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Inability to guard Johnny Davis kindles inevitable mid-February losing bug for Indiana

On No. 15 Wisconsin’s first possession, Badgers guard Johnny Davis slipped by Indiana’s ball watching Miller Kopp on a pindown screen and found himself wide open underneath the basket for an easy layup.

On Wisconsin’s most important possession with Indiana up 69-68 and 1:12 to go, Johnny Davis went against the screen from Badgers center Steven Crowl, crossed over to his left and had Kopp on skates. An easy path to the basket was followed by a foul on Kopp. And-one. Davis knocked down the free throw, putting his team up two and the rest was history. Game over. 

Indiana didn’t score another point and lost by five, 74-69. 

Coming into Tuesday night, everyone knew that Johnny Davis was one of the best players in the country. He had established that all season long and he showed why on Tuesday in Assembly Hall. 

Davis finished the game with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 made free throws. Indiana just didn’t have an answer. 

While Mike Woodson tried multiple different players on Davis, from Parker Stewart and Trey Galloway to Kopp, in the 24 minutes Kopp played, he guarded Davis almost entirely. 

That's a puzzling decision when looking at Indiana’s defensive matchups. It wouldn’t be wrong for anyone to consider Kopp and Stewart as poor defenders but looking at a guy like Galloway who has shown energy and scrappiness all season long would have been something to key in on. 

Although, it would be difficult for anyone to guard an All-American type player in Davis. With the way he was getting to the foul line it would have been a tall task. 

“Everybody struggled with Johnny, it wasn’t just Miller [Kopp],” said Woodson postgame. “It didn’t matter who we put on him, he just had a good game.”

Yes, everyone struggled with Davis, but when it mattered most in the games final possessions, Kopp didn’t have a chance.  

In the final 3:40 of the game, Davis scored 13 points. His fingerprints were all over the game, and he changed the tide. 

Trayce Jackson-Davis tried his best to match Davis step for step and broke out of his recent slump with a thirty-piece on his own. It may have been TJD’s most complete performance of the season as he also tallied eight rebounds and a season-high six assists.  

Aside from Jackson-Davis’ heroics it just wasn’t enough from the supporting cast. 

Hoosiers’ guard Xavier Johnson has found himself in a slump of his own as of late and had one of his worst performances of the season. Johnson looked timid and indecisive shooting 3-for-16 from the field and 1-for-6 on 3-pointers, including missing a wide-open top of the key go ahead 3-pointer in the final minute. 

“Xavier was wide open for a shot and sometimes you don’t hit them,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said postgame on the last-minute dish-out 3. 

Johnson also had five turnovers, his highest tally since the Jan. 17 win at Nebraska, almost a month ago. 

Tuesday night's loss was also a game where Indiana really missed guard Rob Phinisee, who has been out since late January with plantar fasciitis. Getting another body out there and a stellar perimeter defender could have made all the difference. 

It’s all too familiar for Indiana to be in this position in February. The past four seasons have included late-season meltdowns one could never fathom and for a team struggling to find its identity this late in the season, the Hoosiers cannot escape the bug that has plagued them.

Something has to give.

Nothing has been clicking and if this IU team wants to have a fighting chance in March it needs to figure it out defensively and offensively.

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