If you’re an IU men’s basketball fan eager to watch your beloved Hoosiers in a primetime contest, might I suggest enjoying a late dinner and skipping the first half?
Within six minutes of IU’s 80-73 double overtime defeat to No. 8 Wisconsin, the Hoosiers had scored just six points while committing six turnovers. Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was beaming shots off the backboard, there was no long-range threat to be found and it seemed as though a road blowout was a foregone conclusion.
With sophomore guard Armaan Franklin out with an ankle injury, IU head coach Archie Miller gave his younger athletes more opportunities to contribute.
It was great to see freshman guards Anthony Leal and Khristian Lander and freshman forward Jordan Geronimo get more playing time, but trotting them out versus the No. 8 team in the nation is a bit like going from a tricycle to a 10-speed with no training wheels.
Admittedly, I did not have much trust in IU’s first-year players outside of guard Trey Galloway. I believed they could one day mature from defensive liabilities that can’t shoot into defensive stalwarts that can sometimes shoot, but needless to say my expectations were low.
However, I was happily proven wrong by Leal, who sank a trio of 3-pointers while never ceasing to hustle up and down the floor.
While the predictably hard-nosed Hoosier defense kept the Badgers from looking dominant, the offense was as underwhelming as ever.
Every game, Miller plays peek-a-boo, and I am the undeveloped infant getting his mind warped.
Where did the offense go? I know I saw IU score a few minutes ago, but any sense of urgency or cohesion has utterly vanished, and now I have no faith whatsoever that a Hoosier will make another basket.
Then, before I knew it, IU was shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from beyond the arc. Miller, that gum-chewing trickster, had bamboozled me yet again.
With no spectators at the Kohl Center to hurl cheese curds — or whatever it is Badger fans do — the Hoosiers couldn’t fall prey to a raucous audience and stayed cool during a comeback to force two overtimes.
It was in these extra periods that viewers felt the summits of their hope and the depths of their despair.
Leal swished another 3-point rainbow, senior guard Al Durham converted an and-one while being clobbered in the paint, and IU even did the unthinkable by executing a perfect inbound pass.
Regardless, the Badgers ultimately caught fire once more, and the exhausted Hoosiers had no gas left to burn, resulting in a totally one-sided second overtime.
Jackson-Davis racking up 16 points and sophomore forward Jerome Hunter looking the best he has all year in the second half shouldn’t fall into the “too little, too late” category, but that’s what happens when you dig yourself into the Mariana Trench early on.
After 12 showings, I wish I had a better idea of what exactly IU is trying to be on offense.
At this point, anything shy of a double-double is suspect for Jackson-Davis and Durham is undoubtedly the smoothest individual on the court at any given time, but the remaining 50% of IU’s points are an absolute grab bag.
There is truly no shame in barely coming up short against a top-10 squad on the road without your best perimeter shooter. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of frustration that comes with watching a team sputter for 20 minutes, necessitating a meteoric second-half surge.
I suppose in spite of a brutal loss, it’s nice to know the Hoosiers can hang with the top tier of their conference — all they need is a double-double from Jackson-Davis, a breakout performance from an unproven freshman and a complete resurgence from a previously ineffectual upperclassman.
How hard could it be?