The energy was high in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Tuesday night as Indiana men’s basketball looked to get redemption against No. 15 Wisconsin. With the regular season winding down, Indiana is playing with a chip on its shoulders, looking to lock in its chance to compete in the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Indiana struggled with creating energy in its last three games, weakening opportunities to close out ranked teams and strengthen credibility. This matchup against Wisconsin was a comeback game for Indiana, which had a chance to display a different motor than it did earlier in the season.
The intensity level was satisfying to watch from both teams, with Indiana getting to the rim early and often, scoring buckets early. Indiana scored 8 points before the first media timeout. However, the offense began to look subdued soon after, finishing the first half of the game 11 of 20 from the field and shooting 5 of 18 from 3-point range.
The Hoosiers did their best to keep themselves afloat through the first half, trailing by only 1 point at the break due to the 11-3 discrepancy in made free throws.
The depth of Indiana’s big-man duo, junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson, contributed to the domination of the inside game. The energy both players brought was pivotal to Indiana’s success, begging its bench to look for inside scoring opportunities, knowing Wisconsin will have a hard time defending those efforts.
Jackson-Davis remained aggressive the entire game, finishing with 30 points, and Wisconsin could not do anything to stop him from finishing around the rim. Thompson also stayed consistent, doing his job on both ends of the floor to finish with 13 points. Thompson and Jackson-Davis combined for 16 total rebounds.
Indiana has depended solely on Jackson-Davis and Thompson’s inside dominance to win basketball games all season long. This trend does nothing but make Indiana’s strategy evident to competitors, proving Indiana’s guards are no factor when the big-man duo has trouble creating.
The struggle of Indiana’s offensive production from guards is draining to watch, particularly from the original starting core of senior guards Miller Kopp, Xavier Johnson, and Parker Stewart. Kopp and Johnson were non-existent from 3-point land, essentially shooting themselves out of the game and losing Indiana’s 66-61 lead at the end.
Wisconsin should not have felt comfortable giving up space while daring Indiana’s guards to shoot, especially with Johnson shooting 3 of 16 from the field. But once Indiana began lagging, Wisconsin’s sophomore guard Johnny Davis played with a “mamba mentality,” coming alive when the time was right.
Davis finished with 30 points, and he scored 14 of them in the game’s last four minutes to put Indiana away. Indiana did everything it could to stop the bleeding from Davis, but nothing worked as he continued to stick a fork in defense of Indiana.
Indiana’s second-half performance is unacceptable for a team trying to seal a spot in NCAA March Madness conversations. Indiana still struggles with closing out games when they matter, and beating Wisconsin was crucial for changing the narrative around the program.