EVANSTON, Ill. — Down 19 at halftime, No. 14 Indiana men’s basketball could’ve called it a night.
Indiana looked entirely flat in the first half while Northwestern faced no letdown from an upset over No. 1 Purdue over the weekend. The Hoosiers were unable to keep it competitive until the break.
After the break, however, Indiana appeared a different team, draining shots and forcing stops to pull the lead back within striking distance. Indiana tied the game with 28 seconds left, but Northwestern made its final shot to beat the Hoosiers 64-62.
“To get down 19 and to be able to get in it and have a shot at the end, says a lot about the character of our ballclub,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game. “But you can't do that on the road, these teams are too good in the Big Ten.”
Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis controlled the second half of the game, scoring 18 of his 23 points in a desperate attempt to will Indiana to a victory. He added six assists — facilitating to shooters out wide and post players down low, contributing to Indiana’s 42 second-half points.
Jackson-Davis was baffled by the Northwestern double-team in the first half, scoring 5 points on one made field goal and turning the ball over twice. In the second, Jackson-Davis improved both his finishing and passing out of the double-team. He ended the night with a double-double and eight assists, falling just shy of his second triple-double of the year.
“Trayce struggled to make the passes out early on,” Woodson said. “Second half he was dropping passes off where they needed to be dropped.”
Similar to its home loss to the Wildcats, the final score didn’t let on to how far out of the game the Hoosiers were. This time, however, the score also didn’t tell the story of Indiana’s effort down the stretch to resuscitate a lost cause.
“(The first half) is my fault,” Jackson-Davis said. “I wasn’t ready to play in the first half and I didn’t get my teammates ready. I’m a leader on this team; I’ve gotta be up, I’ve gotta be ready to go and I wasn’t.”
Indiana’s defense held Northwestern to 33% shooting and just 3-for-15 from beyond the arc in the second half after the Wildcats made five triples in the first half. Indiana made all three of its shots from deep after the break.
Chants rained down all night on senior forward Miller Kopp, who transferred to Indiana from Northwestern ahead of last season. As students who were Kopp’s fans just two years ago yelled obscenities his way, Kopp looked rattled shooting, making just 1-of-6 shots.
"All you can do is tell a guy like Miller, ‘Hey, look, you're wearing an Indiana uniform. The best way to shut them up is you punish them,’” Woodson said. “He made a few shots, but he struggled to shoot the ball.”
Still, his effort nearly saved Indiana’s game. With 34 seconds left, freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino hit a jumpshot, and on the ensuing inbounds, Kopp poked the ball free, directly to Jackson-Davis. Jackson-Davis' ensuing putback tied the game with 28 seconds left, leaving Northwestern the chance for a last shot.
Northwestern senior guard Boo Buie made his attempt despite a controversial no-call. Junior guard Trey Galloway was guarding Buie on his drive to the basket, and Buie appeared to shove Galloway to get his shot off but wasn’t called for a foul. Woodson didn’t directly address the no call in his presser.
“The official didn’t call it, but at the end of the day, Boo made a hell of a shot,” Woodson said. “You got to give them credit. We were down 19, and you can’t spot a team at home 19 and expect to win all the time.”
Hood-Schifino’s ensuing buzzer beating 3-point attempt hit the rim and bounced away, officially dooming the Hoosiers in a game that looked lost for much of the night.
“Yeah, we were juiced up a little bit, but we were just sped up at the beginning of the game,” senior forward Race Thompson said. “It took us the whole first half to slow down and figure them out.”
The Hoosiers’ loss snapped a three-game winning streak. Indiana returns home to play Illinois at noon Saturday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.