BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It felt like watching the JV team going up against the varsity squad.
There was no Senior Day magic at Assembly Hall, as Indiana (12-12, 7-10 B1G) fell to Michigan (18-1, 13-1 B1G), 73-57. It was the third straight loss for the Hoosiers, and the fourth in five games. Archie Miller is now 0-5 against Michigan in his IU tenure, with all defeats coming by double digits.
The Hoosiers’ final home game of the season was no different than the others regarding attendance, as a smattering of friends, family, and special guests were spread out around the East end of Assembly Hall.
Archie Miller was forced to make a lineup change due to Armaan Franklin’s unavailability for the contest. Franklin did not play in the second half against Rutgers, due to aggravating something in his “ankle, foot, or Achilles,” according to Miller. Jerome Hunter got the call, his first career start. Rob Phinisee, Al Durham, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis rounded out the starting five.
Before the game, Durham and Cooper Bybee were recognized at center court for Senior Day festivities. NCAA rules dictate that no player this season will lose a year of eligibility, but it is a telling sign that Durham and Bybee went through ceremonies, while another Hoosier senior Joey Brunk, did not. After the game, Durham said he had “no answer” for his status next year.
The Hoosiers used the three-point shot effectively in the early going, getting triples from Phinisee and Hunter to take an 8-5 lead. The Wolverines wouldn’t waver. All five Michigan starters scored in the first 6:29, and Isaiah Livers’ three with 13:31 left gave Michigan a lead that they would never relinquish.
There was a noticeably physical tone all first half, as both teams have plenty to play for heading in to March. The Wolverines are trying to lock up a Big Ten title and a number one seed in March Madness, while the Hoosiers are squarely on the bubble. As a result, 17 players took the floor in the first half, including all nine available Hoosiers.
The fouls called were befitting of a tightly-played contest too. IU was called for 11 first-half fouls to Michigan’s seven, and the free throw disparity was significant. Michigan attempted 18 from the stripe in the first half to IU’s nine. To the Wolverines credit, they made 16 (89%), while the Hoosiers made just six (67%).
Jackson-Davis had a tough time getting into a rhythm all afternoon. His highly-anticipated matchup with Michigan’s star freshman center Hunter Dickinson favored the Wolverines big man, even though neither player found much easy all game. Jackson-Davis had three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half, and didn’t grab a rebound. Meanwhile, Dickinson had seven points, three boards, and a blocked shot on 3-of-7 shooting.
The Wolverines accelerated ahead on a key four-play stretch in the ballgame. Jackson-Davis missed a free throw that could have tied the game at 22. Instead, Mike Smith knocked down a three at the other end to push the lead up to four. IU missed a layup on their next possession, then Dickinson dunked on Jackson-Davis, drawing a foul, and making the free throw to bump the advantage up to seven.
Indiana tried fighting back in the final minute of the first half. Thompson made two free throws, and Hunter knocked down a jumper at the horn. It brought IU to within nine points going into the break.
Michigan looked like the more desperate team in the second half. On their first three possessions, Juwan Howard’s team knocked down threes on each trip, pushing that nine-point advantage to 13. Indiana never came within single digits the rest of the way. Durham scored his 1,000th career point on a three to cut into the gap.
The dagger in the contest came with 11:37 to go. Already up 15, the Wolverines missed a series of shots, only to have reserve big man Austin Davis bring down the rebound after each one. On the final miss of the possession, Livers soared in for the put-back slam to put the Wolverines up 17. Michigan showed no ill-effects after playing a game just 42 hours earlier against a top-ten team. They looked like the squad with fresher legs and more pep in their step.
A heartwarming moment came at the conclusion of the contest. Bybee, the senior, got his first playing time since the North Alabama game on Dec. 13, and IU consciously tried getting him the ball in the final minute of the game. Bybee missed a corner three, but on the next possession drove to the rim and got fouled. He made both free throws for his first points of the season and his fourth and fifth career tallies.
Indiana Box Score
Michigan Box Score
Next for the Hoosiers is a rematch with the Michigan State Spartans, this time in East Lansing. The game is slated to tip at 8 PM ET on BTN. The Spartans knocked off the Hoosiers 78-71 on Feb. 20 at Assembly Hall. Michigan State is currently in Joe Lunardi’s “First Four Out” for the NCAA Tournament, so this matchup has major bubble implications.