Indiana basketball is a bad team playing badly. And Mike Woodson says blame him.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Saturday afternoon, saddled with a four-game losing streak following an 83-74 defeat at Penn State, Mike Woodson met the media a coach knowing full well his season is in grave danger of slipping beyond his control.

It may well have already.

Woodson and his team have been unable to arrest a decline that — like so many do — started gradually in January before becoming precipitous in February. And while his players have said many of the right things in the aftermath of this series of frustrating results, Woodson turned the blame in a different direction Saturday.

He pointed the finger back at himself.

Doyel: IU basketball doesn't seem to care a whole lot about IU basketball anymore. Why should we?

“I’m upset with the way we played, the way I’ve coached this team this whole season,” Woodson said. “All coaches, when they coach, they think they can win. I’ve struggled with this team this year. I won’t blame my players. I’ve always put it on Mike Woodson.

Feb 24, 2024; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson reacts to a call during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2024; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson reacts to a call during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

“That’s how it should be. I’m a big boy, and we’ll try to continue to grow this thing and figure it out, but we’ve still got a lot of work on our hands when it comes to our basketball team.”

Saturday’s frustration was familiar.

Yet again, Indiana (14-13, 6-10) fought foul trouble, in both halves. Again, the Hoosiers struggled tremendously behind the 3-point line, where they finished Saturday outscored by 21 points. Again, they could not convert enough free throws, finishing 14-of-25, the insult onto that injury that they started the game 9-of-12 from the stripe.

“When it gets to it, we’ve got to knock those free throws down,” sophomore forward Malik Reneau, the game’s leading scorer with 27 points, said. “That keeps us in the game, keeps us close, makes it a game at the end of the game.”

IU actually managed most of its other weaknesses well, committing just 12 turnovers, playing Penn State pretty even on the boards and on second chances, and pounding the Nittany Lions (14-14, 8-9) in the paint.

And the Hoosiers still trailed for more than 27 of the game’s 40 minutes Saturday, for the same reason Northwestern led IU for close to 35 minutes last weekend, or Nebraska led for all but a handful of seconds midweek: At the time in the season when it matters most — when well-built teams should be playing their best basketball — Indiana is pointed firmly in the other direction.

That, Woodson said multiple times Saturday, is down to him.

“We’ve lost more games at home than we’ve lost in the last two years,” Woodson said. “That’s just not good. I’ve always felt I could take any team and go win with them. We’ve had our struggles this year, but we’ve got to try to finish this season out on a high note.”

With each passing week, it becomes increasingly unlikely to see where IU finds the inspiration to manage that.

The Hoosiers struggle at both ends of the floor. They’ve lost eight of their past 10. They have foul issues and shooting issues and depth issues. Woodson has repeatedly said he’s still trying to pull something out of his bench, but clearly nothing is forthcoming.

Woodson has been criticized in some corners for deflecting too much blame, at least publicly, onto his roster, its injuries and a smattering of other things.

There have probably been times when he was guilty of that, at least to some degree. There have been many more when he was just a veteran coach with a not-very-veteran team unable to take his instruction and turn it into winning basketball. Nothing he could say after losses like these would make anyone feel less frustrated or more at ease.

Indiana has evolved into a bad team playing badly. There’s not much more to it than that. The Hoosiers are fighting for something that isn’t there and probably isn’t coming, and their season is running out of runway. At their current pace, they probably won’t even make the NIT. Would they even want to?

Like his coach, Reneau said a lot of the right things Saturday. And like his coach, when the veil of cliches and practiced boilerplate slipped, even briefly, his words were revealing.

“It’s very difficult as a team, knowing we’ve got the talent and the players to do it, and make the (NCAA) tournament,” he said. “But when stuff doesn’t go right, we let games slip by and it’s just hard to overcome, when you let so many games slip by, and a season slowly just pass by you.

“Realizing you’ve got four games left, it’s just hard to fight back from that.”

It’s hard. Too hard, so far. With only five more games (including the Big Ten tournament) guaranteed, it’s not going to get any easier either.

Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU basketball is bad. Mike Woodson finally takes some blame.