Five seconds left. Indiana down by 2. Xavier Johnson leaps in the air and grabs the rebound. As seconds tick off the clock, Johnson hoists a half court shot, attempting to draw a foul. Despite Race Thompson’s attempt at saving the shot, it is an air ball and Purdue beats IU in the final game of the Big 10 regular season.
IU’s loss to Purdue marked their 7th loss in their last 9 games, including a very bad loss to Northwestern. Once a solid NCAA tournament team, Indiana appeared to be on the outside looking in. With no more regular season games left to prove themselves, the Hoosiers needed to make a statement in the Big 10 tournament, a tournament in which they have historically underperformed.
Indiana claimed the 9th seed in the Big 10 tournament and was slated to play 8th seed Michigan. This game was a must win for the Hoosiers and it started badly.
Michigan got out to a fast start and held a solid lead for most of the first half. Their hot start continued into the second half, and with 13 minutes left, Michigan had a 17 point lead. It looked like IU’s season would be coming to an end.
Out of nowhere, the Hoosiers mounted a comeback. Star forward, Trayce Jackson-Davis, scored basket after basket on IU’s 20-2 run to pull the team back from elimination. The Hoosier’s momentum carried through the rest of the game and onto the next round of the tournament; Michigan was stunned.
Even with Indiana’s incredible come-from-behind victory, there were still questions about IU’s spot in the NCAA tournament. Trying to leave no doubt, IU desperately wanted to pick up at least one more win in the Big 10 tournament; however, they now had to play 1 seed Illinois, a team that beat them by 17 in their previous meeting.
IU picked up where they left off against Michigan, running their offense heavily through Jackson-Davis. From the tip, this game looked completely different than the last time the two teams met. They battled the majority of the game, and with 10 seconds left, Indiana’s Miller Kopp found himself at the free throw line, up one.
Kopp missed the first shot of the one-and-one and Illinois pulled down the rebound. With time running out, Illinois guard Andre Curbelo took the ball the length of the court and drove the lane. As Curbelo went up with an easy layup, it looked as if IU had once again lost in the final seconds of the game; however, the ball rolled off the other side of the rim and Jackson-Davis came down with it. The Hoosiers were going to win. After being fouled, Jackson-Davis knocked down two clutch free-throws to seal the game.
IU would now face off against Iowa in the semifinals of the Big 10 tournament. To start the game, it appeared that the Hoosiers continued to get hotter. They jumped out to a quick 15-3 run before the Hawkeyes climbed back into the game. The two teams went back and forth the whole game with the Hoosiers ahead almost the whole game.
With 5:31 left in the second half, Indiana took a nine point lead, and it seemed as if the Hoosiers would be going to the Big 10 Championship. Unfortunately, Iowa was not out of the game. Behind Keegan Murray’s incredible shooting, the Hawkeyes marched back into the game.
On the final possession, the game was tied and Iowa had the ball. Iowa tried to get the ball inside, but Indiana’s suffocating defense forced them to the perimeter. With seconds left, Iowa guard Jordan Bohanon heaved a three pointer from just in front of the logo. Indiana fans held their breath as the shot flew through the air and banked in. IU fans were devastated.
Despite the heart-breaking ending, IU fans were optimistic about the NCAA tournament. Their team looked completely revitalized.
Much to the dismay of the Hoosier’s supporters, IU ended up as a twelve seed in a play-in game against Wyoming. This caused controversy because Michigan, the team that IU beat in the Big 10 tournament, got an eleven seed. IU’s win over Wyoming did quiet some of the complaints, but the bitterness stayed among the die-hard fans.
With Indiana’s win over Wyoming, they advanced to play Saint Mary’s in the first round. Indiana became a popular upset pick due to their hot-streak in the Big 10 tournament.
The game started close and competitive but quickly got out of control. Right before the end of the first half, Saint Mary’s went on a run, going up by 12. Coming out of the second half, Saint Mary’s run turned into domination. The Gaels destroyed IU the rest of the game, being up 30 points multiple times and winning by 29.
This horrendous loss largely overshadowed the IU season. Outside of some disappointing losses, the Hoosiers showed improvement in certain areas. In the Big 10 tournament, they played with heart when games got close, a trait that had not been seen in past teams. Considering it was Mike Woodson’s first year as head coach, the Hoosiers have a promising future.