The moment will haunt IU Coach Archie Miller for a long time to come.
Searching for Miller’s first victory over a ranked Big Ten foe at IU, the Hoosiers were left waiting even longer. For a few seconds, it looked like it was finally going to happen after a layup by junior forward Juwan Morgan gave IU a one-point lead with seven seconds left to go in double overtime.
Instead, Ohio State’s guard C.J. Jackson would be the hero. After Morgan’s shot went through the net, Jackson immediately got the inbounds pass and dribbled the ball and stepped into a game winning 3-point shot.
IU would fall to Ohio 80-78 to finish the regular season 16-14 and 9-9 in conference play.
“I thought we did enough there at the end, 50-50 plays we were right there,” Miller said. “Just a breakdown at the end to not be able to contest or be there on the show. Just probably stop the ball a little too deep.”
It was another missed opportunity for IU this season against ranked teams at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have had chances to upset Duke, Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State in the closing minutes, but couldn’t make the required plays to win.
“It’s really tough,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “Especially with it being two overtimes and coming down to that. We had the lead and he put up what seemed like a tough shot. For it to go in, it kind of stung a little bit. At the end of the day, I’m proud of how hard we fought all the way to the end.”
Down the stretch of the end of regulation and both overtimes, IU had chances to put away the Buckeyes. In the final 3:55 of regulation, the Hoosiers went without a field goal and Johnson missed a game-winning layup with just seconds left on the clock. Johnson said he didn’t have the type of angle he wanted on the shot.
In double overtime, IU was up one with just over three minutes to go and had a chance to take control of the game. But, freshman forward Justin Smith missed a layup that would’ve given the three-point lead. With under a minute to go in the game and the Hoosiers up one, Johnson got the rebound after Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop missed a three, but Johnson fell and traveled.
On the next play, Bates-Diop would make a layup.
IU nearly was blown out by the Buckeyes. With just under minutes to go in the first half, IU trailed Ohio State by 12 and it looked like the Hoosiers had no chance. However, in just over a minute, Johnson hit a three and Morgan would complete the three-point play to slice Ohio State’s lead.
The Hoosiers tied the game up heading into halftime when senior guard Josh Newkirk sunk two free throws.
With another disastrous start to the second half, IU was back down seven before the first media timeout. Yet IU clawed right back in the game with a 12-5 run to tie the game and hung right with Ohio State the entire second half.
Another game against a big-time team, another near-miss for the Hoosiers.
“We’ve been in some really, really tough games,” Miller said. “A lot of them in here that we weren’t able to close, something that’s going to eat at you in the offseason, when it’s all said and done. But, I think our guys are excited. And they’ll be happy to get to New York, having another opportunity to play.”
With the regular season over, the Big Ten Tournament awaits. Instead of potentially carrying a six-game winning streak, IU is entering the postseason following two difficult defeats where the Hoosiers had ample opportunities to win.
Even through the losses, IU’s attitude remains the same.
“As of late, we’ve been fighting really hard as a team,” Morgan said. “We have to keep that momentum going and we can’t just let up. We can’t take some time off and let ourselves get lackadaisical. We have to go in with the same fight we’ve had coming down the stretch of the season.”
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