Thoughts on a 71-64 loss against Arkansas:
An eventful evening inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall was full of moments that hurt Indiana’s chances of completing a perfect 11-0 nonconference record.
First was the pregame announcement that redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter would miss the game with a thigh bruise.
Then, with 7:18 left in a tight first half that saw Arkansas launch a ton of 3-pointers and Trayce Jackson-Davis assert himself around the rim, the Hoosiers lost another player for the rest of the game.
Junior Al Durham, a team captain, made a rash and regrettable mistake when he sent his right elbow into the chin of Arkansas forward Adrio Bailey as the Razorbacks brought the ball up the court.
It was a needless act from a player that’s supposed to be one of the leaders of this Indiana squad, but the Hoosiers were still able to reach halftime with a five-point lead.
But it took a final blow, a nearly 8-minute long scoreless drought from the field for the Hoosiers from the 8:08 mark of the second half until there were just 21.3 seconds left, interrupted only by one made free throw, which condemned Indiana to a really poor defeat to close non-conference play.
The style in which the defeat occurred, with Arkansas outscoring Indiana 19-3 in the final 7:49 of the contest, raises renewed questions about Indiana’s ability to stick to the offensive script late in games.
Sunday night’s game was already an interesting matchup on paper between an Arkansas squad that often plays with four guards (the tallest starter for Arkansas was the 6-6 Bailey) and relies on perimeter shooting (more than 41 percent of their shots entering the game came from beyond the arc), and an Indiana team whose bread and butter is dominating the interior.
The injury suffered by Hunter and Durham’s ejection kept the Hoosiers from even thinking about matching up with the smaller Razorback lineup, so the game truly became a strength on strength matchup for each team.
What evolved was the Hoosiers making a living around the rim and at the foul line (while missing nine of their 18 free throws), while Arkansas, and sophomore guard Isaiah Joe in particular, made shots from distance to stay with the Hoosiers.
Joe shot seven three-pointers in the first half, making just two, but then caught fire in the second half to keep Arkansas in the game.
An Indiana team that prides itself on depth, another contrast to an Arkansas team that played just seven players, gave extended minutes to Damezi Anderson and Race Thompson to no great effect.
De’Ron Davis and Justin Smith picked up two first-half fouls, and while this has been par for the course for Davis, Smith was forced to navigate the game carefully.
Jackson-Davis remained active and authoritative around the rim, soaring to complete alley-oop dunks and bullying the Arkansas frontcourt to the tune of 16 first-half points, but also with five missed first-half free throws.
The five-point halftime lead grew to double digits by the under-16 timeout in the second half, but the lead was trimmed to two points with 12 minutes to go.
As it has perplexingly done on certain occasions this season, Indiana went away from feeding the ball down low.
The Hoosiers took eight 3-pointers as a team in the first half, while Devonte Green took nine himself in the second half (making three).
Those points were enough to keep IU in front for a while, before a 9-0 Arkansas run late in the game tied things at 61 with 3:17 to go.
That became a 15-1 run over a six-minute stretch, giving the Razorbacks a 67-62 lead with two minutes to play.
Missed free throws down the stretch from Armaan Franklin and a poor decision from Green to shoot a contested three in transition with under 40 seconds to play meant IU had to play the foul game to try and erase the five-point gap, an unsuccessful ploy as the Razorbacks saw out the win.
Those mistakes played a role, but the lack of consistent attempts near the rim, from Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk and other Hoosiers, were the main factors in the loss.
It remains a legitimate concern for this Indiana team, despite the 11-2 record, that it has continued lapses in offensive execution.
Quick on the heels of this loss comes a daunting road test at Maryland on Saturday, and the slog of conference play afterward.
This is far from a good way to enter that stretch.
Filed to: Arkansas Razorbacks