Indiana barely made it past the first media timeout of the game against Maryland at home Monday night when disaster struck.
Second-leading scorer and rapidly improving sophomore Armaan Franklin went down on a fast break with an apparent rolled ankle and had to be helped off the floor. The Hoosiers’ best defender and perimeter scorer was out for the rest of the night and a dismal, 21-point first half offensive performance followed.
Indiana didn’t fold, though. Indiana’s post players rallied the shorthanded team for a complete second-half comeback to beat Maryland, 63-55. The win improves Indiana to 2-2 in the Big Ten and 7-4 overall. It is also Indiana’s first win over Maryland since the 2017-2018 season.
“The tale of two halves really was offensively,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “In the second half… we were much more physical around the basket… much more physical on the offensive glass.”
Toughness around the rim in the second half flipped Indiana’s 27-21 halftime deficit to an eight-point win where the Hoosiers dominated down the stretch.
The Hoosiers really could not have started much worse on offense, shooting 9-for-30 from the field and 0-for-9 from 3-point range to start. Star sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis also was slumping in the early period with five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Jackson-Davis found his touch in the second half and forward Race Thompson erupted with him. Jackson-Davis finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Thompson had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The post duo owning the glass led Indiana to outrebounding Maryland 43-33, gave Indiana 14 second-chance points, and kept a number of dead possessions alive. The advantage on the glass resulted in Indiana outscoring the Terrapins 42-28 after halftime.
In a game where Indiana shot an abysmal 18.4% (4-for-22) from 3-point range, the rebounding effort was necessary to win.
“The rebounding was huge,” Miller said. “When Trayce and Race rebound like that offensively and defensively we are a much better team.”
"He's a guy that has the ability to respond because he cares a lot"
Indiana might’ve needed @TrayceJackson more than ever tonight.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 5, 2021
While Indiana improved tremendously in the second half on offense, the defense was consistent throughout the whole game. Maryland’s 55 points were the Terrapins’ lowest output in Big Ten play.
Heavy on-ball pressure, locking up the perimeter and better coverage around the post led to Maryland’s 38.5% shooting night and only 28% shooting from 3-point range.
“I thought we did really well with switching off coverages… and being able to keep them (Maryland) in front,” Jackson-Davis said about what worked in Indiana’s consistent defensive effort.
What may have made Indiana’s win more impressive than anything, though, was that Indiana executed well down the stretch. The final eight-minute stretch in Big Ten games has plagued the Hoosiers prior to the Maryland contest. It cost them potential wins against Northwestern and Illinois and nearly did against Penn State.
Rather than collapse at the same spot, as usual, Indiana locked in and played its best stretch of the game. When Indiana looked to be in for the usual situation with 8:45 to go in the second half, leading in a close game, 47-45, the team didn’t waiver and finished.
The Hoosiers closed out Maryland without any drama during the final 8:45 with a 16-10 run, by chewing clock with good shot selection and forcing the Terrapins to send Indiana to the free-throw line.
“We hadn’t been able to close here recently defensively,” Miller said. “We just didn’t give the avalanche of points up in the last eight minutes of the game that we had done in the past.”
The growth displayed by Indiana earned this crucial win and a clean slate in the team’s Big Ten record. Now at a .500, a 2-2 record compared to the 0-2 conference start, Indiana can breathe a little bit.
Their next game may be one of their most difficult one of conference play, though, as Indiana travels to No. 8 Wisconsin likely without Armaan Franklin.
Miller said Franklin will likely be doubtful for the next two games, meaning that Wisconsin is almost certainly a no-go for the sophomore. While that game is daunting, the Hoosiers may have struck a bit of luck for potential extra recovery time for Franklin.
Tuesday’s game between Nebraska and Purdue was postponed due to COVID-19 testing results between the teams Monday afternoon. There hasn’t been information released about which team, or if both teams, have issues, but the two teams are Indiana’s next two games following Wisconsin.
Indiana is scheduled to play in Lincoln on Sunday and host Purdue next Thursday. If either, or both, of those games are postponed, Indiana may be fortunate enough to play fewer games without Franklin.