Indiana Begins New Year with Win Over Maryland, Looks Ahead to Wisconsin
Written By Nick Lanscioni
Indiana picked up their second straight win last night with a 63-55 victory over Maryland in their first game of the new year. The Hoosiers star center, Trayce Jackson-Davis, was the focal point of the offense in Indiana’s late surge to victory, tallying 22 points and dominating the glass with 15 rebounds. Jackson-Davis wasn’t alone on the offensive end of the floor as Race Thompson and Al Durham both contributed 13 points.
Monday’s game contained a lot of ups and downs for IU. The offense started sluggishly as the Hoosiers opened the game 3-13 from the field. Worse yet, they were 0-9 from three-point shooting in the first half, and they lost their best three-point shooter in Armaan Franklin (47.6 percent) to an apparent ankle injury in the first half. The Hoosiers were riddled with adversity, but they fought. Race Thompson was the first player to answer the call for help on offense, as he attacked the post and drew fouls going a perfect 5-5 from the free-throw line. A Maryland zone that locked Indiana up in the first half, became more vulnerable in the second half as the Hoosiers moved the ball with efficiency and worked it inside to Jackson-Davis. This ball movement created a lot more spacing and better looks from beyond the arc during IU’s offensive spark. The Hoosiers overcoming their first half obstacles flashed their toughness and confidence in a difficult conference matchup.
Indiana hits the road for their next game on Thursday night against Wisconsin, currently ranked #8 in the country. This matchup hasn’t been too friendly to the Hoosiers in recent years, especially when they’re on the road. Indiana is just 1-7 in their last eight matchups against the Badgers, and the last time the Hoosiers won at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center was nearly 23 years ago on January 25, 1998. Thursday will not be easy as this Wisconsin team features many familiar faces who have had their way with the Hoosiers in the past. In fact, the Badgers return the same five starters from last year.
How do the Hoosiers pull off the upset and break their dreadful losing streak at Wisconsin? Assuming IU will be without Armaan Franklin, their top three-point shooter, they’re going to have to rely on heavy inside play. Although this will be difficult against Wisconsin’s top two big men anchored by 6’10” Micah Potter and 6’11” Nate Reuvers, it has been the most consistent source of offense for the Hoosiers. IU will also have to get to the free-throw line by playing physically down low. Indiana ranks 19th nationally among Division I basketball teams in free throw attempts accumulating 243 trips to the line. The charity stripe needs to become Indiana’s best friend come Thursday night and they must knock down those freebies. The second key for the Hoosiers path to victory will be to pick up their offensive tempo. Right out of the gates against Maryland, the offense was stagnant and lifeless, and a switch was finally flipped in the second half. IU’s ball movement improved and the pace picked up which kept the Terrapins on their toes. This same offensive plan needs to carry over when the ball tips in Madison in order to avoid a deficit that will be much more challenging to overcome. The last thing the Hoosiers need to emphasize is the “next man up” mentality. There’s a high chance Armaan Franklin won’t be available to play as he rests his ankle. Guards Rob Phinisee and Al Durham will surely log a heavy dose of minutes, but the Franklin injury is going to open up an opportunity for guard play minutes off the bench from freshmen Khristian Lander and Anthony Leal. Wisconsin’s bench runs deep and provides a lot of points, and although Lander and Leal are just dipping their toes in the water, they’ll need to dive in headfirst and make their presence known. The same idea goes for the rest of the Indiana bench as Archie Miller will need to keep bodies fresh to match Wisconsin’s depth.
The Hoosiers are the clear underdog going into Thursday night’s game. Having started the Big Ten season with back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Illinois, IU seems to have finally found their stride with two straight conference wins over Penn State and Maryland. Wisconsin will be a far greater challenge than both of those games, but Indiana is playing some of their best basketball right now, and 20 plus years of losing at the same arena has to light a fire within the Hoosiers to finally end this streak.