After upsetting then-No. 4 Purdue on a Rob Phinisee game-winning three, the Hoosiers felt confident. Maybe too confident.
They were set to play a struggling Michigan team with a 9-7 record on their home turf, an easy win on paper. However, in the Big Ten, there are no easy wins. The Wolverines ended up running the Hoosiers out of their own gym with an 80-62 win.
But now, it’s time for the Hoosiers to seek vengeance.
“Their record wasn’t very good. So we took them for granted, and they came in here and they spanked us,” said Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“Just trying to get revenge, and we’ve got to play harder and we’ve got to play better because I know how good we are as a team. If we play together, I know we can win.”
The Hoosiers’ offense could not get anything going early and started shooting 3-of-10 from the field. This allowed Michigan to build an early lead off a 9-0 run. There, the lead slowly extended to as much as 16 points before the Hoosiers answered with a 15-5 run to cut the halftime lead to eight.
But, in the second half, it was all Michigan. The Wolverines went on an early 12-2 run to stretch the lead to 16.
“Well, you would think after the big game we had against Purdue, everybody would be sky-high. I mean, I think we came out with great intentions to play hard, but we just didn’t sustain it,” said head coach Mike Woodson on Tuesday as his team prepares for the rematch.
“After watching the film again, we did nothing right in that game, I mean, on both ends of the floor. Our defensive coverages were awful. It was one of those games where I just thought we didn’t show up to play. They took advantage of it on both ends of the floor.”
The Hoosiers, who finished the regular season ranked No. 16 in field-goal percentage defense by allowing teams to shoot just 39 percent, were anything but themselves the whole game.
They were slow to contest shots, could not defend the pick-and-roll game, and were all-around a step behind coming off the emotional high against Purdue just a few days earlier. The Wolverines took advantage by shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 64.7 percent from deep with 11 threes.
Hunter Dickinson did critical damage to the frontcourt. He ended the game with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting with three three-pointers and nine boards. Most of his impact came in the second half when he scored 18 points.
The Hoosiers had no answers for him, especially in the pick-and-pop game. If Dickinson wasn’t settling for a three, he was swinging the ball around for an open look.
The Hoosiers hope to be more focused this time around.
“I think that was a big thing for us, I think our ball screen defense wasn’t very good that game. Then our veers weren’t really well. Basically, when they came off screens if our guards get hit, we were supposed to switch and we didn’t switch, so it let them have wide-open shots, and he was hitting them,” said Jackson-Davis, who is expected to match-up against the big man.
“That’s going to be big for us, taking him away, because he was hot from the three-point line that game, and he’s been shooting the ball really well.”
Around Dickinson, Michigan has plenty of other scorers. In the last matchup, Indiana struggled on the perimeter and inside the paint against the bigger and stronger Wolverine wings.
Former five-star recruit Caleb Houstan exploded with 19 points with five three-pointers. He was a major recipient of the Hoosiers inability to guard Dickinson. When the double-team would come for the big man, he would dish it out to an open Houstan.
Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II both also finished with 10 points. Both were able to get into the lane and use their strong frames to finish through Indiana’s physical defense.
Diabate, who is also a former five-star recruit, was able to grab three offensive boards and used his physicality to draw fouls and get to the line. He finished shooting six-of-seven from the charity stripe.
The frontcourt of Indiana will need to dig their heels into the paint and stand their ground this time around.
“Again, it just comes down to how hard you play. I played the five last year, and I think I did a good job guarding the five. It really just comes down to the efforts you’re willing to put in,” said Race Thompson.
“They’ve got big guys. So do we. We’ll be ready when it comes down to it.”
The Hoosiers get another shot at the Wolverines on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern (BTN). However, this game has so much more at stake. Both teams are fighting for a potential NCAA Tournament appearance.
With a loss, the Hoosiers will surely be sent home and kept out of the Big Dance. However, one win gives them more hope, especially after losses by fellow bubble teams like Xavier and Wake Forest on Wednesday. It’s now-or-never for a team whose last tournament appearance came in 2016.
“It’s a must-win because Michigan at the same time, nothing’s set in stone, especially with all these upsets that are happening in these conference tournaments with the mid-major teams,” Jackson-Davis said. “We’ve still got to go out and prepare, but we’re trying to go win the tournament.
“Michigan is the first team on our schedule. We’ve got to worry about them. They’re playing really well.”
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