With less than 12 minutes remaining in the game and a media timeout called, IU men’s basketball trailed Northwestern — the only winless team in the Big Ten — by 10 points. It was the largest lead of the game for the Wildcats.
Some IU fans began booing the team, some yelled about their frustration and some grabbed their coats and left Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall altogether. Some IU fans even tweeted #firearchiemiller as the Hoosiers offensive struggles continued.
The Northwestern lead came after IU led by 10 points in the first half. But by the next media timeout, with 7:51 remaining, IU only trailed by two.
The Hoosiers retook the lead with 1:57 remaining and held on to defeat the Wildcats 66-62 Wednesday night. It marked the second Big Ten win of the season for the Hoosiers and snapped a two-game losing streak.
“We were not very together, not very energized early,” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “It took urgency and it took desperation to sort of kick us into gear. That helped our crowd, who was just waiting to cheer for something out there, it seems, sometimes.”
Two days before the game, Miller called the recent criticisms of his team’s offense “complete BS” on his weekly radio show. In losses to the University of Arkansas and then-No. 15 Maryland, IU shot a combined 9-39 from beyond the arc and 39% from the field.
After IU made its first two 3-pointers, the Hoosiers shot 1-12. IU failed to make a single basket in the final 7:05 minutes of the first half, which gave Northwestern a 3-point lead. It was the fourth game in a row where IU had issues scoring for a long period of time.
The offensive struggles continued into the second half as IU shot 37% from the field for the game. But with points difficult to come by, it was the defense that came through for IU.
In the final 11:59 of the game, IU only allowed Northwestern to score 12 points. It started 55 seconds after senior guard Devonte Green was substituted for junior guard Al Durham.
Green shot 0-6 from the field and scored a single point in 19:41 minutes on the court. The defensive intensity picked up without him on the court which converted to transition points and forced turnovers.
“We just emphasized on our defense,” Durham said. “We had to get stops. Our stops led to our offense, and honestly just defense. We have to put more pressure on the teams that we're playing and let that lead to offense, and that will disrupt them.”
When freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis threw down a two-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from sophomore guard Rob Phinisee to cap off a personal 4-0 run, the crowd that remained was at its loudest.
After the game, Miller acknowledged the shortcomings his team faced. The Big Ten has proven to be one of the deepest conferences in the country, and it’s been difficult for most teams to win each night.
Miller wasn’t sure how he could going to fix what’s happening to his team, but with No. 11 Ohio State up next, he mentioned something will need to change.
“We've got to punch through this wall right now,” Miller said. “We're struggling a little bit of a rut, and we've got to punch through that wall a little bit, and I'll say if you're not ready to go on Saturday, that's a problem.”
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