BLOOMINGTON – Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 22 points and had nine rebounds and Indiana overcame a 15-point deficit to take a second-half lead, but Northwestern used a late run to surge back in front and beat the Hoosiers 74-67 at Assembly Hall tonight in Indiana's Big Ten opener. IU falls to 5-3 and 0-1 in conference play.
- Visions of Syracuse: One of the most frustrating Indiana basketball games of my lifetime was the 2013 Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse, in which No. 1 seed Indiana looked mystified by a zone defense. Tonight felt like that, especially in the first half. In an effort to slow down Trayce Jackson-Davis, Northwestern went to a 3-2 zone, blanketing the sophomore forward every possession and making it difficult to get him the ball, much less for him to score. Indiana responded by passing the ball around the perimeter and having Jackson-Davis float from one side of the lane to the other, hoping for an entry pass that was difficult if not impossible to execute most of the time. There was very little drive-and-kick action and not much creative ball movement and the offense stagnated completely because of it. It didn't help that the Hoosiers went __ from beyond the arc, but there were possessions where they couldn't even get the ball to open shooters, which should be the one aspect of facing a zone that is available to everyone. The book is out on Indiana: stop Jackson-Davis and you stop the Hoosiers and a fix needs to come. Soon.
- Northwestern is no one's doormat: The Wildcats may have finished in the bottom two of the Big Ten each of the last two seasons, but they seem extremely unlikely to end up there again this year. They defend tenaciously, they shoot the ball well from outside and they create extra opportunities with offensive rebounds and active hands on defense. It's the type of team Indiana wants to be by the end of the season, but the Wildcats are much further along in their development, despite not having a real go-to star like Jackson-Davis (though 6-foot-10 Ryan Young is a beast in the lane – he had 13 points and nine rebounds tonight). Northwestern was the tougher, more physical, less mistake-prone team in the first half and that proved to be the difference, despite a strong second half overall for Indiana.
- Keep the switch on: Indiana trailed 37-28 at halftime after a rough final 10 minutes of the first half, but the Hoosiers came out in the second half looking like a completely different team. In part because Northwestern went back to a man-to-man defense, the Hoosiers were able to rip off an 8-0 run and claw back within. Jackson-Davis threw down two dunks during the stretch. Indiana's defense was even more impressive during that stretch, forcing six Northwestern turnovers in the first 5:16 of the second half, plus a couple of air balls when the Wildcats did get a shot. It was a similar turnaround to the one the Hoosiers managed against Butler on Saturday, but it wasn't enough tonight as the Wildcats pushed in front again late. The Big Ten is an every-night grind. Indiana can't afford to take 20 minutes before unleashes hell on defense and forces the ball into Jackson-Davis on offense. Two games in a row, it's taken until halftime before the Hoosiers really engage. That inconsistency is going to lose them games, as it did tonight. More encouragingly, the Hoosiers' ceiling, especially on defense, remains extremely high. They are destructive when they are locked in. More of that.
Player of the Game: Trayce Jackson-Davis
Jackson-Davis was the best player on the floor, as evidence by the way the Wildcats structured their defense around stopping him. Despite the extra attention, Jackson-Davis scored 15 points in the second half and had his fifth 20-point game of the season. He went 9 for 12 from the field and added two assists, though he did turn the ball over five times.
Indiana opened the Big Ten season with a victory for just the second time in the last five years./Indiana has dropped its Big Ten opener in four of the last five seasons. ... Northwestern went 3-17 in Big Ten play last season, but is already 2-0 this year. ... Hoosiers guard Armaan Franklin came into the game 10 for 14 from 3-point range in his last two contests. He went 2 for 6 tonight and finished with 16 points and five rebounds. ... The Wildcats entered the meeting No. 5 in the country in shooting from beyond the arc at 43.5% as a team. They went 7 for 19 from deep against the Hoosiers. ... Indiana has played only three games this season and is 2-1 at Assembly Hall. ... Northwestern shot 56% from the field. ... IU was without center Joey Brunk, a 6-11 fifth-year senior, for the eighth straight game to open the season. Brunk continues to be out with a bad back.
The Hoosiers are not one of the Big Ten teams playing on Christmas, but they will be back in action Dec. 26 with a road matchup against No. 18 Illinois (6-3, 2-1 Big Ten) at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. The game will tip off at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1. The Fighting Illini have a win over Duke under their belt and all three of their losses have been to teams currently ranked. They beat Penn State tonight, 98-81.