It was the senior day that could have been for Indiana seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis on Saturday afternoon against Wisconsin.
The game started excellently for the two four-year players. Both of them got the nod to be in the starting lineup and came firing out of the gate.
Davis had the first four Indiana points of the game off of two second-chance layups and grabbing two offensive rebounds in the process. Green followed Davis’ quick four points with Indiana’s next 13 points.
The seniors had Indiana’s first 17 points and while Davis did not score for the rest of half, Green finished with 16 points at the end of the first period.
The buzzing energy of senior day subsided come the second half though when Green and Davis failed to score a point and Indiana lost grip of the game, losing 60-56 to the Badgers for the second time this season.
The loss signifies a giant missed opportunity as Indiana falls to 19-12 to finish the regular season and 9-11 in the Big Ten.
“It’s just a really hard-fought game that’s going to come down to a few plays that you’re going to look back on and wish you had back, but in a game of inches, you have to make those winning ones, and Wisconsin did,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said.
— Kurt Spitler (@kurt_spitler) March 7, 2020
The shortcomings lie beyond just Green and Davis not scoring in the second half. Indiana led for the vast majority of the game, but they could not execute down the stretch to finish off Wisconsin.
With 8:15 left in the game, Indiana led 49-42 before Wisconsin went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 51 at the 5:08 mark.
From there, Wisconsin jumped out to a 56-51 lead and Indiana continued to endure a game-defining scoring drought from the 6:52 mark until an Al Durham 3-pointer broke it with 55 seconds to go and make it a two-point game.
Durham would later get to the line and make two free throws, but it was too little, too late. An offensive rebound and second-chance layup from Nate Reuvers at the 21 second mark and Brad Davison’s two free throws with seven seconds left sealed the Wisconsin win.
The scoring drought was largely attributed to Indiana missing plenty of easy opportunities around the rim. Indiana shot only 14-for-43 (32 percent) from two-point range.
“We got shots at the rim,” Durham said. “We’ve got to finish them. Get a foul called or something. We have to be able to convert on them.”
The lack of two-point efficiency could be attributed in large part to Trayce Jackson-Davis, IU’s leading scorer, being limited to just six points. The freshman power forward did not score until the second half and was just 2-for-8 from the field.
The missed opportunity of this loss is somewhat of a microcosm of Green and Davis’ time at IU. Not of them as individuals, but rather the program as a whole.
Throughout their four years at Indiana, underachievement has been the consistent theme of the team. Their sophomore season in 2017-2018 was a bit of a transitional year where Indiana was not expected to be much, but in both the 2016-2017 and 2018-2019 seasons high end talent did not come to fruition.
That stark reality has resulted in three straight seasons of missing the NCAA Tournament with the possibility of a fourth lingering.
Indiana is still very much in good position to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2016, but a win Saturday would have probably solidified it.
Indiana will now have to prove itself in the Big Ten Tournament next week. The Hoosiers will be the No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will open play on Wednesday night against either No. 14 Northwestern or Nebraska depending on how those two finish play this weekend.
A win over either team could push Indiana over the hump in getting in, while a loss could throw Indiana out of the tournament field, but in reality, nobody knows.
Nothing is concrete or consistent with how the NCAA Tournament bubble plays out at the end of the season.
On Saturday, Indiana’s seniors played hard with plenty of energy, like they desperately wanted to get that first NCAA Tournament bid of their careers and avoid being the first senior class to miss the tournament all their four years at IU since 1972. It would be the first IU senior class in the modern era of the NCAA Tournament — since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — to miss the tournament all four seasons.
Ultimately though, the regular season likely isn’t enough to solidify their berth and the team’s performance in the Big Ten Tournament will be the final deciding factor.
While uncertainty prevails the state of the season, Miller remains confident in the team’s chances to go dancing.
“Bottom line, what our resume is, it’s strength of record, and that’s undeniable it’s a Top-25 strength of record,” Miller said. “If you don’t put in a Top-25 strength of record team with the wins that we have, you know, somebody is going to have to answer some questions.”
“When I was in the Atlantic 10, Joe Lunardi was my best friend…”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) March 7, 2020