BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Hoosiers move back into the win column tonight, defeating Northwestern by a final margin of 66 to 62. Led by the trio of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Al Durham, and Justin Smith who scored a combined 55 points, Indiana is now 12-3 on the season with a 2-2 record in the Big Ten.
Despite facing one of the lower tier teams in the league, any win in the Big Ten this season is a great win. Just ask Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State who were all upset on Tuesday evening. Chris Collins’ Wildcats team move to 5-9 and continue their search for their first conference victory.
With Northwestern’s best player (arguably) guard Boo Buie ruled out due to an high ankle injury, the early lines began to move more in favor of the home team in Bloomington as tip-off neared. Indiana would have an easy tuneup game against the Big Ten’s worst team, who were depleted down to just eight scholarship players.
Or so we thought.
Both teams kicked off the game with heated offense and not much defense. Both the Hoosiers and Northwestern shot over 50% on the floor for the early stages of the first half. On the Wildcats’ side, Miller Kopp kicked off the Northwestern offense with 7 of the first 9 points. After adjustments from Archie Miller, the Hoosiers held off Kopp, but converted lacrosse player Pat Spencer took on the brunt of the scoring responsibility. He shared the halftime game high scoring with Indiana’s Jackson-Davis with ten points.
But as the first half ended, Indiana’s continued struggles began to peak from the ground. Starting with 6:44 remaining in the first half, Northwestern went on an 11-0 streak that gave the Wildcats a one point lead at 30-29. The Hoosiers would only get two free throws for the remainder of the first half for a whopping 15-2 run for the Wildcats, which gave them the lead going into the intermission.
The sluggish offense involved a ton of passing along the perimeter and a number of shot clock violations. Indiana’s defense did not play with aggression or authority frankly from the opening tip. The first half did see highlights such as a full-extension alley-oop from Al Durham to Jackson-Davis and a number of forced turnovers by the Indiana defense.
Jackson-Davis was the main source of the Indiana offense once again. The freshman navigated around the block and created mismatches against his undersized opponent anytime he touched the ball. Northwestern quickly jumped to a double-team as a counter, but even then Jackson-Davis found seams to escape.
However, by the 8:59 mark, Jackson-Davis would not take another field goal attempt until the second half. Northwestern fronted Jackson-Davis and forced him to come out of the paint in order to even touch the rock.
But the poor plays, bad decision making, 11 turnovers, and lack of off-ball activity gave the fans in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to boo as the players finished the first half down by three points to the Big Ten’s worst team.
Positively, the Hoosiers were able to attack the paint with more effectiveness than recent games, and they had created foul trouble for a number of Northwestern’s primary players. By the half, three starters for Northwestern had at least two fouls, including Pete Nance who had three. The Hoosiers took advantage by shooting 8 of 11 at the free throw line in the first period.
At the beginning the second half, the wheels, rims, and brakes fell off of Archie Miller’s team.
When attacking the rim, Indiana could not find open opportunities to feed the interior without the frontcourt needing to come out. In the rare instances when the ball was received on the block, Northwestern’s double-teaming disrupted shots for the Hoosiers.
Going into this game, one would have believed that the talented Indiana frontcourt would completely smother the team from up north. Instead the Wildcats outscored them by using backdoor cuts where Indiana completely lost track of their assignments. Under defensive-minded head coach Archie Miller, these are mistakes that should be unacceptable.
Just when things looked doom and grim as Northwestern took a double-digit lead by the 11-minute mark of the second half, the Hoosiers turned up the dial on defense and went on a 10-0 scoring streak of their own, tying the game right back up at 50 points a piece. Where was this aggressive energy earlier this game?
Led by Durham, the Hoosiers clogged passing lanes, forced turnovers with their size, moved laterally against their opponents. Their defense created easy transition buckets for Jackson-Davis and Justin Smith. Durham added five three throws as well.
With two minutes remaining, the crowd erupted and injected their energy as much as they could with a standing ovation after a Smith and-one. That three-point play would allow the Hoosiers to tie the game at 59-59.
The Hoosiers finally gained the lead for the first time in the second half after a Kopp missed jumper and Jackson-Davis drawn foul on Beran, who fouled out as a result. With the crowd engaged and the Hoosiers’ activity level increased, the Hoosiers would go through yet another scare to win a close game in Bloomington.
Archie Miller survives and his Indiana team moves the 12-3 on the season.
Source: Indiana University Athletics
Number of the Night: 55 points by Durham, Smith, Jackson-Davis
Although we have seen a balanced scoring attack previously in the season, the Hoosiers were led by this trio for the majority of the night. These three were the three best for Archie Miller on both sides of the floor.
Durham finished with 16 points and 4 assists.
Smith tallied 18 points and added 6 boards.
Jackson-Davis led all players with 21 points and 6 rebounds.
Next Up: No. 11 Ohio State
The Hoosiers will host No. 11 Ohio State who have been struggling in a recent slump. After starting the season 11-1, the Buckeyes have lost three consecutive games to West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Maryland. Ohio State comes to down for a noon match up on Saturday afternoon (January 11, 2020). That game will be broadcasted on FOX.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ / Anna Tiplick