It was a tale of two halves, and then some, for IU in their 112-110 double-overtime loss to the Syracuse Orange.
The Hoosiers started sluggish and timid in the early stages of their first road game at the Carrier Dome. Indiana sleepwalked their way to halftime, turning the ball over 13 times. That number ballooned to 26 throughout the second half and overtime periods, and it would prove to ultimately be a decisive factor in the game.
“My whole approach coming out on the road, the first thing I told these guys was you can’t turn the ball over. You got to give yourself opportunities to score the ball. That was a problem for us tonight and in critical times.” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game.
The turnovers were just one of the many things that went wrong for the Hoosiers in the first half. Although he said he hated to use the word, Woodson claimed that his team seemed “scared” coming out to start the game. Aside from the turnovers, the offense was stagnant as they were puzzled at times by the Syracuse zone, which often appeared to be a 1-3-1 rather than their signature 2-3. They swung the ball around the perimeter searching for any answer to the zone instead of being aggressive and attacking it.
“I thought zone affected us in the first half like we hadn’t seen a zone,” Woodson said.
“And in the second half, I thought we came out and we settled down and we were more comfortable in the zone and we made you know, basketball plays offensively.”
Coming out of halftime, the Hoosiers quickly went on a 12-1 run. Parker Stewart exploded after the break with nine of those 12 points on three 3-pointers. Jackson-Davis had 18 second-half points for a total of 31 points to become the first back-to-back 30-point game scorer for a Hoosier since Eric Gordon. At one point IU converted on eight-straight shot attempts midway into the second half.
The soft spot of the zones would open up, and the Hoosiers would take advantage of it. The team made 11-of-27, or 40.7 percent, of their shots from behind the arc. The three-point party was hosted by Stewart and Miller Kopp. The Northwestern transfer Kopp made four threes and had a career-high in points with 28. Stewart– who is now 12-of-23 on 3-pointers in two games at the Dome with Pitt and Indiana– hit six threes and had a season-high 20 points.
“Well, we’ve been shooting the three-ball a lot better here of late,” Woodson said of the shooting.
But the downfall of the Hoosiers in the second half was their defense. The defense that led the nation in field-goal percentage with an average of 28.4 percent was nowhere to be found, and instead allowed Syracuse to shoot 49.3 percent including 38.2 percent from three. The Orange committed just 12 turnovers during the 50 minute contest.
In the second overtime period, Buddy Boeheim had six points as Syracuse kept feeding him the ball. No one could matchup and stop him. He ended the game with 26 points.
“We couldn’t stop them defensively,” Woodson said. “And that’s kind of disappointing because we just we’ve been playing so well as a unit defensively but they kind of had their way for the most part.”
The Hoosiers got over the hump and took multiple leads, but they could never close out the game. They scratched and clawed and forced overtime after being down nine with three minutes to go and six with 26 seconds left –courtesy of two-free throws from Jackson-Davis after an offensive rebound off a purposely missed free throw by Khristian Lander. Even though they lost, it is a positive sign that they did not give up.
“I am proud. You know, again, we kept fighting and we made you know great plays coming down the stretch, you know to get it into the overtime and then they forced overtime I mean, and then they just have the final play at the end,” Woodson said.
Jackson-Davis, who left the game briefly after banging knees with a Syracuse player, was ready to take the fight to the Big Ten opener.
“Obviously, everyone in the locker room wanted to win the game. We’re hurting there but at the same time we can’t let this dwell on us because we got a game at noon against a Nebraska team that’s hungry” said Jackson-Davis.
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