Down 3 points with 45 seconds remaining, senior guard Al Durham stepped back and unleashed a 3-pointer off his back foot. The Hoosiers stared as their NCAA Tournament hopes arced through the air before missing the rim completely and hitting the ground with a thud, losing 64-58 to the Spartans.
“You know, tough game,” head coach Archie Miller said looking away from the camera in the post-game Zoom call Tuesday. “You're gonna have a hard time winning on the road when you go 2-for-20 from three.”
In a must-win game for IU and Michigan State, each trying to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, both teams struggled early in the game.
It took the Hoosiers nearly five minutes to make their first shot, a putback layup by sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, on the heels of a block from freshman forward Mandy Sissoko on freshman forward Jordan Geronimo.
After deciding to play sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis one-on-one in the paint in the season’s first matchup in which he scored a career-high 34 points, Michigan State was quick to double-team him in the post. The Spartans’ physicality on the low-block bothered Jackson-Davis all night as he finished with a season-low 9 points — the first time all season he scored under 10 points — while shooting 1-of-5 from the field.
“They did a much better job of not giving him as deep of catches,” Miller said. “He didn't have an easy time once he did get us the ball because of all the bodies in and around the basket.”
As IU struggled to get Jackson-Davis going early in the game, it was IU’s guards that were the focal point of the offense early. Junior guard Rob Phinisee was aggressive, driving into the lane and putting pressure on the Spartans to defend someone other than Jackson-Davis.
Phinisee led IU, scoring 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and dishing out four assists. Phinisee scored or assisted on eight of IU’s 18 made field goals in the game.
In the second half, foul trouble and scoring droughts doomed the Hoosiers.
IU had 14 second half fouls called against them, limiting Jackson-Davis, Durham and Geronimo’s playtime — all of whom had three or more fouls — as Miller tried to keep them from fouling out.
“It’s kind of hard when the possessions just keep stopping,” Phinisee said. “We were in the bonus with, like, 14 minutes left, so that was a really physical game.”
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Michigan State pulled away from IU with its physicality down the stretch. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, the Hoosiers went on a near three-minute scoring drought as the Spartans extended their 1-point lead to 7 points.
During that stretch, junior forward Aaron Henry scored seven of his game-high 22 points, as he carried the Spartans over the finish line to sweep the Hoosiers.
“It's not about you know, how Trayce plays or how this guy plays, but how we played,” Miller said. “We played hard, we didn't play well enough to win. And you know, Michigan State has a reason why they won the game. They played very hard too.”