Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Title talk dissipates at IU

Hoosiers spinning out of Big Ten race

The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Tom Coverdale shook his head in disbelief, Kyle Hornsby's answers were unusually short, and Indiana coach Mike Davis' voice was barely audible.

These are tough times at Indiana, where talk of a national championship has been replaced by what it will take to win another game.

On Saturday, the Hoosiers lost at home for the first time in nearly a year and slipped to 4-5 in the Big Ten Conference. They are also mired in their first five-game losing streak in 30 years.

"It's very tough. We're all disappointed," said Hornsby, a fifth-year senior and the longest-tenured Indiana player. "The idea is to protect your home court and win some games on the road, and we haven't done either."

The somber mood among the Hoosiers following Saturday's 67-62 overtime loss to Michigan State was predictable.

Indiana now must try to snap its longest losing streak since 1971-72, Bob Knight's first season in Bloomington. A loss to conference co-leader Michigan on Wednesday would give the Hoosiers their longest skid since 1968.

Indiana's tailspin began Jan. 25 with a 22-point loss at Purdue, which the Hoosiers had already beaten. Since then, Indiana has gone from Big Ten contender, at 4-1, to a team fighting to stay in the race for an NCAA Tournament bid.

There were some good signs in Saturday's game.

Bracey Wright, the Hoosiers' leading scorer who missed four games with a back injury, is rounding into shape, slashing to the basket and finding the range for his shot. He finished with 20 points and hit four 3-pointers, the kind of production Indiana desperately needs.

The Hoosiers held an opponent to less than 55 percent shooting in the second half, the first time they had done that in four games. Michigan State shot 11-for-25 in the second half and was 3-for-4 in OT.

Davis didn't complain about Indiana's effort.

"If we played this way on our four-game road stretch, we'd be better off than where we are now," Davis said in a hoarse voice. "We've got to start somewhere, and I think we're getting better."

The question isn't just whether the Hoosiers can change their fortunes, but how quickly they can turn it around.

Indiana hasn't won since Jan. 21, and its only road win of the season came at Ball State on Dec. 31.

Most troublesome is that the Hoosiers have struggled from beyond the 3-point line. In the last seven games, Indiana has made only 34-of-134 3-point attempts.

The Hoosiers play Michigan, tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten, at home Wednesday night, and then travel to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, before facing Iowa and Minnesota at home. They finish conference play at Penn State.

Wright is confident that Indiana will turn its season around.

"We have a losing record in the Big Ten, and you don't want to have that, especially with seven games left," Hornsby said. "We've just got to keep putting in the effort."

IU's remaining games

Wednesdayvs. Michigan (14-8)
Saturdayat Wisconsin (16-5)
Feb. 19at Iowa (12-7)
Feb. 25at Illinois (16-4)
March 1Iowa (12-7)
March 4Minnesota (13-7)
March 8at Penn State (5-14)

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