Every recurring theme Indiana basketball has shown all season was encapsulated in one game Tuesday night and it is ultimately an exemplification of the team’s demise this year.
Like the vast majority of Indiana games this year, it was physical, low-scoring, largely without offensive flow, and the Hoosiers blew many opportunities late in the game.
The same trifling issues resulted in Indiana losing at Michigan State, 64-58, IU’s fourth loss in a row while dropping the team’s record to 12-13 and 7-11 in the Big Ten.
Any hope for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid has faded and the Hoosiers will likely need at least a Big Ten Tournament run or Big Ten Tournament championship to make the Big Dance.
The game was very close throughout as it was tied at halftime, and then with 4:34 to go in the second half the game was tied again at 49 a piece.
Just like the previous matchup between the two teams, Aaron Henry took the game over for Michigan State down the stretch. The junior and Indiana native scored 11 of the Spartans’ final 15 points to seal it.
“We didn’t have a great matchup, he’s (Henry) a great driver,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said of Henry’s takeover. “To his credit, he made some big baskets there late, we didn’t.”
In the midst of Henry’s run, Indiana failed to score a point between the 2:13 to the 0:15 mark which led to a nine-point deficit from which the Hoosiers would never recover.
While Indiana could not convert in the final few minutes, that situation was created by stout defense from Michigan State throughout the majority of the game. Much of Indiana’s offensive creation came in desperation drives to the rim as the Hoosiers struggled to get the ball moving.
The game of basketball’s two biggest weapons on offense — the 3-point line and the post — were major points of struggle for the Hoosiers.
The 3-point line was particularly bad for Indiana as it only hit 10% (2-for-20) of its looks from deep.
Trayce Jackson-Davis was held to 10 points under his season average of 19 points as he finished with nine points on 1-for-5 shooting. With Indiana’s best offensive player well below his usual output, the offense was left out of sync.
“(Michigan State) did a much better job of not giving (Jackson-Davis) as deep of catches,” Miller said. “He didn’t have an easy time once he did catch the ball because of the overall bodies in and around the basket.”
The team’s inability to shoot from long-range and Jackson-Davis’ off night resulted in only one player scoring in double figures for Indiana, as Rob Phinisee had 16 points.
Despite Indiana’s offensive ineptitude, the Hoosiers were in it and had a chance but just failed to capitalize when opportunity presented itself.
Michigan State got off to a really poor start due to a lack of ball security. The Spartans had eight first-half turnovers and Indiana only got nine total points off that.
Moreover, on multiple occasions when Indiana could have been extending a lead or just come up with a momentum-building stop, IU couldn’t get secure the rebounds. Michigan State had 13 offensive rebounds to give itself second-chance points and opportunities.
Due to the number of missed opportunities to finish in games late throughout the season, Indiana will face an uphill battle for the rest of the season.
A road matchup with No. 23 Purdue awaits for the final game of the regular season on Saturday. Indiana has yet to win against Purdue in the Archie Miller era and the program has not won at West Lafayette since 2013.
“Just bounce back vs Purdue, this is really big for Al and Race (Thompson), they haven’t beat them yet in their career,” Phinisee said.
After that, all that is left is the Big Ten Tournament, which will ultimately decide Indiana’s fate.
The Hoosiers will need to do something they haven’t all season — winning multiple games in a row — in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
It’ll likely require a Big Ten Tournament title for the Hoosiers, something that has never been done before.