Coming off a close victory against Marshall University, Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said he knew it would take a more organized scoring effort to break down Syracuse University’s two-three zone defense Tuesday.
Despite falling short against Syracuse in a thrilling 112-110 double-overtime loss on the road, Indiana was able to come back from a second-half deficit as large as 18 points thanks to the contributions of a pair of transfers: senior forward Miller Kopp and senior guard Parker Stewart.
“We got solid play from everybody,” Woodson said. “I’m proud. This team has been fighting since we got together. We made great plays coming down the stretch.”
Kopp posted a career-high 28 points in what was his most efficient and productive shooting performance as a Hoosier. He led the Hoosiers with 10 points in the opening 20 minutes, shot 5-6 from the floor in the second half and had six points in the two overtime periods.
Kopp came through for Indiana with crucial baskets down the stretch. He gave the team its first lead of the game at the 10:04 mark of the second half after making a jumper in transition, following through on a tough layup under the basket and drilling a 3-pointer all in the span of four consecutive Indiana possessions.
Aside from his four 3-pointers on the night, Kopp made an impact in the lane and drew fouls against Syracuse’s forwards. He trailed only Jackson-Davis with a 6-7 mark at the free-throw line.
After Indiana shot just 25% from long distance in the first half on what were largely wide-open looks, Kopp and Stewart pushed Indiana to a 41%-38% advantage from deep the rest of the way against Syracuse. The two combined for 10 of Indiana’s 11 3-pointers on the night.
“We’ve been shooting the three-ball a lot better of late,” Woodson said. “In the second half we settled down and were more comfortable.”
Three of Stewart’s four makes from behind the arc in the second half came in the first five minutes out of the break and ended Syracuse’s double-digit lead for good, but it was his final basket that gave Indiana a lifeline.
Before Jackson-Davis had the opportunity to send the game to the first overtime period of the night on a pair of free throws, Stewart put the Hoosiers in that position by drilling a triple from the top of the key to cut Orange’s lead to one with six seconds on the clock.
That bucket marked the final of Stewart’s 20 points, though, after he fouled out and was forced to sit out during the majority of overtime play. Stewart recorded season-highs in both points and 3-pointers with six.
Jackson-Davis noted that the biggest adjustment the Hoosiers made in the second half was being patient in their half-court offense against the Orange’s zone defense. He said the Hoosiers’ improved ball movement helped collapse the zone inward and gave players like Kopp open shots on the perimeter.
“I think that the zone actually helped us a lot, helped guys find their rhythm,” Jackson-Davis said. “Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart played great games.”
Jackson-Davis praised his teammates for their collective toughness and mentality, which he said helped push Syracuse to double-overtime in a tough environment on the road.
“Everyone in that locker room wanted to win,” Jackson-Davis said. “We’re hurt in there. Everyone in there is a fighter and we’re not going to go down unless we’re swinging.”