The Big Ten Tournament is where teams can knock off the best teams in the conference. Conference tournaments often come down to which team wants to win the most, and Indiana was undoubtedly one of those teams, clinching a 74-69 win against Michigan on Thursday.
The Hoosier fans represented Indiana proudly as the majority of Gainbridge Fieldhouse was filled with crimson and cream. Everyone was excited to see Indiana get vengeance against Michigan, and it would not be acceptable if it could not get the job done against the home crowd in Indianapolis.
After losing two straight games, the pressure was on for Indiana men’s basketball to cement its name into the tournament conversation. Indiana had a chance to make a difference in its standings by playing in the Big Ten Tournament, but it would first have to get past the Wolverines to further its season.
Indiana struggled offensively in the first half, with players fumbling the ball and displaying stagnant movement around the perimeter. This trend continued for Indiana until senior guard Xavier Johnson brought his own energy, collecting a quick 8 out of his 17 points to get Indiana’s first tie of the game at 10 points.
After Johnson’s aggressive emergence, Indiana began to fall off the grid with foul trouble making a vast difference in its momentum of Michigan. Indiana collected 10 fouls in the first half compared to Michigan’s three. Michigan took advantage, and Indiana dug itself into a deeper hole as Michigan shot 19-21 on free throws.
Michigan’s graduate guard Devante’ Jones was all over the court, from scoring to rebounding, causing Indiana's defense to be non-existent in his ability to maneuver around the floor quickly. Indiana’s lopsided defense sent Jones to the line more than anyone on Michigan, and he scored 8 of his 18 points, shooting 8-9 from the line.
It started to look scary for Indiana as its assertiveness started lagging further once Michigan’s sophomore guard Caleb Houstan began to catch fire, giving Michigan an extra lift to its 49-35 lead. Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson also had his way with Indiana’s inside defense, making every basket look easy just like it did in the two teams’ last meeting in January.
The production of junior forward Trayce-Jackson Davis was draining Indiana’s chances to create offensively with Michigan's double-teaming him every way possible. However, the All-American could not be held down in the second half, dropping 24 points, eight rebounds and four blocks to help lead Indiana to victory.
In the second half, Indiana started to get its backs off the wall to clinch momentum with disruptive defense and consistent fast break scoring. Indiana’s bench was crucial to its run, with sophomore guard Trey Galloway and sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo contributing offensively and defensively to Indiana’s comeback.
The tempo changed once the Hoosiers began to play with more aggression, refusing to allow easy baskets or back screens. They showed no quit, instead displaying swagger and disciplined defense. They never gave up on the task at hand, ultimately driving their ability to win and advance into the next round.
Indiana has a lot of adjustments to make in order to advance further into the Big Ten Tournament, including fixing the team’s lackadaisical energy, adding more ball movement and increasing consistency in finishing around the basket. Jackson-Davis will need to use his opposite hand to become more of a threat going against a skilled defender like Dickinson.
Jackson-Davis’ versatility would spread the floor tremendously for Indiana, keeping opponents guessing while creating his own shots. If this habit does not change, Indiana will not advance further this season.