BLOOMINGTON – Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 21 points and Justin Smith added 18 to help Indiana overcame a 10-point second-half deficit and survive an upset bid from Northwestern tonight at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers won 66-62, snapping a two-game losing streak.
- Inconsistency rules the day: Long scoring droughts continue to be a huge problem for Indiana. The Hoosiers went the final 7:05 of the first half without a field goal, giving Northwestern a chance to close the half on a 15-2 run and take a 34-31 lead at the break. That stretch without a basket was characterized not only by poor shooting (several of the jumpers the Hoosiers attempted almost chipped the paint), but by a bevy of unforced errors leading to turnovers. Indiana's final possession of the half illustrated the problem nicely: Rob Phinisee tried to run a pick-and-pop with Trayce Jackson-Davis, but Jackson-Davis rolled instead and Phinisee ended up passing the ball to no one. Northwestern picked the ball up and went the other way, hitting a couple free throws before the end of the half. Even more than the bad shooting, those ugly turnovers are a bad sign for this team: they reflect a simple lack of focus.
- Devonte Green has to be better: The Indiana senior has always been streaky; it's part of who he is as a player. He can light up the scoreboard at certain intervals, keeping the Hoosiers in games by force of will, and he can also shoot Indiana out of games. Lately he has done far more of the latter. As a senior, many expected Green to be more consistent this season and early in the year there were indeed fewer of the "Bad Devonte" moments. Recently, however, he seems to have lost some confidence in his shot (or he's just going through a slump) and tonight especially he really struggled. The captain went 0 for 6 from the field and although he did not have a turnover, he took at least his share of ill-advised shots. His decision-making really needs to improve going forward, but it's possible (maybe likely at this point) that this is just who he is. He's capable of spectacular plays (a terrific, Magic Johnson-esque bounce pass to Justin Smith on the fast break for a layup in the second half tonight being the latest example), but the consistency just hasn't been there like many hoped it would be this season. Maybe worse, his confidence seems to be shaken at least a little bit. Archie Miller has said in the past that Green needs to see the ball go in the basket and that hasn't happened much lately. In the second, Green hesitated before pulling the trigger on a wide-open 3, something we hardly ever see. The shot missed.
- The Hoosiers have a little fight left: The situation looked extremely dire midway through the second half, with Indiana trailing 50-40. I wrote before the game that this was essentially a must-win game for the Hoosiers and I stand by that. This win doesn't mean that they're going to be able to beat better teams later, but losing to this Northwestern team at home would have been more than a little embarrassing. Indiana narrowly avoided that outcome with a run late in the second half that began with some better effort on the defensive end, forcing a string of bad shots in a row from the Wildcats. In a stretch of 11 possessions, the Wildcats went 0 for 6 from the field and turned the ball over five times and the Hoosiers ripped off a 10-0 run to tie the game with 7:38 left. It shouldn't have taken a late run to win this game and there is still plenty to be worried about going forward, but Indiana dug deep and found a way to win in the end. That counts for something. The Assembly Hall crowd was instrumental in that victory, doing everything it could to provide energy when the Hoosiers didn't have much early in the second half.
Player of the Game: Trayce Jackson-Davis
Jackson-Davis was Indiana's best player most of the night, playing hard from the opening tip. The freshman had his fifth 20-point performance of the season and had one of the biggest baskets of the game: an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Rob Phinisee that put Indiana up four with less than 90 seconds left. He added seven rebounds and two blocks to his total and went 7 for 11 from the field. In an ugly game, he was a bright spot.
Facts and Figures
In the first half, Indiana turned the ball over 11 times and had just 10 made field goals. The Hoosiers gave the ball away 16 times in the game and Northwestern had a 15-13 advantage in points off TOs. ... The Wildcats came in as the only winless team in Big Ten conference play at 0-3. ... The Hoosiers came into the game struggling to shoot from the outside (24.1% in their last six games) and went 3 for 14 from beyond the arc. One of the makes was a shot well off the mark that slammed off the backboard and in for Jerome Hunter. ... Green, who came in averaging 13 points per game, did not make a field goal in the first half and finished the game with 1 point. ... Jackson-Davis came into the game third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 64.3% ... This game featured three of the top four freshman scorers in the Big Ten coming into the game in Jackson-Davis (14.8 points per game, second) and Northwestern's Ryan Young (10.8, third) and Boo Buie (10.8, third). ... Pat Spencer led Northwestern with 15 points. ... Brunk had 12 rebounds and is averaging 11.8 in the last four games. ... Indiana shot 37% from the field and Northwestern shot 45%. ... Justin Smith finished with six rebounds and three steals in addition to his 18 points.
The Hoosiers are back in action Saturday, when they welcome No. 11 Ohio State (11-4, 1-3 Big Ten) to Assembly Hall. The game will tip off at noon and will be broadcast on Fox. The Buckeyes started the season 9-0, but have since dropped four of six, including the last three in a row. They're coming off a 67-55 loss to Maryland on Tuesday. Kaleb Wesson leads OSU with 14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.