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Indiana wastes career day from Jackson-Davis in defensive collapse against Michigan State

Despite leading for the vast majority of the game and Trayce Jackson-Davis’ career-high 34 points, Indiana found itself on the losing end against Michigan State at home Saturday afternoon.

Indiana’s major defensive collapse in the last 10 minutes with no offensive support from its guards served as the formula to the Spartans’ comeback.

BLOOMINGTON, IN – FEBRUARY 20, 2021 – Armaan Franklin drives while guarded by Michigan State’s Aaron Henry (Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics)

What would have been a monumental win for Indiana to improve to over .500 in the Big Ten and nearly solidify its NCAA Tournament spot instead is a loss that puts the Hoosiers at 12-10 overall and 7-8 in conference.

After the Minnesota win Wednesday and the first 30 minutes of the game Saturday, it looked like Indiana was going to find some rare consistency in its season again. That never came to fruition, just like Indiana’s struggles to remain consistent throughout the entirety of Saturday’s game.

“Disappointed in our team’s ability to defend in the second half,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “Twenty-six points given up in the first half… in the second half we gave up 52 points and 55% from the floor.”

Indiana’s defensive drop-off was epitomized down the final stretch. At the 11:48 mark of the second half, Indiana led 50-44. From there, Michigan State went on a 34-21 run to steal command of the game, and ultimately the win.

The Spartans’ ability to shoot from 3-point range made all the difference. As the Indiana guards backed off from guarding the perimeter, Michigan State went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers in the final 12 minutes.

Once Michigan State started hitting shots, Indiana’s offense really fell off. The combination led to Indiana trailing six to 10 points for most of the final five minutes.

Offensively, Indiana seemed to have a blueprint working as the Hoosiers continually pounded the post and dominated inside with either a Jackson-Davis or Race Thompson bucket or drawn foul seemingly every possession.

The strategy had Indiana up double-digits multiple times with a lead as high as 13 in the first half.

The duo combined for 49 points and 15 rebounds. Jackson-Davis also got to the free-throw line a lot, earning himself 16 free-throw attempts.

Indiana got nothing from its veteran guards, though, and it sunk the offense. When the Hoosiers were trailing and needing to come back, they could not get any production out of Rob Phinisee or Al Durham.

The two were a combined 0-for-10 from the field and Durham had the only points between them as he made four free throws.

“From a perimeter-shooting standpoint it may be a confidence thing,” Miller said. “The level of play, we need more on the perimeter in today’s game.”

The other starting guard, Armaan Franklin, chipped in 13 points which was needed help, but none of Franklin, Phinisee or Durham could limit Michigan State’s Aaron Henry, who fueled the Spartans’ comeback from the start.

The junior and Indianapolis native had a team-high 27 points for Michigan State on 9-for-17 shooting.

“(Henry) really just kind of took over the game for them, put them on his back, he was making tough shot after tough shot,” Jackson-Davis said. “Our defense wasn’t holding up and they got easy baskets at the rim… that really hurt us a lot.”

In the big picture, this loss really stings for Indiana.

As unusual as it sounds, this is a bad loss for Indiana. Michigan State was 10-9 entering this game, and in terms of NET Rankings, it’ll be a a Quad 3 loss for the Hoosiers.

Indiana’s hopes of establishing momentum and consistency rode on this one game and now the loss keeps the Hoosiers right in the thick of the bubble conversation for the NCAA Tournament.

It is certainly possible that Indiana wins any of its four remaining games on the schedule in the regular season, shifting the team off the bubble, but this was the most winnable game and a wasted opportunity.

The remaining games include road trips to Rutgers, Michigan State and Purdue and one more home game against No. 3 Michigan.

The Hoosiers will likely need to steal a game or two in that stretch or resort to the Big Ten Tournament in order to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday.

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