BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The hugs came, as they should, first from Trayce Jackson-Davis, then from Archie Miller.
A likely final Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall game was wrapping up, and if it did not end the way senior guard Aljami Durham wanted, well, sometimes you have to make the best of it.
Durham certainly did that during Saturday’s 73-57 loss to No. 3 Michigan.
The 6-4 guard from Georgia totaled 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two rebounds and an assist in 29 full-throttle minutes.
It wasn’t enough, not against a potential national championship squad playing at peak power despite a 36-hour turnaround from its demolition of No. 9 Iowa.
“It’s been a blessing to play D-1 on the highest stage in America,” Durham said. “I want to give thanks to God, my coaches, my teammates and my family.
“With all the hard work, sweat and tears, it’s bitter sweet, but it’s part of the game.”
This followed Durham’s 20-point effort at Rutgers, and was a huge bounce back from his four-point Michigan State performance. He is the 53rd Hoosier to score 1,000 career points. He has 1,009.
“He’s been fantastic for our program,” Miller said. “He’s extremely unselfish. He has great energy. He’s been a great addition. He’ll be successful in whatever he wants to do.
“He’s as hard a working a guy as you’ll ever be around. He’s finishing the way you want. He’s playing so hard. It’s up to us to figure out how to deliver a better performance for him.”
After the game, Durham talked with Michigan coach Juwan Howard.
“I have nothing but respect,” Durham said. “He told me he loved my game. It was a great conversation. He’s a legend.”
Because of the pandemic, the NCAA has changed its rules to allow every player to return next season. Durham declined to answer if he would do that.
IU, which has lost three straight games, is 12-12 overall and 7-10 in the Big Ten. It will finish with its third straight losing conference record.
Michigan (18-1, 13-1) took another big step to a conference championship.
“Disappointed in the outcome,” Miller said, “but Michigan is a terrific team. They just keep coming. They have amazing size. They have a lot of answers on both ends of the floor.”
The pandemic cost Durham and Cooper Bybee their Senior Day moment. A brief ceremony was held before the game. Senior speeches will be released next week.
IU was without guard Armaan Franklin, sidelined with a right foot injury suffered a few days earlier at Rutgers. He was wearing a boot.
“It’s a pain tolerance thing,” Miller said. “I don’t believe he’ll go the rest of the regular season. We have to collectively be better.”
Without Franklin, IU went with Jerome Hunter at small forward, something that Miller said would likely continue.
“We had some odd combinations,” Miller said. “Jerome played hard. He did a good job.”
Early physicality wasn’t an issue. The Hoosiers banged, battled and attacked with ferocity that would have broken most teams.
The problem — Michigan had the talent and versatility to withstand it, then up the ante.
“In our league,” Miller said, “if you do what they’re doing, they’re the real deal.”
As for IU, he added, “It was a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline. We had some tough reach-in calls that are undisciplined.”
Forward Race Thompson had 11 points and six rebounds. Jackson-Davis had 10 points, but only made three of 12 shots against Michigan’s imposing size of 7-1 Hunter Dickinson, 6-9 Franz Wagner and 6-7 Isaiah Livers.
“He had some good looks, but they were tough shots against that huge size,” Miller said.
Thompson muscled in a basket for the game’s first two points. Guard Rob Phinisee threw a pass to Michigan’s Eli Brooks that became a Wolverine layup, then came right back for a 3-pointer. It was his first basket in three games. He had been 0-for-13 from the field against Michigan State and Rutgers.
IU inched ahead 8-5. Michigan pushed back for a 22-16 lead thanks to a 5-0 edge in points off turnovers. Six Thompson points (2-for-2 from the field, 2-for-2 on free throws) helped the Hoosiers stay within range.
IU got within 22-21 following a highlight-making Jackson-Davis dunk. Michigan scored 10 straight points to get separation. Freshman Khristian Lander ended that run with a long three-pointer, and then a layup.
The Wolverines led 42-29 when Thompson made a pair of free throws. Michigan committed a turnover and Hunter hit a jumper for a nine-point Indiana deficit.
Michigan opened the second half with three straight three-pointers to regain its 13-point lead. IU stayed that close thanks to five Durham points to put him over the 1,000-point barrier.
The Wolverines led 59-42 when Miller called a time out. The result –five straight Hoosier points.
On this day and against this team, it wasn’t nearly enough.
Now comes games at Michigan State and Purdue before beginning Big Ten tourney play in Indianapolis
“We’ve got a lot to get better at,” Miller said.