BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — “It’s the fiercest league in college basketball,” Archie Miller said last week. That sentence reared its ugly head on Wednesday night.
In Indiana’s (5-3, 0-1 B1G) Big Ten opener, the Hoosiers stumbled at home to the Northwestern Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 B1G), 74-67.
The Hoosiers trotted out the same starting five as the their last three games, with Rob Phinisee, Al Durham, Armaan Franklin, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis taking the floor. That was the seventh time in eight games Miller used that unit at the onset of the game. Joey Brunk remained out for IU; he has yet to suit up for the Hoosiers this season.
All five starters scored in the first 5:30, as the Hoosiers and Wildcats exchanged baskets and traded the lead on multiple occasions. Then, the Wildcats hit the accelerator. Over the course of six minutes, Northwestern went on a 17-3 run to take a 29-15 lead. Six different Wildcats scored during the run, and IU never got within seven points the rest of the half. Indiana’s defensive intensity wasn’t quite there in the early going; the Wildcats made them pay.
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Even though Northwestern forward Robbie Beran exited the game early in the first half, Indiana could not feed Thompson and Jackson-Davis enough in the paint. The two overpowering forwards only attempted six shots between them in the first half, with Jackson-Davis putting up five of those. What might bother Archie Miller even more is that the two only grabbed six combined rebounds, with Thompson only corralling one. Northwestern out-rebounded Indiana 16-13 before the break.
After halftime, Indiana played with a renewed spirit and energy, that was needed to match what Northwestern brought to Assembly Hall. IU opened the half on an 8-0 run, with Jackson-Davis and Thompson scoring all eight. Those two combined for the team’s first 14 points of the second half. Franklin hit a corner triple to give Indiana its first lead with 11:51 left in the game.
After IU took a four-point lead, its largest of the game, with 8:56 to go, the Wildcats found their second wind, leading to their second win in Big Ten play. Chase Audige, who missed most of the first half due to picking up two early fouls, hit back-to-back buckets, then junior forward Miller Kopp poured in a three. That bucket ended a 12-0 Wildcat run that gave them an insurmountable eight-point advantage. Audige, who transferred to Northwestern from William & Mary, finished with a team-high 17 points.
Indiana tried to fight their way back into the contest in the closing stages. A three-pointer from Franklin cut the deficit to two, with 2:49 to go, but consecutive makes by Audige, including one from long range, ended any hopes of a Christmas comeback for the Hoosiers.
Northwestern/Indiana Box Score
Up Next: No. 18 Illinois
After a quick one-game stop in Bloomington, the Hoosiers head back out on the road, this time to Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-3, 2-1 B1G). The game is scheduled for Saturday, December 26, and will begin at 4:00 PM ET on FS1. As always, you can catch live updates at @IndianaHQ.
Featured Photo: Christian Daniels / Indiana University Athletics