BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – How do you explain this – a double-digit, second-half lead blown against Michigan State, a huge opportunity wasted?
Trayce Jackson-Davis tried.
“Down the stretch, Aaron Henry took over the game. He put them on his back. He was making tough shots after tough shots.”
He paused. Saturday’s 78-71 loss at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall required it.
“Our defense wasn’t holding up. They got easy baskets at the rim. That hurt us.”
IU (12-10 overall, 7-8 in the Big Ten) got a career-high 34 points from Jackson-Davis and couldn’t hold it.
At one time, it had a 17-4 edge on points off turnovers and couldn’t hold it.
How do you explain it?
Coach Archie Miller tried.
“I look at the second half as a complete bust on defense.”
He paused. Turning potential victory into defeat required it.
“As the game went along, we had costly turnovers and defensive breakdowns.
“We let Michigan State hang around and continue to build confidence. They have good players and a good team.
“I’m disappointed in our second half. We gave up 52 points and 57 percent shooting. We didn’t control either end in the second half.”
A final pause.
“It’s a hard one to take.”
Michigan State, despite its 5-9 Big Ten record (11-9 overall), has elite talent and tradition, and a knack for rebounding and full-throttle attacking.
It went small, conceded the inside to Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson (15 points), and dared IU to win from the perimeter.
The Hoosiers couldn’t do it, going 4-for-19 from 3-point range. Guard Armaan Franklin had 13 points and three 3-pointers.
Fellow guards Rob Phinisee and Aljami Durham were a combined 0-for-10 from the field for a combined four points.
“We needed more form the perimeter,” Miller said. “Al and Rob work at it. Today wasn’t their day. There’s no question not betting much out of them hurt the team.”
As for Jackson-Davis’ career game, Miller said, “He got 34 points. He also was able to draw 13 fouls. He shot 16 free throws. They didn’t have an answer for him, so we played inside out.”
Added Jackson-Davis: “We watched film they don’t help much inside. That’s what it was.”
Miller stressed rebounding and ball security, and got a split. Michigan State had a 36-29 rebound advantage. IU had 11 turnovers to the Spartans’ 14.
However, the Hoosiers had seven second-half turnovers and only shot 60 percent from the line.
Michigan State, which didn’t shoot a free throw in the first half, finished 13-for-15. Henry led with 27 points.
IU’s defense started nasty. Jackson-Davis started strong (scoring seven of IU’s firsts eight points). The Hoosiers jumped ahead 8-2.
They kept the pressure up (Thompson was stealing passes when he wasn’t blocking shots), building leads as large as 13, at 19-6. At one point the Hoosiers had nine points off of nine Spartan turnovers.
Michigan State rallied for a 26-26 tie with less than three minutes left.
A pair of Durham free throws and a Jackson-Davis dunk off a Franklin assist restored the Cream and Crimson order. IU led 30-26 at halftime behind Jackson-Davis’s 14 points and five rebounds. Thompson had five steals, four points and two rebounds.
IU could have had a bigger lead if not for its 33 percent shooting, including 2-for-10 on 3-point shooting.
One solution against a Michigan State defense that didn’t double-team Jackson-Davis – get the ball inside.
He opened the second half scoring with a basket as part of an 8-3 run in the first three minutes for a 38-29 Hoosier lead.
IU kept up the defensive heat, forcing consecutive turnovers that produced five points to build that 10-point advantage.
Michigan State rallied for a 57-52 lead with eight minutes left. The lead was eight two minutes later. Thirty seconds after that, it was 11, then 12.
IU was down, not out. A Franklin 3-pointer made it 75-71 with 35.8 seconds left. But the Spartans made enough free throws to clinch it.