LAS VEGAS -- The final score doesn't tell the whole story, as No. 14 Indiana fought back during its toughest test of the season in Las Vegas.
A daunting task awaited Indiana at a neutral site in front of thousands of IU faithful cheering them on against the nation's fastest scoring offense. All it took was one slow start by IU and Arizona had provided itself a cushion that could not be overcome, handing IU its second loss in three games, 89-75.
The final score could have easily been more lopsided than the ultimate 14-point margin if it wasn't for the Hoosiers' ability to withstand the Wildcats' waves of offense. IU struggled to string stops all night, but when they did they came in spurts and were followed by timely shot making.
Head coach Mike Woodson talked about how his team didn't give in after Arizona's 17-0 first half run.
"We got down early, but I thought we fought," Woodson said. "You know I can't fault effort, I thought we gave great effort."
In a first half that didn't see Indiana play close to its potential the deficit remained manageable, sitting at just 10 during halftime.
Much to the surprise of everyone in the building, it was the outside marksmanship of forward Race Thompson that kept the game within reach. Thompson's struggles on offense had been well documented coming into the night, but the spark he provided had the entire gym buzzing.
There was something about seeing the ball swish through the net for a player everyone knew had been an afterthought on the offensive end all year. Thompson led IU in scoring with 16 points and nine rebounds while making four 3-pointers.
Even when facing a 19-point deficit, its largest of the season, Woodson acknowledged it was a game of many runs; the majority of which were made by Arizona.
"When you're down early like that, you have to keep fighting to get back in it," Woodson said. "They'd build another lead and we'd come back. It was too much."
With Trayce Jackson-Davis continuing to be the focal point of opposing defenses, IU requires others to step up in big spots. On Saturday night, it was a continuation of excellent play for guard Tamar Bates and forward Miller Kopp.
Kopp continues to capitalize on his open looks from 3-point range and is the only consistent outside threat for IU. He knocked down another four 3-pointers.
As for Bates, his recent play shows a newfound confidence in the sophomore guard who has the most offensive potential of any guard on the team other than freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. His scoring in transition and improved 3-point shooting will open up new wrinkles to IU's bench unit.
On paper, it's a loss to a top-10 team and that team certainly looked like a Final Four contender. The defense lacked for IU but it was the team's timely shot making that made parts of the second half extremely interesting.
The Hoosiers can say that once shots started to fall, they were giving the 10th ranked team in the country all it could handle. In the end, it's a loss to the best team IU has faced all year and the schedule doesn't get any easier with a trip to Lawrence, Kansas on the horizon.