Before Indiana men’s basketball’s matchup with Michigan on Sunday afternoon, senior center Michael Durr said Saturday the team’s goal was to stay consistent and avoid losses following big wins like its emotional victory against in-state rival No. 4 Purdue on Thursday.
Even though the Hoosiers were focused on not coming out flat on Sunday, they did just that against the Wolverines. Between slow defensive rotations and a lack of energy to start both halves from the starters, the Hoosiers simply couldn’t keep up, falling 80-62 for their first loss at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall this season.
“They haven't had very many big wins here, their wins have been kind of on a roller coaster,” head coach Mike Woodson said at the postgame press conference. “I think when you experience some success, it's new to us. We're still learning as a team how to win, that's why we're in the position we're in.”
While junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis put together a bounce-back performance with 17 points and eight rebounds and senior guard Xavier Johnson put on another solid 18 point performance, all five starters had negative plus/minus while they were on the floor.
“That just lets me know we weren't there tonight, which that's on me,” Woodson said. “It's just unacceptable, especially coming off a great game like the Purdue game.”
Much like Indiana’s win against Purdue, Woodson went to his bench looking for a spark against Michigan. He got it against Purdue in the form of a 20-point performance from senior guard Rob Phinsee and a strong defensive effort from Durr, but no one from the second unit could get going against Michigan.
After outscoring the starters 35-33 against Purdue on Thursday, the bench scored just 8 points against Michigan on Sunday. Durr made two mid-range jumpers in the first half but only played one minute in the second, finishing with 4 points in six minutes.
“Our starting five the last two games has dug a hole,” Woodson said. “They've been pretty good all year, but our bench bailed us out in the Purdue game.”
Indiana’s defense couldn’t keep up with Michigan either, allowing it to shoot 11-17 from 3-point range due to slow rotations. Solid ball movement from Michigan kept Indiana’s perimeter defenders a step behind and 18 of Michigan’s 29 made field goals came off assists.
Michigan sophomore center Hunter Dickinson went to work in the post and from the 3-point line, finishing the game with 25 points on 3-4 shooting from long range, nine rebounds and four assists.
“He was holding the ball, so it was easy for him to look over and watch and see who's coming instead of when he was posting up and trying to dribble,” Jackson-Daivs said. “That's on us, and we made that mistake, and he made us pay for it.”
Indiana’s defense brought a double team against Dickinson regularly throughout the game, but it came before Dickinson started his dribble instead of after which allowed him to survey the floor and find an outlet pass.
Indiana’s focus on Dickinson allowed Michigan’s shooters to spot up on the 3-point line and make easy jumpers. Freshman guard Caleb Houstan, a five-star recruit coming out of high school last year, finished with 19 points on 5-7 3-point shooting. Sophomore forward Terrance Williams II finished with 10 points on 2-2 3-point shooting.
“They came in here clawing, scratching for a win, and they needed this one bad,” Jackson-Davis said. “They honestly played harder than us, and we didn't defend the line well at all, and that's something that we usually hang our hats on.”
The hangover may not have affected anyone more so than Phinisee, who finished with just 2 points and two assists after willing Indiana to a win over his hometown team on Thursday. He shot 1-5 against Michigan, including 0-3 from 3-point range, in 15 minutes.
Senior guard Parker Stewart kept Indiana alive late in the second half by making three 3-point shots in three minutes, the last of which cutting the Michigan lead to 71-60 with 4:07 left on the clock. However, Indiana went cold again and scored just 2 more points from that point on, which came off a layup from Phinsee.
Indiana will have an opportunity to bounce back and put together a stronger defensive performance at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Bloomington against Penn State, which it lost to on the road 61-58 on Jan. 2. Much like Michigan, Penn State torched Indiana from 3-point range, going 11-22 when they last met.
“We've got to put this one behind us and regroup,” Woodson said.