They say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” On the other hand, the hope for both Indiana and Arizona is that they take home valuable lessons from tonight’s game. Especially the Hoosiers.
On Saturday, IU (8-2, 1-1 B1G) was outclassed by the Wildcats (8-1, 1-1 Pac-12), as Arizona came away with an 89-75 win in the “Las Vegas Clash” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Wildcats were paced by their fantastic frontcourt, as Azuolas Tubelis had 21 points and Oumar Ballo had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Pelle Larsson and Kerr Kriisa scored in double figures as well. Race Thompson led IU with 16 points and nine boards.
It was a packed house in Vegas for the top-15 matchup, and the play on the court reflected the “main event” type atmosphere in the building. The majority of fans supported Indiana, and the Hoosier faithful brought the noise as early as pregame warmups.
Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers once again did not have true freshman starting point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino available for tonight’s matchup, due to back soreness. He remains day-to-day.
Without Hood-Schifino, the Hoosiers could not have started the game any worse. Arizona used their rapid pace to discombobulate Indiana, forcing a number of missed shots, turnovers, and Hoosier fouls. In particular, Xavier Johnson picked up two early fouls to hurt IU’s cause.
Over the course of a seven-minute stretch in the first half, IU missed 13-of-15 field goal attempts and turned it over five times in the process. Meanwhile, the Wildcats, who have lost just five games since the start of the 2021-22 season, punished IU for their mistakes.
Tubelis and Larsson led the way for Arizona, as each of them hit double digits before the break. They posed a difficult challenge for Indiana’s defense, as IU couldn’t double team the versatile forwards given Arizona’s outside threats.
Tubelis also blocked three shots at the other end of the floor. Before you could blink, Indiana trailed their top-ten opponent by a score of 27-8.
After Trayce Jackson-Davis passed Christian Watford into the top ten of IU’s all-time scoring list, TJD’s teammates helped IU claw back into the game.
Race Thompson led the Hoosiers’ charge. Miller Kopp pitched in as well. Thompson found his stroke from long range, netting three triples to bring Indiana within 36-31. Each three brought a roar from the partisan crowd in Vegas, especially the last one.
Arizona showed the kind of persistence that only elite teams possess. Every time IU would make a run, the Wildcats would counterpunch to some degree.
After the Hoosiers drew to within 36-31, Arizona would finish the half with a 10-5 spurt. They led IU by double digits at the break.
After halftime, Tamar Bates would do his best to pull Indiana even closer. Bates nailed his first four shots coming out of the intermission, the last of which brought IU to within 59-56. The former five-star recruit played 28 minutes tonight, tying a career-high.
Adama Bal re-created some separation between the Wildcats and the Hoosiers. He converted both of his three-point attempts immediately after IU drew to within three points. Just like that, Arizona led by double digits once again.
Then, in a game full of missed calls from the officials, the worst miss took place. With IU down 68-60, Trey Galloway attempted a floater that look well on its way down towards the basket. Ballo caught the ball, and officials deemed the play a rebound off a shot that fell way short of the rim. It clearly looked like a goaltend, and IU fans erupted in disagreement in real-time in Vegas.
Arizona’s finishing kick after that play put the game away. Kerr Kriisa, Ballo, and Tubelis found spaces inside to keep the scoreboard ticking along, and IU’s offense ran out of gas down the stretch.
Xavier Johnson did finish with a double-double in the game after a couple of assists in the last few minutes allowed him to hit 11 for the game.
IU’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. In fact, Indiana’s toughest non-conference game is on its way. The Hoosiers hit the road to take on the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. The Jayhawks will travel to Bloomington in the return leg of the home-and-home series next year. Kansas is ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll released on December 5. IU is ranked No. 14.
Featured Image: Arizona Basketball