Indiana Daily Student

End-of-game intensity arrives too late in Indiana men’s basketball’s semifinals loss

<p>Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis drives to the basket March 11, 2023, at the United Center in Chicago. Penn State defeated Indiana 77-73.</p>

Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis drives to the basket March 11, 2023, at the United Center in Chicago. Penn State defeated Indiana 77-73.

CHICAGO — It’s not often the crowd remains silent following a Trayce Jackson-Davis dunk. But at the 1:45 mark of the second half in Indiana men’s basketball’s matchup against Penn State, that was the case. 

The sentiment inside the United Center — both on and off the floor — held that the game was all-but sealed at that point. After all, the Nittany Lions held a 13-point lead after an offensive explosion late in the second half boosted them comfortably past the Hoosiers. What’s a routine slam by the All-American senior forward to it? 

No one would’ve guessed it based on the reactions of fans, team benches and even Jackson-Davis himself. But as it turns out, his dunk was the start of an inspired stretch of play for Indiana.  

The Hoosiers went on to score 10 unanswered points in 55 seconds, immediately rejuvenating their hopes of victory. Fueled by an energetic full-court pressure defense and concise offensive movements, an inevitable blowout loss had quickly flipped to a legitimate chance of advancing in the Big Ten Tournament. 

But it wasn’t enough. 

“We make a big rush at the end, which I’m proud, because we could’ve just quit and thrown in the towel,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said after the game. “But we fell short.” 

The name of the game? Intensity — a lack of which handicapped the Hoosiers for most of the second half, but a presence thereof gave them a spark of hope that ultimately fell just short of success. 

“We've got to be more intense on the ball,” Jackson-Davis said. “I thought that late in the second half we had that, and if we would have had that during the whole game, I think it would have been a different outcome.” 

No matter the mental push behind Indiana’s sudden turnaround with less than two minutes to play, the Hoosiers looked like a completely different team during the last stretch of the game. They locked down on defense, forcing four turnovers and surrendering only 5 points — all free throws off necessary clock-stopping fouls. 

Still, the majority of the remaining 38 minutes of play consisted of jumbled rotations, poor ball movement and lazy rebounding efforts — Indiana had 30 to Penn State’s 38 despite its notable size advantage. The Hoosiers’ general sluggishness allowed the Nittany Lions to pull away every time their opponent attempted to cut the lead down in the second half. 

“We played lackadaisical in stretches throughout the game,” Jackson-Davis said. “We made pushes, but then we would kind of relax, and they would start to step on us a little bit. We need that intensity throughout the whole game.” 

Effort can’t be taught, though. Just ask Woodson, who said he did everything in his power to help the Hoosiers pick up the pace from the get-go. 

“You can do all kinds of things. You can be positive, you can be negative, but at the end of the day, they still have to figure it out too once they’re out there on the floor,” Woodson said. “There’s no magical pill that you can give these guys when they struggle. I thought we competed. We just didn’t compete for 40 minutes.” 

The Hoosiers gave their best Jekyll and Hyde impression Saturday afternoon, showing that the same facet of the game — intensity — can serve as a double-edged sword. Now more than ever, as Indiana approaches NCAA Tournament play, it’s time for Woodson’s squad to find its true identity. 

“We’ll learn something from this,” Woodson said. “Somehow, I gotta get them to understand that you’re gonna have to commit for 40 minutes. It could be one minute, two seconds, a second that can cost you a tournament victory.” 

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz), columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) and photographer Alex Paul (.@alexpaulphoto) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.

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