In a crucial home game against a mediocre Maryland squad, Indiana secured a badly needed 63-55 win on Monday night. If you watched so much as a single minute of the first half, that score might surprise you.
Because IU was bad — almost incomprehensibly bad across those first 20 minutes.
But the Hoosiers recovered midway through the second period, riding Trayce Jackson-Davis’ assertiveness to the finish line. Here are Three Things:
Maryland was awful. Indiana was slightly better.
This wasn’t a must-win game. But it was definitely a You Should Really, Really Try Your Best To Win This type of game. With a trip to Madison on deck, Indiana couldn’t afford to fall to 1-3 in the Big Ten standings — especially with a pedestrian Terrapins team in town. And yet, for more than half of the game, that was the danger with which IU flirted.
The Hoosiers managed merely .65 points per possession in the opening period, missed each of their first 11 3-point attempts, ambled through one (two?) of their trademark dry spells and generally looked like a group of players that had no energy or desire to be on the court together. It was awful basketball — arguably a regression of the sport — and at halftime, Indiana trailed 27-21. The only thing standing between IU’s performance and a sound-the-alarms, total disaster was Race Thompson, who had nine points and seven boards in his first 17 minutes on the court.
The start of the second half unfolded much the same, with Maryland opening a 10-point lead five minutes in. Then some shots started falling, Trayce Jackson-Davis took over (more on that in a moment) and Maryland completely ran out of gas, scoring only 10 points over the final eight minutes. Give Indiana credit for turning it on at winning time because it certainly didn’t seem to be a switch this group was going to be able to flip on Monday night. But the Hoosiers did, playing a more aggressive brand of basketball and avoiding a disastrous result ahead of their upcoming two-game road swing. It wasn’t enjoyable, crisp or convincing basketball, but it was enough — good enough, at least, against whatever sport Maryland was playing in the second half.
TJD played angry
When he threw down a jam at the 9:43 mark of the second half, Jackson-Davis had merely seven points against a Maryland frontcourt that really shouldn’t scare anyone. But that dunk was the start of a stretch where he scored 12 straight points for IU, changing the direction of the game and helping the Hoosiers to a double-digit lead.
It nearly didn’t play out that way, not after Jackson-Davis banged knees with Maryland’s Galin Smith and came up limping midway through that individual run. Jackson-Davis drew a foul on the play, hit both free throws and refused to leave the game for even a single segment leading into the Under-4 timeout. He wanted to shake it off and play through the pain, which he did to impressive results.
Jackson-Davis finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, supplying IU with a lift when it needed help the most.
Buckle up because it doesn’t sound like Armaan Franklin will be back this week
The sophomore guard rolled his ankle seven minutes into the game, subbing out and remaining on the sideline for the duration of the contest. Afterwards, IU coach Archie Miller said he doubts Franklin will be available in either of Indiana’s next two games, a stretch that begins Thursday at Wisconsin and continues Sunday at Nebraska.
At this point in the season, with Franklin occupying the sidekick role next to Jackson-Davis, it feels hard to believe Indiana could win a game in which he only played seven minutes. And yet, IU got enough from Thompson (13 points, 11 rebounds), along with some support from Al Durham (13 points) to escape with the victory. Still, this was already a questionable looking group with Franklin in the lineup. Without him available for the next week, Jackson-Davis is going to need help — and lots of it. I suppose we’ll learn more about what this team is made of later in the week.