INDIANAPOLIS -- Game tied at 77, a spot in the Big Ten championship game on the line, Jordan Bohannon with the ball. The sixth year senior proceeded to send a prayer to the basket... and it was answered. A 3-point bank shot was the difference in a 80-77 loss for Indiana against Iowa in Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals. This game presented a few questions, and Zak Ibrahim and William McDermott provided their answers:
- Where was this game ultimately decided?
Zak: Lack of communication down the stretch cost Indiana a spot in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. After the 2:27 mark of the second half, Iowa proceeded to knock down three 3-point shots until the final dagger by Jordan Bohannon. Before the game-winner, each shot Iowa hit was open and uncontested. Each possession down the stretch featured defensive lapses stemming from miscommunication -- uncharacteristic for an IU team that wins games by communicating and getting stops.
William: The game was decided at the 3-point line. Zak told me before the game that Indiana needed to hit a mark of eight threes. They hit five. On the Hawkeyes’ side, they hit 14 3-pointers. That’s a 27-point differential. And in a game that was decided by a Hail Mary shot, that differential is glaring. Not to mention, Indiana gave up several wide open jumpers down the stretch. When it mattered, the Hoosiers didn’t defend the arc well.
- What does Trayce Jackson-Davis flipping the switch do for Indiana?
William: In three games, Trayce Jackson-Davis has put up 76 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks against some of the best big men in the country. When TJD goes, the Hoosiers go with him. After the Michigan game, TJD said head coach Mike Woodson was tough on him at halftime. Something switched and Indiana’s best player responded, never backed down and proved why he was a preseason All-American. In order for Indiana to play well in the tournament, Trayce needs to continue his dominance.
Zak: When Jackson-Davis has a favorable matchup, it opens up everything for Indiana offensively. Iowa deciding not to send double-teams only meant Jackson-Davis could have his way, and he did. The Hoosiers believe they have the best player on the court when he’s in uniform. When he’s able to show that to his opponent, Indiana plays with utmost confidence.
- Thoughts after Jordan Bohannon’s shot went in?
Zak: These are the highs and lows of March. Indiana and its fans experience jubilation followed by heartbreak in just over a day. As much as it hurt, the shot didn’t end the Hoosiers' season. Bohannon got hot late and complemented an incredible game by Keegan Murray with his clutch shooting. It’s a moment Iowa will never forget and one that will take IU fans some time to get over.
William: The mojo had run out. Indiana had avoided the late-game collapses two days in a row but couldn’t avoid it a third. Bohannon’s shot was ridiculous. IU defended it perfectly and sometimes the ball just goes in. However, the postgame press conference from Woodson, Xavier Johnson and Jackson-Davis was extremely optimistic moving into Selection Sunday. These players and coaches have proven to themselves that they can compete with anybody.
- How have the past three days defined IU’s season?
Zak: Through all the ups and downs of its season, IU showed just how good it can be in must-win games. After an underwhelming regular season, IU needed to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament to be a lock for March Madness. Coming back from being down 17 to Michigan and holding Illinois in check showed what this group is made of. Both teams had beaten IU by a combined 35 points in the regular season, but IU never backed down and exacted revenge when the stage was biggest.
William: It proves they’re a team that never quit and never backed down. After a 2-9 stretch in February it would have been very easy to give up and surrender. It would be another lost season. That’s what we’ve seen in the past six years -- teams that give up. These past three days prove that they can stand their ground. Indiana isn’t afraid of the moment. It’s a culture change if anything. After watching these past three games and the excitement around it, who wouldn’t want to be a part of this team?
- Heading into the tournament, how can they build off of this week?
William: Despite Jordan Bohannon’s late-game heroics, the program’s confidence must be through the roof. Whether they’re in Dayton or anywhere else, they have to like their chances in their first round. For a program that is about to reach the big dance for the first time in six years, just winning a game would be monumental. For the first time in quite a while, the grass is bright green heading into the big dance.
Zak: The Hoosiers have felt they can compete with the best in the country, but this weekend proved that to the rest of the world. It took a 30+ foot game-winner off the glass to keep IU from a chance at winning its first ever Big Ten Tournament title. As much as it stings, Indiana's players can take stock in the fact that they got better with each game against some of the best teams in the country. Mike Woodson has this team believing in itself, and that's a powerful thing for team in March.
On Sunday, the Hoosiers will know who they will face in the postseason. Despite the ridiculous shots and epic buzzer beaters, Indiana has responded. That’s not going to change. They roll with the punches.