Armaan Franklin must really enjoy playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A year ago, he scored 17 and hit the game winning shot in the 2019 Crossroads Classic against Notre Dame.
He followed that up with 11 points and four assists against Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament before the season was shut down. For his career, Franklin has made 12-of-17 three-point attempts in three games inside his hometown Indianapolis arena.
On Saturday, Franklin showed up in a big way for Indiana, scoring a (second-straight) career-high 20 points while hitting five threes in a 68-60 win over Butler in the 2020 Crossroads Classic.
“My teammates kept finding me,” said Franklin after the game. “I was just able to knock them down.”
The Hoosiers needed a spark from Franklin to take down the feisty Bulldogs, who brought energy and intensity from the jump.
In the first half, it was Butler who controlled the tempo of the game, not allowing Indiana to get out and run and taking advantage of the Hoosiers’ late rotations by knocking down five of seven threes. The Bulldogs beat Indiana to every loose ball, winning the first half rebound battle 17-11.
“They were a much tougher team than us in the first half,” Coach Archie Miller said. “They maneuvered and manhandled us inside [in the first half].”
Franklin was part of the defensive struggles as the Hoosiers were broken drown by dribble-drives and allowed Butler to shoot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first stanza.
“I think we’ve just got to limit their drives and have good gaps, and I kind of messed up a little bit guarding (Jair) Bolden,” Franklin said. “He was supposed to be dead on catch.”
It would have been easy for Indiana to let Butler take full control of the game in the first half. Despite being down starter Aaron Thompson and transfer Bo Hodges, the Bulldogs had all the momentum, leading 37-28 at one point.
And yet, they led by just five points at the break, in large part due to the shooting of Franklin, who kept the Hoosiers in the game. He continued his hot shooting from the North Alabama game, hitting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the first half while keeping the game within reach. Franklin ended the game with five three-pointers — the second game in a row he has reached that mark.
In the second half, Franklin’s teammates began to pick up the slack.
Focused coming out of the locker rooms, the elite defense that we have been accustomed to from Archie Miller’s team this year showed up. Midway through the second half, Indiana jumped on Butler, going on a 17-3 run and holding the Bulldogs to 3-of-21 from the field. Butler finished 22-of-56 from the field, a 39.3 percent mark despite shooting 53.8 percent before the break.
“We were able to do a much better job of being tougher inside,” Miller said. “They didn’t shoot any uncontested layups in the second half.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis had five second half blocks and led IU with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
In his close friend and roommate, Jackson-Davis is seeing the potential he has known for a long time begin to blossom on a big stage.
“I already knew he was capable of doing all these things, and all the work is starting to show out here and he’s become a really, really good guard,” Jackson-Davis said of Franklin. “He’s one of our best defenders and he’s shooting the ball at a really high rate.
Even as Bolden did his best to keep the Bulldogs in the game in the second half, Indiana’s effort and intensity was too much for Butler.
“We got enough stops for us to get the win,” Franklin said.
Indiana got more stops, and Franklin lived up to his reputation for doing a little bit of everything. His improved three-point shooting, to go along with high level defense, excellent rebounding and passing, and a motor unmatched by anyone else on the floor has made him Indiana’s highest impact guard.
“He’s developed into a player that I think is one of the most improved players in our league this year,” Miller said about Franklin.
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