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Indiana misses opportunity at No. 8 Wisconsin, but upperclassmen and bench players shine

Coming up slightly short in close games against good teams is becoming all too familiar for Indiana men’s basketball this season.

Aljami Durham during the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Indiana Hoosiers at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. (Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics)

The recurring theme rang true once again Thursday as Indiana squandered a number of late-game opportunities and lost to No. 8 Wisconsin on the road in double overtime, 80-73.

The loss drops Indiana to 7-5 on the season and 2-3 in the Big Ten. This was the Hoosiers’ 18th consecutive loss in Madison, as they stay winless in the Kohl Center since January 1998.

“We gave ourselves a great chance to win this game a number of times,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “Give them credit, they made a lot of winning plays at the end.”

Missed opportunities

The second overtime period was all Wisconsin, outscoring the Hoosiers 10-3, but at the end of regulation and in the first overtime period Indiana had legitimate opportunities to win it. Neither of Indiana’s game-winning opportunities panned out and Wisconsin senior guard D’Mitrik Trice always had an answer.

Down the stretch in the second half of regulation, Jerome Hunter dunked with 41 seconds to go to take a 61-59 lead. Trice answered the bell, though, made a jumper with 21 seconds to tie and then Trayce Jackson-Davis’ final shot, a close-range layup was just off.

The end of the first overtime was very similar. Al Durham converted on an and-1, made the free throw and got Indiana ahead 69-67. Once again, Trice tied it with a step-back jumper in the paint. Then, Indiana’s last possession of the period turned into a turnover as Wisconsin’s Brad Davison tied up with Al Durham for a jump ball.

“We wanted to give Al Durham an opportunity to see if he could maybe clear it out on that left side,” Miller said of the failed play that resulted in the jump ball. “They must have done a good job of really keeping him from being able to get by.”

Moral victories only mean so much in a loss, but there are a lot of positives for Indiana, going toe-to-toe on the road with a top-10 team without leading perimeter scorer in Armaan Franklin. The sophomore wing was out with a rolled ankle.

The team’s veteran guards woke up from their slump and the bench provided a huge lift when desperately needed. Jackson-Davis dominated per usual, going for 23 points and 12 rebounds, but the supplemental help from the others is why Indiana took Wisconsin to the wire.

Upperclassmen looked like upperclassmen

For the first time in a long time, Durham and Rob Phinisee each performed up to expectations. The backcourt duo was successful in both scoring and moving the ball. Each player had a big, clutch moment, too.

Durham had the and-1 layup at the end of the first overtime while contributing with 15 points and five assists.

Phinisee scored 10 points and assisted six times, too. At the 1:27 mark of the second half, the junior nailed a go-ahead, 3-pointer to take a two-point lead.

“The fact that right now those guys are starting to really pick it up a little bit is a great sign,” Miller said of the veteran guards. “Al has done a really good job for us. Rob has played much, much better.”

With Franklin out, this was the perfect game for the upperclassmen guards to reassert themselves. Each had been showing signs of normalcy over the course of the past few games, but it came to fruition against the Badgers.

Hunter and Leal surprise

With Indiana’s smaller rotation of only nine players, bench points were necessary. Jerome Hunter and Anthony Leal scored the entirety of those, with a combined 21 points.

Hunter provided a big lift, giving the burst of impact he was expected to bring entering the season. The sophomore wing

Anthony Leal during the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Indiana Hoosiers at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. (Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics)

scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field with two 3-pointers as well.

He also made an impact on the glass, as he grabbed seven rebounds. With Race Thompson sitting a lot due to foul trouble, Hunter’s effort in the post took some of the burden off Jackson-Davis against a physical Wisconsin team.

Hunter’s confidence shot up after the Maryland win, but Leal’s performance was a pleasant surprise for the Hoosiers.

The freshman guard destroyed his career-high for minutes played in a game and in scoring output. Prior to Thursday’s game, Leal had only played 68 minutes all season with a game-high of 18.

On Thursday, he registered 35 minutes and was 3-for-6 from 3-point range for nine total points. The knockdown shooting ability is something Indiana had been missing all season.

Leal started 2-for-2 from deep in the first half, giving the Hoosiers a spark of momentum when down to make it a 29-24 game going into half. That momentum carried over to the second half and earned Leal the right to play the vast majority of the remainder of the game.

“Anthony works his behind off, he’s one of the harder workers on the team,” Durham said of his freshman teammate. “I’m not surprised about what he did tonight.”

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