INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This was how to end a non-conference season.
Tough-minded second-half response to first-half inconsistency?
Another Armaan Franklin career high?
Coach Archie Miller now 4-0 in the Crossroads Classic?
Indiana’s 68-60 slugfest win over Butler Saturday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse boosted it to 5-2 with Big Ten action set to start Wednesday against Northwestern at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“We have a coachable group that is in it for the right reasons,” Miller said. “Guys have stepped up.
“We will need all our guys. We play in the fiercest league in the country. There will be a real mental challenge to get through it. We have to be ready for it.”
The Hoosiers were against Butler (1-2).
This was defense to disrupt even the most efficient of offenses. It was physical, swarming and relentless. Nothing came easy for the Bulldogs except frustration.
“We were getting in the passing lanes, getting deflections,” forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “The first half we were lackadaisical with the ball. We were letting their bigs do whatever they wanted.
“We got engaged more, locked in more. You wear teams down doing that.”
The Bulldogs scored 37 points in the first half. They scored six in the first 10 minutes of the second.
One big reason, Miller said, was the physical play of forward Race Thompson, whose contributions went way beyond his 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Race gave us an unbelievable boost in the second half,” Miller said.
As IU’s block total rose (it finished with eight) and the Bulldogs’ missed layups increased, this much was clear – the Hoosiers had fully bought into their coach’s tough-minded emphasis.
Butler shot 39 percent for the game, just 26.7 percent (plus eight turnovers) in the second half.
“They manhandled us inside in the first half,” Miller said. “They controlled the game. They did what they wanted. They rebounded. We couldn’t post or get it inside.
“We changed that in the second half. We did a much better job of being tougher inside. We made a lot of hard plays. We got our confidence going because we were able to get some stops.”
A game that began with 12 lead changes and two ties ended with Indiana control. It led the final 16 minutes to improve to a Crossroads Classic-best 7-3.
“This group was disappointed at halftime,” Miller said. “We answered the bell. We were getting out-worked. We cut the lead fast and grabbed the lead. Momentum went our way.”
Franklin had 20 points (one more than his previous career high against North Alabama six days earlier) after a second straight game of 5-for-7 three-point shooting.
Beyond that, he continued his Bankers Life Fieldhouse mastery. He had 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting (4-for-5 on three-pointers) in last year’s Crossroads Classic win over Notre Dame. He’s averaged 16.7 points on 12-of-17 three-point shooting in three career Bankers Life Fieldhouse games.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said about his sharp-shooting. “I was getting open looks. The first one goes down, it gives you a lot of confidence. My teammates kept finding me.”
Added Jackson-Davis: “Armaan had always been a great player. He wanted to prove what kind of player he is. All the work is starting to show. He’s one of our best defenders.”
Jackson-Davis finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Guard Al Durham had 11 points and eight rebounds.
“Being able to play inside-out has been a key for us,” Jackson-Davis said. “The guards are playing with a lot of confidence in the last two games. Hopefully they keep that up.”
Butler hit IU with a 13-3 first-half run. The Hoosiers hit back with a 19-3 surge to end the first half and start the second. That included a 13-0 run in which Butler was 0-for-8 from the field with three turnovers.
Limited first-half offensive balance (only four Hoosiers scored, led by Franklin’s 13 points) was a problem. So were seven turnovers (leading to nine Bulldog points) and a 17-11 rebounding hole.
All of that received halftime attention.
“We weren’t ready for the physicality to start the game,” Miller said. “Butler was a much tougher team in the first half. We had to come together at half time. There were not a lot of Xs and Os. We had to find a way to fight out of it.”
An early back-and-forth first half saw Franklin red-hot from three-point range and Jackson-Davis draw fouls at a machine-gun pace.
Butler kept pace with freshman efficiency — standout senior guard Aaron Thompson was out with a knee injury — then had a 7-0 run for a 31-25 lead as the clock approached three minutes left in the half.
Franklin’s fourth three-pointer stopped that streak. Butler responded with a 6-0 run for a 37-28 lead.
IU ended the half with a pair of Jackson-Davis free throws and a Durham jumper to make it 37-32.
The Hoosiers’ 9-3 second-half-opening surge — highlighted by Franklin’s fifth three-pointer — gave them a 41-40 lead five minutes after the break.
They pushed it to 47-40 via a 13-0 run before the Bulldogs ended it with a three-pointer.
IU kept pushing, especially with Thompson scoring six straight points and the Hoosiers blocking shots all over the court. A double-digit lead followed.
Butler was finished.
The Hoosiers, in so many ways, are just beginning.
“We are as battle tested as any team in our league,” Miller said.
By: Pete DiPrimio
IUHoosiers.com Courtesy of IUHoosiers.com