It has been a tough day to be a Hoosier.
On the same day that Indiana’s football team learned it would not get the chance to compete for a Big Ten title due to an unprecedented rule change by the conference’s athletic directors, the basketball team suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the 20th-ranked Florida State Seminoles, 69-67 in overtime.
The frustration inside the Indiana locker room was clear.
“That was a very upset team,” coach Archie Miller said about his squad postgame.
Sophomore star Trayce Jackson-Davis was in no mood to celebrate his massive statistical evening.
“I’m not gonna lie, when I got in the locker room I was angry,” Jackson-Davis said. “I was really mad.”
But even in defeat, Indiana showed promise.
In many ways, it is easy to compare Texas and Florida State this year. Both teams have superstar freshmen, a stable of long, athletic bigs, and feisty guards who pick up 94 feet. So it was easy to assume that Indiana’s trip to Tallahassee would turn out similarly to its loss to Texas: ugly.
And ugly it was, a sloppy game that featured a frenetic pace and a lot of missed three-point shots. But while the game against the Longhorns ended in a 20-point Indiana loss, the Hoosiers fought for 45 minutes, and down to the final shot.
This time around, in its second matchup against a ranked opponent, Indiana looked like a different team. Instead of being pushed around, Trayce Jackson-Davis won his matchup with Balsa Koprivica, the Seminoles’ 7’1 big man. Armaan Franklin continued his stellar play on both ends of the floor. And Jerome Hunter got in on the action, knocking down two threes in the first half.
The game wasn’t pretty, but matchups involving Leonard Hamilton Florida State teams rarely are. The Seminoles’ raw length and athleticism, led by 6’8 five- star freshman point guard Scottie Barnes, speeds teams up, and while Indiana did commit 14 turnovers, it also remained locked in on the defensive end, refusing to allow missed shots to effect their defensive intensity.
“I thought we did a really good job [defensively],” Jackson-Davis said. “They’re really big, their point guard (Barnes) is 6’9 and Armaan is 6’4.”
Florida State began the game by jumping out to an 8-2 run, with Barnes leading the charge.
It was shades of Texas all over again.
But after an Archie Miller timeout, the Hoosiers emerged from the huddle with a renewed sense of purpose. Even as long range shots continued to miss the mark and the turnovers continued to pile up, Indiana stayed true to its formula: feed Trayce Jackson-Davis and play good defense.
“He was ready to play,” Miller said about Jackson-Davis. “Clearly, he’s showing right now that he’s one of the best players in college basketball.”
Feed Jackson-Davis the Hoosiers did, whether it was through post entry passes or missed three point shots that the IU big man was able to snag. He dominated the game to the tune of 25 points and 17 rebounds, putting pressure on the talented FSU frontcourt, and pulling down seemingly every rebound on both sides of the ball.
“They threw a lot of bigs at me,” Jackson-Davis said. “Big props to our guards for getting the ball to me in certain areas.”
Beyond Jackson-Davis, it was a collection of frustrating performances for Indiana’s supporting cast.
Yes, there were some solid contributions such as Armaan Franklin’s 8 rebounds, Rob Phinisee’s steady floor game, and a clutch late three-pointer from Al Durham.
But the starting backcourt of Phinisee, Franklin and Durham went a combined 8-of-29 from the floor. Jerome Hunter’s two threes were all of the points Indiana got from its bench. Once again, the team failed to reach the 30 percent mark from downtown, going 4-of-15.
For as well as Jackson-Davis played, and he played about as well as he could, given Florida State’s absurd length and the lack of help he received, the fact remains that Indiana needs its players to make shots.
It isn’t clear what he was upset about, but Jackson-Davis said he ripped into his teammates after the game.
“I kind of got into some guys,” Jackson-Davis said. “I was upset, but at the end of the day its all love.”
Indiana shot 36.8 percent from the field as a team and its guards shot 24.2 percent from the field.
In this losing effort at Florida State, Indiana put to bed any questions about its defensive effort and Trayce Jackson-Davis put to bed any lingering doubts about his abilities.
But in 2020, where shooting is paramount, the game revealed the harsh truth for this year’s team: it has just one player that can score consistently, and he is a 6-foot-9 big man that has yet to show a consistent jump shot.
Indiana’s performance against a quality opponent shows it can be a good team this year.
But in order to be a great one, someone will have to show they can be a legitimate number two option on offense. If not, there will be many a game like this one for the Hoosiers: close but no cigar.
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