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‘He can run all day’: Armaan Franklin’s smothering defense, season-high scoring leads Indiana to bounce-back win over Stanford

In need of a serious reset a day after one of Indiana’s ugliest offensive performances of the past decade, the Hoosiers came ready to play.

Armaan Franklin flies to the basket during Indiana’s win over Stanford in Asheville. (Maui Invitational)

Indiana handled Stanford, winning 79-63 in its final game of the 2020 Maui Invitational to improve to 3-1. The win gave Indiana third place in the event and erased any memory after Tuesday’s thrashing of a loss to No. 17 Texas, 66-44.

Indiana head coach Archie Miller seemed unfazed about the ugly loss to the Longhorns and knew his team would bounce back.

“We have a no-maintenance group,” Miller said. “The sky is falling everywhere else, but our team was fine.”

The team certainly was just fine, and a big reason why was Indiana’s duo of sophomores. Trayce Jackson-Davis was in the spotlight for his dominant, career-high 31-point effort, but Armaan Franklin supplemented Jackson-Davis’ effort and solidified the win.

Through the first three games of the year, Franklin had been playing decently. Nothing too special, but solid. He had scored between six and eight points in every outing prior to Wednesday and always brought good defensive effort.

On Wednesday, though, Franklin stepped up when Indiana needed him most. Senior guard Al Durham was out for the game after an ankle injury suffered against Texas and junior point guard Rob Phinisee battled foul trouble and turnovers all day Wednesday.

With those two — the usual go-to scoring guards — having their impacts completely minimized, Franklin played his best game of the season with a season-high 13 points along with eight rebounds and five assists.

None of Franklin’s points were from the 3-point line, but he did display strong play in the midrange game. Three of Franklin’s baskets were midrange jump shots which is something Indiana does not do much of outside of him. He also was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.

In addition to Franklin needing to provide more scoring-wise in Durham’s absence and Phinisee not being his usual self, Franklin ended up playing the entire 40-minute game with no time on the bench, making his efforts even more impressive.

“Armaan’s a physically-conditioned athlete,” Miller said. “He can run all day. He’s in incredible shape.”

The sophomore was excellent on the defensive side of the ball, as well, with plenty of toughness and scrappy play.

Most of the game, his main assignment was guarding Stanford’s star freshman and one of its most lethal threats in Ziaire Williams. The 6-foot-8 forward had a three-inch height advantage, but Franklin practically took him out of the game.

Armaan Franklin during Indiana’s win over Stanford in Asheville. (Maui Invitational)

Williams shot a dismal 1-for-10 from the field and was 0-for-5 from the 3-point line. The freshman finished with just four points with those coming from one basket and two free throws.

“(Franklin is) becoming one of the best defenders we have,” Miller said. “He’s accountable right now. He’s playing much tougher.”

Franklin made life difficult for Williams all game, closing out hard when he shot and keeping Williams in front of him to prevent any driving opportunities. The No. 6 ranked prospect in the 2020 recruiting class — and projected lottery pick — did not look much like his usual self.

By taking away any threat that Williams could provide for the Cardinal that in turn caused Stanford to lose some serious contribution and flow to its offense.

Williams was a double-digit scorer in the previous two games. In Stanford’s win over Alabama on Monday, Williams was Stanford’s leading scorer with 19. In the loss to North Carolina, he had 10.

With Franklin completely mitigating Williams and providing like he did on offense when needed, it is safe to say that he has proved himself worthy of his new starting role this season.

“I think he showed today, and in this tournament in general, how important he is to our team,” Miller said.

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