When Indiana was more in need than ever for a lift, both in a game and in its season, sophomore Armaan Franklin delivered.
With a tied game at 65-65 and 27 seconds to go, Indiana let the clock dwindle down before Franklin rose up and nailed a midrange jumper with 1.8 seconds left to get an upset win over No. 8 Iowa Sunday afternoon in Bloomington.
In addition to overcoming adversity as a team, Franklin got over his own individual hurdles. The sophomore struggled for much of the afternoon, only shooting 1-for-9 from the field until that last shot.
“Our teammates don’t let us get our confidence down, they believe in us,” Franklin said. “You just got to go out there and keep shooting.”
Got that w. 😌 pic.twitter.com/hB8N6rGTHj
— Armaan Franklin (@unkle44artty) February 7, 2021
The late-game heroics gave Indiana a sweep of the Hawkeyes for the year and revitalized the Hoosiers’ NCAA Tournament hopes in the home stretch of the season. The win serves as a giant resume-boost and puts Indiana at 10-8 for the season with a 5-6 in Big Ten record.
Indiana’s last win prior to Sunday was against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, and IU blew two very close games at home against Rutgers and No. 12 Illinois that put Indiana in a hole and in danger of having its season spiral out of control with a very challenging Big Ten stretch.
A loss Sunday would have meant an even and unimpressive 9-9 record in the midst of a three-game game losing streak. On top of that, Indiana will play its next two games on the road.
“In this league, the emotional rollercoaster that you can get on can really take its toll on you mentally,” head coach Archie Miller said.
“We’re very confident in playing anybody on our team”
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 7, 2021
It may seem silly to be talking about Indiana’s NCAA Tournament chances slipping away in early February, but with only seven guaranteed games left, questions surrounding making up previous postponements, and uncertainty with the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers need every win they can get.
Early on it did not look like Indiana was mentally there to secure a win as Iowa torched Indiana from deep in the first seven minutes of the game to take a 17-4 lead. With most of the starters not contributing much at all in the early going, Indiana got reassurance in the team’s direction from the boost provided by the freshmen.
The four freshmen only combined for 19 points but provided a huge lift as Indiana’s go-to veteran guards in Franklin, Rob Phinisee and Al Durham struggled immensely. The trio, who are usually Indiana’s best scorers outside of Trayce Jackson-Davis, were a combined 4-for-26 from the field and only had 16 points.
Five of those 16 points came in the final minute and a half of the game. This included Franklin’s game-winner and Phinisee’s 3-pointer — his only basket of the day — to tie the game at 61 with 1:39 left.
While the veterans struggled, the freshmen provided great effort and timely buckets. It was most noticeable at the end of the first half when Indiana was down 27-18 with 4:22 left.
The Hoosiers went on a 15-4 run from there with Khristian Lander and Anthony Leal combining for nine points on three 3-pointers.
Throughout the game, Jordan Geronimo helped Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson defensively with Iowa’s Luka Garza in the paint and contributed six points at the rim. Trey Galloway played well on defense, too, while also hitting a key 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 Indiana run halfway through the second period.
“I thought Anthony, Trey, Khristian, Jordan, those guys did a really good job for us and changed the game,” Miller said of his freshmen.
An Indiana win Sunday doesn’t happen without the boost physically and mentally from the freshmen, and ultimately gave IU the much-needed win. Throughout the remainder of the season, it should give Indiana confidence that in games without its best players performing, the team has the depth to overcome it.
Should Indiana continue to get the same contributions from the young guys to supplement the starters, the Hoosiers could muster up enough wins to seal their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016.
“I think just in general, though, us being able to absorb them not playing particularly well and win the game is a huge step for us,” Miller said of overcoming the starters’ struggles. “That hasn’t always been the case… I think we’ve come a long way in that regard.”