The surprises Indiana men’s basketball has been able to pull off this season have been remarkable to watch. The Big Ten Conference is full of solid and fierce competition where teams consistently put everything on the line to compete at the highest level.
The ball was in Indiana’s court as the team had the opportunity to make history against No. 5-seed Iowa to advance to the Big Ten Tournament final for the first time since 2001. However, Indiana fell short to Iowa 80-77 after a jaw-dropping ending from Iowa’s senior guard Jordan Bohannon to shut out Indiana’s hopes of making the championship game.
Indiana exceeded expectations, proving doubters wrong by playing competitively against some of the best teams in the country. Making an impact deep in the Big Ten Tournament was the crowning achievement Indiana needed. The continuation of Indiana’s success was on display in the opening minute of the first half, attacking Iowa’s defense early to gain a 15-3 advantage.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was the main reason for Indiana’s early lead due to his ability to take over the floor's offensive and defensive ends. Jackson-Davis did everything he could to carry Indiana to the promised land, scoring 31 points and putting up ten rebounds and two blocks with efficiency, shooting 15-21 from the field.
The All-American did not contribute alone, as impressive gameplay continued to come from senior guard Xavier Johnson doing what he does best — finding Jackson-Davis and his teammates in all the right places for easy transition scoring. Johnson had another monster performance, scoring 20 points with four rebounds and nine assists, setting a program record for the most assists in a single Big Ten Tournament with 17.
Having pace was not the only strategy on Indiana’s list, as it also displayed pressure defensively like it has all season to force Iowa into shooting poorly with 3-14 on made 3-pointers in the first half. However, Iowa sophomore forward Keegan Murray put on a scoring frenzy in the second half to boost Iowa’s energy offensively, scoring 32 points with nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He shot 8-10 from 3-point land alone.
Indiana’s guards' on-ball defense was terrific all game, showing focus and consistency on every possession against Iowa. Iowa is known as America’s most proficient scoring team, yet Indiana did a fantastic job changing those narratives showing true grit to lead the game before halftime.
A turn of events started to transpire for the Hawkeyes, as they started knocking down game-changing 3-pointers left and right to keep themselves close with the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers blew a six-point lead in the final four minutes, leaving too much room for the Hawkeyes to capitalize on.
Bohannon's reign began when he hit a 3-pointer to tie Indiana at 71 with 2:27 to go, followed by Murray’s 3-pointer with 1:56 left to give Iowa the lead. Bohannon hit another shot from beyond the arc with 50.1 seconds left to make it 77-73. Indiana remained determined to stay alive, forcing a turnover leading to Johnson getting to the free-throw line to tie the score again at 77, but Bohannon’s incredible shot put Indiana away.
Many people forget the saying “any given night,” meaning teams, especially in the Big Ten, will always find a way to make a run by any means necessary. Indiana men’s basketball gave all it had, showing tremendous effort for the entire game. However, the team got too comfortable thinking it had the game locked down.
Not only did Indiana fail to rise to the occasion, but shooting from senior guards Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart was also troubling to watch. Kopp and Stewart combined to shoot just 2-9 from 3-point land, which cannot happen if they expect to make noise in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
Closing out games has been a problem for Indiana, causing it to lose a close game to achieve history in the making. But after beating two talented teams in the conference tournament, there is no question that Indiana will land a spot in the 68-team NCAA tournament field.