Tough schedule tough on Indiana

Sunday, December 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:05 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It’s the kind of schedule that is usually reserved for March and the NCAA Tournament. Indiana decided to give it a try in December.

So much for good tidings.

The Hoosiers have started the month on a four-game losing streak after playing three nationally-ranked teams in 11 days. The fourth loss came against a team that has recently jumped into the AP top 25.

Here’s a glance at Indiana’s “NCAA tournament-type schedule” as coach Mike Davis calls it:

  • Nov. 23 – Indiana 56, Indiana State 52
  • Nov. 27 – Indiana 64, Western Illinois 60
  • Dec. 1 – No. 6 North Carolina 70, Indiana 63
  • Dec. 4 – No. 13 Connecticut 74, Indiana 69
  • Dec. 8 – Notre Dame 55, Indiana 45
  • Dec. 11 – No. 11 Kentucky 73, Indiana 58
“It’s definitely been one of the most difficult stretches I have been through,” junior guard Bracey Wright said. “All of these teams are loaded and ranked. This is the type of competition that you want to play against. We learn a lot and grow during each game.

“Michigan State went through a tough stretch like this, playing difficult teams, and it helped them in the long run. I think that it will have the same effect on us.”

Indiana, like Missouri, is a young team. The Hoosiers have seven freshmen on their roster, and they start two, Robert Vaden and D.J. White.

Vaden and White have combined to average 20 points and 9.5 rebounds.

“When you look at our roster, we have a young team and there is no question with them coming in that they would start for us,” David said. “This season has been a challenge so far for them because of the competition we have been playing, but we feel that it will pay off later in the season.”

Davis said it’s also a challenge to keep his team focused on improving and not on what others are saying about the losing streak.

“It’s hard to keep your confidence, especially here where when you lose a couple its like the world’s coming to an end,” Davis said. “That has an affect on the young players more than anybody.”

Despite holding their opponents to 64 points per game, the Hoosiers have struggled shooting the ball. They are shooting 35.7 percent from field, including 31.7 percent on 3-pointers.

Indiana’s worst outing came against the Fighting Irish. The Hoosiers shot 30 percent from the field, including 25 percent from behind the arc. Wright, Indiana’s leading scorer with an average of 17.8 points, finished with six points.

“Our biggest problem has been the type of competition we have played.” Davis said. “Anytime you play these types of teams your shooting percentage usually drops. We are getting good looks; it’s just a matter of stepping up and making plays.”

Missouri’s numbers aren’t much better, though it has yet to play a nationally-ranked opponent. The Tigers are shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from long range. They even had a performance that mirrored Indiana’s against Notre Dame. It came Dec. 7 against Arkansas.

In that game Missouri shot 29.8 percent from the field and 15.8 percent on 3-pointers.

Missouri coach Quin Snyder said too often his young team equates making baskets with playing well and that he is still teaching shot selection.

“One of the things that I think we need to do, that we did (against Montana), is not be so reliant on the jump shot,” Snyder said. “We need to get to the basket more and get to the foul line more and let our offense help our defense.”

FERGUSON HAS SURGERY: Missouri junior Jeffrey Ferguson had surgery Friday to repair a partly torn meniscus in his right knee.

Ferguson, a 6-foot-11 center, had missed two games with the injury before surgery was deemed necessary. It is likely Ferguson will not play for eight weeks.

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