Indiana men’s basketball followed up its first win against Purdue in six years with an 80-62 home loss to a Michigan team that was just a shade above .500. The Hoosiers didn’t seem to bring the same energy they had against the Boilermakers, letting the Wolverines go 11-17 on 3-pointers.
“We took it personally,” Race Thompson said in a postgame press conference Wednesday. “I think it was really about energy.”
Michigan got out to a fast start, taking an 11-4 lead just five minutes into the game. Indiana head coach Mike Woodson faced questions about his starting lineup in press conferences both after the game and in the days that followed.
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But Woodson remained steadfast, saying he wasn’t in panic mode on Monday and that he was sticking with the same starting five against Penn State on a pregame radio show.
That starting five of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Miller Kopp, Parker Stewart, Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson took the court to face a team which had already bested them earlier this season. Not only that, but Penn State shot a team season high 50% from the perimeter in Indiana’s loss Jan. 2 in State College, Pennsylvania.
Now Penn State was seeking to complete a sweep and get its first win in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall since 2014.
It was readily apparent that Indiana understood why it had lost. The Hoosiers practiced defense and shots on the perimeter during pregame warm-ups. Screens around Assembly Hall displayed trivia and stats from around the Big Ten to entertain fans prior to the game. A graphic showing 3-point percentages around the conference loomed particularly large.
Indiana began the game with the usual points in the paint from Jackson-Davis, but it showed a very different side of its offensive potential on its second possession.
When Penn State set out to defend Thompson, he of just four makes on 3-pointers heading into the game, its players stuck to the paint. Thompson took it as an invitation, knocking down a 3-pointer to the delight of the Assembly Hall crowd.
But one wasn’t enough, Johnson made a 3-pointer on Indiana’s next offensive possession as the crowd leapt to its feet in celebration. Indiana was on an 8-0 run to open the game.
Between missed shots on offense and lapses on defense, Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry stood courtside with his arms crossed. He was used to winning in this building, having been on Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s staff for the previous three years.
He seemed to channel some of that energy in Indiana’s 61-58 loss Jan. 2, and had been seeking to do the same tonight after his former boss failed to do so just six days ago. But this time it was Indiana making the 3-pointers as his own team looked lost on offense.
Indiana’s defense zeroed in on the perimeter, forcing passes or contested shots. When Penn State’s guards looked to the paint, its forwards were met by Jackson-Davis and his four first-half blocks.
“It’s a big part of who we are as Indiana,” Johnson said. “It was defense, that’s the first thing we worked on, that’s really what got us to this point.”
Penn State would have the occasional shooter open on the perimeter, but opted for contested midrange shots and layups instead. Shrewsberry made a beeline for the locker room as the first half expired, plodding past his bench as his players followed with heads hung toward the ground.
Indiana took a 46-17 lead into halftime, but now it had to maintain it against a team with the shooting ability to claw back into the game. Naturally, this is the route Penn State took. The Nittany Lions sold out for shots beyond the arc following halftime, scheming shooters open and taking what Indiana’s defense gave it.
“I wasn’t really happy about it,” Woodson said. “I don’t think that they did anything differently, they were still trying to execute just like they did in the first half. We had miscues and switches and they made us pay for them.”
An 11-0 Penn State run cut Indiana’s lead to 16 points with just over three minutes in the game. Indiana was outscored 40-28 in the second half, but it was too little too late as the clock expired on a 74-57 win for the Hoosiers.
Bounce back win in hand, Woodson said he was confident about the team going on the road to face Maryland in College Park, Maryland, following the game.
“The road is what it is,” Woodson said. “It’s not gonna be easy but we’re capable of winning on the road, proved that in Nebraska.”