Indiana needed a win tonight after three straight defeats and some turbulence within the program. The Hoosiers couldn’t get the job done.
Even with a magnificent 30-point performance from star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers (16-9, 7-8 B1G) let a late lead slip away, falling to No. 15 Wisconsin, 74-69.
Mike Woodson opted to start the same five that he trotted out against MSU, with Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and Jackson-Davis. There was a clear gameplan to get the ball to Jackson-Davis from the get-go.
IU’s All-American scored seven of the team’s first 13 points to jump out in front. Thompson, Indiana’s other frontcourt stalwart, had the remaining six points for the Hoosiers.
It took some time for Wisconsin’s Big Ten superstar, Johnny Davis, to get settled into the game. He came into the game averaging 20.3 PPG, but only scored four of the Badgers’ first 25 points in the contest. However, he found a rhythm late in the first half.
Over the final 3:27 before the break, Davis scored a basket inside, then combined another field goal with three free throws to climb into double figures within the blink of an eye. Indiana’s offense could not do more damage before Davis got into a groove, as four different scoring droughts of at least 1:50 kept the Badgers’ within arm’s length.
Thompson and Jackson-Davis hit eight of their 11 first half field goals, but the rest of the Hoosiers combined to go 5-of-24 in the first 20 minutes. Johnson and Tamar Bates, in particular, had a tough time, missing 11 of their 12 attempts in the first half. Johnson added three turnovers before the break. Davis’ spurt plus IU’s struggles led to a 9-2 Badger run, giving Wisconsin the lead at halftime.
Unexpectedly, both teams played excellent offensive basketball after the intermission. The teams combined for 10-of-12 from the field to start the second half. A three from Galloway tied things up at 43 with 16:28 left.
IU landed the next punch. On the shoulders of their strong defense, the Hoosiers scored the game’s next seven points, punctuated by a Johnson finger-roll in the paint. Jackson-Davis started the play with a block at the other end, and Galloway sprung the fastbreak basket with a hustle play.
A minor flashpoint came with 12:10 left. Wisconsin senior Brad Davison, no stranger to a little controversy, contacted Parker Stewart’s face in seemingly an inadvertent manner. Yet, likely due to his reputation, Davison picked up a flagrant-one foul, and Stewart made both free throws to restore IU’s lead to seven points.
That moment may have sparked the Badgers. They significantly tightened on defense, and relied on Davis and Davison for points at the other end. In a little over two minutes, IU’s lead was cut to two points, and with 7:11 left, Davison made two free throws to tie the game at 56.
Indiana wouldn’t give in. The Hoosiers answered through Jackson-Davis, but it wasn’t from skillful moves in the low post or high-flying transition basketball. Jackson-Davis made all four of his free throw attempts, then Stewart drained a three over Davison to give IU a five-point advantage, which they carried into the final media timeout.
During that timeout, perhaps Badgers coach Greg Gard told his team to let Davis steal the show, and that he did. Davis scored his team’s final 13 points, all of which came in the final four minutes. All his baskets came from agile layup attempts or free throws, including a powerful drive to the rim plus the foul after a reviewed out-of-bounds play went Wisconsin’s way. The Badgers never relinquished the lead after that. IU had no answer for Davis late, as he found his way to the line nine different times down the stretch, making seven.
The Hoosiers had two chances at the end to either win the game or push it to overtime. On a kick-out pass from Jackson-Davis, Johnson missed a straightaway three that would have handed IU a one-point lead with 22 seconds to go. With six second remaining, Stewart wasn’t close on a contested three-pointer that would have tied the game. After the miss, Davis made two free throws to seal the deal, finishing with 30 points on the night.
IU gets an extended rest as the Hoosiers don’t play again until Monday night at Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota on Tuesday and host Iowa on Saturday before facing Indiana. Woodson and the Hoosiers beat Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes on Jan. 6, 67-51.
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