History repeats itself.
On Tuesday, the Hoosiers blew a four-point lead with under four minutes to play against No. 13 Wisconsin. They followed it up by losing a four-point lead in the final two minutes and 47 seconds of the game against the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes. Then they would crumble in overtime and lose 80-69.
“This was a winnable game, and we just didn’t make the plays again down the stretch,” head coach Mike Woodson said.
Down by 10, Indiana seemed destined to get run out of the gym. But, then they went on a 14-2 run in five minutes. Miller Kopp was responsible for half of those points. The Northwestern transfer finished with seven points including a three-pointer.
The defense held the Buckeyes without a field goal for a six-and-a-half-minute stretch. Indiana also forced them to shoot 1-of-10 from that stretch.
“We started making catches tough. They just couldn’t get good looks. They missed a couple of good looks at the rim, but I thought our defense was solid enough to get us back to take the lead,” Woodson said.
However, up by four, the Hoosiers had multiple chances to put away the game and claim a much-needed win. But they failed to capitalize.
The birthday boy Tamar Bates finished with seven points but shot 3-of-11 from the field including two key misses in the final two minutes. After his first miss, the Hoosiers forced a missed shot to regain possession.
Then, coming out of a timeout, Woodson drew up a play to get the ball into the hands of Trayce Jackson-Davis, but Race Thompson threw it away. The team ended the night with 11 total turnovers.
“Up four, and we come out of the timeout and throw the ball away. And, that’s kind of what triggered it, I thought. It gave them hope again,” said Woodson.
“If we come out of the possession at least shooting two free throws, or at least attempting a shot, it eats into the clock. I mean, we didn’t even eat into the clock, we threw it away trying to feed it inside.”
On the defensive end, Parker Stewart fouled Malaki Branham– who finished with 27 points. Branham converted on two free throws to cut the Hoosier lead to two. But, Bates forced up a wild shot late in the shot clock to gift the Buckeyes the ball back.
A miscommunication on the backend of the IU defense led to a wide-open E.J Liddell dunk. The score tied the game with five seconds left, but Johnson came up well short on a challenged last-second three-pointer.
“I don’t know if fatigue set in coming down the stretch, but we couldn’t get the stops I thought we needed to get. And that 15 seconds, it doesn’t get bigger than that. I thought we played the play as well as you could play it. We just got lost on the backside,” said Woodson.
“When I looked at it before I came in, it was just something that shouldn’t happen.”
The offense then went stale in overtime. The team shot 1-for-8 in the extra session. Besides a Thompson layup, their only points were from free throws. The Hoosiers were unable to score in the last two and a half minutes of OT.
Johnson — who finished with 16 points, four assists, and six turnovers (five turnovers in the first half)– fouled out of the game after wrapping up Liddell out of frustration after missing a layup. He received a technical foul for his actions.
However, the Hoosiers still had a chance to cut the lead. Down by six, Kopp received an open look in the corner but failed to convert.
“I thought Miller got a great look at a three that we ran full-court coming up, but from that point on we had to foul. We had nothing else left after that,” admitted Woodson.
The Hoosiers had two opportunities to claim wins over two AP Top 25 opponents and saw them slip through their fingertips. Now, the only Top 25 team they will play is the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers at West Lafayette.
Indiana has now lost five-straight games and is winless in February. They are walking a very thin wire between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.
They have four regular-season games, and the Big Ten Tournament, left on their schedule to make a case for a tournament bid.
“This team is not quitting by any means. If you think that then you were watching the wrong game tonight. These guys came and they competed. And, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get them over the hump,” said Woodson.
“We go back. Now, we got Maryland, which we’ve played them early on, and we got to get home and get our mojo back.”
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