LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A year ago Kentucky flexed, attacked and took the game to Indiana, toppling a more talented Hoosier squad that featured Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford.
That did not happen in the first game of the Kentucky-Indiana all-star series Friday night at Knights Hall at Bellarmine University.
Indiana won the tip and scored. They pressed. They hustled. They attacked the rim. They defended with an edge you rarely see in all-star games.
And the Indiana boys rolled to a 97-64 victory. The win left Kentucky with a split on the evening because Kentucky won the girls’ game, 79-74.
“The coaches reminded us of how they split the series last year and they really wanted to sweep them this year,” said guard Armaan Franklin, an Indiana recruit.
“We really took that personally. Defense was our biggest emphasis coming into the game.”
“Our coaches talked about how we don’t lose to Kentucky and so many of the Indiana teams before didn’t lose to Kentucky,” said Indiana Mr. Basketball Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“So we made this week strictly business. We knew coming down here on their home turf we’d have to punch them in the mouth and that’s what we did.”
1. Talent Mismatch
The boys’ game was over after three possessions.
A dunk by Jake LaRavia off a feed from Franklin on the opening tip. A driving basket by Jackson-Davis off another Franklin pass on the second possession. A soaring laying from Isaiah Thompson on Indiana’s third possession.
Indiana led 6-2. They pushed their lead to 13-2. Trinity product David Johnson scored on Kentucky’s first possession but the home team missed its next 13 shots.
The game was never close.
It should not have been close. All 13 Indiana players have signed with Division I schools, including five who will play at Power Five programs. Kentucky coach James Brewer had five guys committed to Division I programs but Johnson (Louisville) is the only guy who will play for a Power Five program.
Neither Johnson nor Brewer agreed the talent gap was 33 points. They expect Kentucky to compete with more octane and win the rematch Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“Indiana came in and really took it to us,” Brewer said. “To me we didn’t play Kentucky basketball at all. We’re better than what we showed tonight.
“Very disappointed. Very angry because I know what these guys can do. These guys have to play with heart and pride. Indiana was very physical with us. They jammed us up and we didn’t respond at all.”
“We have to bounce back tomorrow and move on,” Johnson said. “We didn’t come ready to play. We just didn’t play together. We weren’t ready. That’s a one-time thing for us.”
You expect a different result Saturday?
“Oh, yeah,” Johnson said.
2. Coaches Tout Johnson
As I noted earlier Johnson made Kentucky’s first shot. Then he missed 9 of his next 11 attempts. He finished with seven points, eight rebounds and a serious post-game frown. No Kentucky players scored double figures.
"I don’t think I played very well,” Johnson said. “I didn’t play very aggressive. I didn’t play as a leader, like I should have.”
Know this: Both Brewer and assistant coach Anthony Epps said Johnson was Kentucky’s best player all week. They praised his work ethic, maturity and intelligence as well as his athletic ability.
“He can play the one, two or three,” Brewer said. “He’s extremely versatile.”
“He won’t be at Louisville four years,” Epps said.
Where is Johnson going?
“To the NBA,” Epps said.
3. Indiana Recruits Solid
Franklin and Jackson-Davis, the only members of Archie Miller’s 2019 recruiting class, were solid for the Indiana team.
Jackson-Davis was a force around the rim, scoring 16 points with five boards
“I thought I played well,” Jackson-Davis said. “Missed a few bunnies but you can’t always have great games. My teammates played well and I’m just glad we got the ‘W.’ “
Franklin had six points, five rebounds and four assists, although he missed all four of his shots from distance.
“Everybody sacrificed something to get the win,” Franklin said.
Franklin’s defense was terrific. Jackson-Davis said Johnson scored 30 points on Franklin in a junior all-star game a year ago. Franklin corrected him.
“It was only 25,” he said. “Last year I gave him a lot of space. This year I got up in him more. I didn’t let him get any easy shots. I wanted to contest every shot. I think that was the big difference.”
Johnson was 3 for 12.
“I’m happy with that,” Franklin said. “I’ve just got to do it again Saturday.”
4. Purdue Reloads Its Backcourt
Guards drove Purdue to the Boilermakers’ stirring Elite Eight appearance last winter. Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline made shot after shot after shot.
But they’re gone. Cline graduated and Edwards left for the NBA after his junior season.
Matt Painter recruited a solid pair of replacement parts. Isaiah Thompson and Brandon Newman won’t deliver the productivity of Cline and Edwards next season. But they’ll be determined and solid four-year guys for the Boilermakers.
Thompson, a point guard, was the best three-point shooter, punishing Kentucky with four shots from distance in the first half. He led Indiana with 18 points.
“Isaiah is a huge shooter,” Jackson-Davis said. “That’s what he’s going to do at Purdue is light it up. When he comes down to IU we’re going to have to stop that.”
“On the court I always play with confidence so it was good to see the ball go in the basket tonight,” Thompson said.
“If I play hard and play defense (at Purdue), everything will take care of itself.”
Newman is taller and more athletic. He can make shots but he can also go around defenders. He scored 17, making three shots from distance.
5. Remember This Name
Johnson is not the only player Epps and Brewer believe will be a pro. They also touted Indiana back-up center Dawand Jones.
A back-up center?
Yes, a back-up center.
Jones is a mountain of a man, 6 feet 8 and 360 pounds. He’s a football star as well as an Indiana basketball all-star. Jones had Indiana, Florida, USC and Penn State in his final five choices but signed with Ohio State, where he should play offensive tackle.
Basketball is more than a sideshow to him. He led Ben Davis High School of Indianapolis to a runner-up finish in the Indiana Class 4A state tournament.
“Have you watched him move?” Epps said. “He’s a pro. He’s an athlete. He’s legit.”
In 10 minutes, Jones contributed three points and five boards.
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