For the first time in the Archie Miller era, Indiana left the Crossroads Classic with a drama-free victory.
You’ll recall Zach McRoberts and Juwan Morgan lifting IU to an overtime win over Notre Dame in 2017, Rob Phinisee drilling the buzzer-beating 3 to top Butler in 2018, and Armaan Franklin hitting the game-winning deep shot to down the Irish late in last December’s tilt. This year, the Hoosiers made it look easy.
LOL. Just kidding.
It was an uneven, sluggish performance, but Indiana didn’t require any late-game theatrics to pull off its 68-60 win over Butler. Here are Three Things:
Talk about a defensive rebound, amirite
The first half saw an uncharacteristically passive defensive effort from Indiana. To be fair here, Butler hit some tough shots, including some that fell late in the shot clock. But breakdowns and general softness inside allowed a short-handed Butler squad to score at a rate of 1.19 points per possession in the opening half. To put it simply, the Bulldogs seemingly got whatever shots they wanted and IU fell well short of its standard. If we’ve learned anything about this IU team so far it’s that it’s on the verge of becoming an elite defensive group — if it’s not there already. So it was jarring to see the sloppiness, the lack of resistance and the lack of physicality that helped Butler to a nine-point lead in the final minute of the first half. But the switch flipped at halftime, after which Indiana came out playing the kind of defense we’ve come to expect. Just look at the quick comparison:
Butler field goals
- 1st half: 14-for-26 (53.8%)
- 2nd half: 8-for-30 (26.7%)
You’d obviously like to see steadier play — on both ends — because, against a more talented, deeper team, this could have easily turned into a tough result. But you can still salute the bounce-back ability, especially with a group that hasn’t always finished games where it’s looked so disjointed.
Armaan Franklin was the guy we thought he’d be on Saturday
We noted in our advance that the sophomore guard seems to love playing in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Saturday’s game provided additional evidence. Franklin buoyed IU through a choppy first half, finishing with a career-high 20 points — the second straight game he’s set a new personal best. He’s quickly become Indiana’s second-best player, providing backcourt support for Trayce Jackson-Davis. And with his most recent hometown performance, Franklin has made a claim for ownership of the downtown arena. In his first three college games at the facility, Franklin is averaging 16.6 points and 4.0 3-pointers per game, while shooting 62.5% from the field and *gulp* 70% from beyond the arc. Hot dog! It wasn’t a perfect game from Franklin, who committed five errors during his 36 minutes on the floor, but it was another effort to suit the raised expectations he’s fed so far this season.
Race Thompson personified IU’s second-half turnaround
So, it would be negligent to ignore the work of Trayce Jackson-Davis, whose final line of 21 and eight (with five blocks, for good measure) is along the lines of what we’ve come to expect. He was, yet again, very good. At the same time, Indiana probably crawls to the finish line without the work of Thompson over the final 20 minutes. Thompson was not good during the first half, going scoreless with two rebounds and two turnovers in 14 minutes. He wasn’t his usual aggressive self on defense, he jacked up some ill-advised shots and looked illustrative of IU’s sluggishness. But he was much better after the break, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, grabbing five rebounds, dishing two assists and recording a block in his final 17 minutes of action. Oh, and there was this bone-crushing, soul-snatching screen late in regulation:
Up next: Northwestern
The Wildcats have only played one living, breathing basketball team this year, losing to Pitt by one in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They’ll host Michigan State on Sunday before traveling to Bloomington.