thing is you plug one hole then sometimes you feel like you’re in a football game and your defense gave up X number of points and then you fix that and then the offense (goes away).”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com
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