BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 23, 2020 - guard Armaan Franklin #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana’s offensive struggles prove insurmountable once again in loss to Northwestern

What more do Archie Miller and Trayce Jackson-Davis have to say?

The pair’s efforts to motivate this Indiana basketball team have been well-documented this season, whether it is Miller’s halftime speech against Butler or Jackson-Davis’ words for his teammates after the Florida State game. 

And yet, the Hoosiers continue to come out lifeless in the first half of games. 

That trend continued Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, with Northwestern jumping on Indiana from the opening tip, and building on a nine-point halftime lead to win, 74-67.

Archie Miller once again was forced to give his team an earful, and he appeared to be largely successful in doing so, as they came out of the gates hot, even getting a lead in the middle of the second half.

But the defense, which all year has been elite (top ten according to KenPom), finally folded under the pressure of Northwestern’s balanced offensive attack.

“I thought we were sloppy [on defense],” Trayce Jackson-Davis said.  “Do that against a good team, you’ll get beat.”

A 12-0 run for the Wildcats late in the second half, fueled by open three-pointers and a steady dose of William and Mary transfer Chase Audige proved to be the difference in this one. 

“Northwestern just kept coming.” Archie Miller said after the game.

Once again, the Hoosiers were unable to find a guard outside of Armaan Franklin, who chipped in 16, to give them any offensive production. 

Junior Rob Phinisee scored 4 points on 1-of-5 shooting. Senior Al Durham finished with 2 points on 0-of-4 shooting and had a costly turnover at the end of the game. 

Freshman guard Khristian Lander played three minutes, knocked down a corner three, and was promptly benched for the rest of the game after what appeared to be a defensive mistake.

Time and time again it seemed the Hoosiers were about to pull away in the second half, as star big man Trayce Jackson-Davis threw down dunk after dunk for 22 points and eight rebounds. 

Jackson-Davis would make a highlight reel offensive play on one end, the Hoosiers would give up an open three on the other end. Rinse, repeat.

Whereas the defense carried this team for much of the early season, IU had challenges on both ends against the Wildcats.

“We stunk on both ends of the court tonight,” Miller said.

Indiana’s winning formula this season has been barely-passable offense with one dominant player and elite defense. Against Northwestern, that defense finally didn’t show up. The ‘Cats scored 1.11 points per possession, the most a team has put up against the Hoosiers this season. 

Unfortunately for Indiana, this was not a situation in which their offense made up for a dip in defensive production. Instead the IU offense remained stagnant, a conundrum it has had to deal with all season.

The Hoosiers turned Northwestern over 16 times — only to match that number themselves. Despite Archie Miller’s pleas to bring the turnovers down, that marks six games in a row with 14 or more turnovers.

“You’re not going to win in this league if you don’t take care of the ball,” Miller said.

Indiana only recorded 11 assists. The team has yet to win a game this season in which it has recorded less than 16 assists. The burden of that blame falls, once again, on the guards.

Big Ten Network’s Play-by-Play man Brandon Gaudin said it best during the broadcast: “They didn’t look like they had any idea of what to do offensively.”

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