In the end, the celebratory moments were Northwestern’s.
It was Wildcat forward Miller Kopp who could shake his fist with pride, having just placed a hand firmly over Race Thompson’s shot attempt in the post, forcing a jump ball and change of possession.
It was the Northwestern bench that could come off the sideline with swagger, swarming Chase Audige, after the Wildcat guard hit multiple big shots down the stretch in a 74-67 win at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (5-3, 0-1 Big Ten) had moments of their own. Trayce Jackson-Davis, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes, was pumping both hands toward the sky, trying to “raise the roof,” after dunks that pushed IU to the lead. Armaan Franklin was burying 3s again. So was freshman Trey Galloway.
But in defeat, after a 12-0 run pushed Northwestern ahead for good, it was the lingering shadows of a poor first half, and the haunting images of Northwestern celebrating amid IU’s faultering, that conspired to reveal a harsh truth.
“Today, I thought we stunk on both ends of the floor,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “A lot of breakdowns, a lot of sloppiness, and it got us beat.”
There were the 16 turnovers, one of which came down the stretch, down by five with 30 seconds left, when IU guard Al Durham bounced a dribble off his foot. There was faulty defense on the perimeter, which allowed Northwestern to hit 21-of-31 on 2-point shots. At times, particularly at the end of the first half, IU had little clue on how to operate versus the Wildcats’ zone.
There was a change in the Hoosiers’ energy level between the first and second halves, which was a positive, as they erased a nine-point halftime deficit and charged to the lead, 50-47, with just over 11 minutes left in the game. But then the Hoosiers crashed again.
“Disappointed for our guys and how we played, because I don’t think our team embraces playing that way,” Miller said. “I think we’ve shown we’ve played hard, we’ve played together. But tonight, for some odd reason, we were off-balance.
“Northwestern had a little bit to do with it, but I don’t think we did a good job on our end.”
Miller took full blame for the Hoosiers’ turnover issues, specifically. He also pointed to his somewhat shallow rotation, wondering if IU may have gotten somewhat fatigued late, thinking he maybe has to force more players onto the floor.
Whatever the issues, Miller knows the Hoosiers have to fix them, because a road trip to No. 18 Illinois is next up on the schedule.
IU flashed promise in the second half, but there were moments throughout the first half where IU’s shortcomings were exposed. Defensive rebounding — one of Miller’s biggest early-season concerns — reared its head as Ryan Young deposited a third-chance, and-1 bucket to give Northwestern (5-1, 2-0) an early 19-12 edge. IU had opportunities at the free throw line, too, but the Hoosiers hit just 3-of-8 in the first half.
A 3-pointer from freshman Khristian Lander cut it to 19-15, but the Wildcats went on a 14-3 run to up their edge to 33-18.
IU showed signs of life for a brief stretch, as Jackson-Davis pulled in a second-chance bucket, Galloway hit a zone-busting 3, and Armaan Franklin sank a runner in the lane, closing the deficit to 35-28 with under two minutes remaining in the half.
But especially late in the first half, IU seemed lost versus the Northwestern’s zone defense. Unable to do much more than pass around the perimeter, the Hoosiers came up empty on a couple of possessions, falling behind 37-28 at the break.
There were frustrating moments in that first half, including one where Jackson-Davis was beating his chest, pleading with him teammates to get him the ball more after a bucket.
“I thought I came out sluggish. I was getting frustrated,” Jackson-Davis said. “I let my emotions get the best of me early in the game.”
IU was hitting just 44 percent from the field going into halftime, while the Wildcats were a robust 55 percent from the floor. The Hoosiers also had just five assists to seven turnovers, and Franklin, a reliable source of offense as of late, was just 3-of-9 from the floor and 0-of-3 from 3.
A switch was flipped as the Hoosiers came out for the second half. IU played tough, sticky defense to force a shot-clock violation on Northwestern’s first possession, and Jackson-Davis followed up a missed layup by Franklin with a two-handed, putback dunk. For the second time in as many possessions, Jackson-Davis was signaling to “raise the roof” as he flushed another dunk, cutting the Northwestern lead to 37-36 with just under 18 minutes left.
Following some empty possessions for IU, Galloway became a catalyst. The Hoosiers figured out the Northwestern zone, finding Galloway in the corner again for a 3. He then found Franklin, who finished with 16 points, in transition for a layup to tie it at 47-all.
Franklin then followed that up with a 3 of his own, and IU finally had a lead, 50-47, with 11:23 remaining.
IU hit nine of its first 12 shots coming out of the locker room, just more energetic and active than in the first half. But then the tide changed as the Hoosiers missed seven of their next eight attempts from the floor, allowing the Wildcats to go on a 12-0 run, reclaiming a 62-54 edge with 5:32 left.
“We took the lead … but down the stretch, after that, I thought we were sloppy,” Jackson-Davis said. “When you do that against a good team, you get beat. That’s what happened.”
Jackson-Davis was able to break IU’s field goal drought with a drive and a one-handed slam, which was followed by Franklin’s second 3 in as many tries to cut it to 63-61.
But Audige buried a step-back 3 in Rob Phinisee’s face that pushed it back to 68-63 with just over two minutes left. Audige hit another jumper to push it back to 70-65 with 90 seconds remaining, and Kopp was able to tie up Thompson on a shot attempt underneath the basket, steepening the climb.
Phinisee hit two free throws with 30 seconds left to cut it to 70-67, but in the trading of free throws, a ball bounced off Durham’s foot late, giving Northwestern an extra pair to win by seven.
“I thought Northwestern just kept coming, they kept executing,” Miller said. “I thought we got fatigued, we had some bad possessions. They took advantage of it.”