Miller Kopp and Mike Woodson

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Book a 2-on-2 tournament for the NCAA men’s basketball championship, and I’d be comfortable making a Final Four selection:

The Indiana Hoosiers.

Trayce Jackson-Davis can play with anybody in the country inside the paint — and his ability to pass and block shots makes him a legitimate contender for national player of the year.

At guard, Jalen Hood-Schifino is merely a freshman, but he was just voted the best freshman in the Big Ten. Hood-Schifino is in his final weeks as a Hoosier because he will be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft next June.

But …

But to succeed in March, a two-man band won’t work against the best competition. Especially when Indiana plays like it fears that points will be taken off the scoreboard for missing a 3-point field goal attempt.

On a day when Jackson-Davis had a solid game while scoring 24 and Hood-Schifino made only 4 of 13 shots, the Hoosiers floundered to a 77-73 loss to Penn State Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

"There's no magical pill you can give guys when you're struggling," IU coach Mike Woodson said.

"You can't play scared," Jackson-Davis said. "We kind of played tentative ... we played lackadaisical in stretches in the game. We would make a push and then start to relax."

The Hoosiers trailed 70-55 with less than 2 1/2 minutes to play before mounting a furious rally. Hood-Schifino missed a three-pointer with about eight seconds to play that would have tied the game.

For the 25th consecutive year, the Hoosiers failed to win this event, a streak that includes games coached by Bob Knight, Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, Dan Dakich, Tom Crean, Archie Miller and Mike Woodson. All seven have whiffed — and Davis took the Hoosiers to their only title game in 2001.

Considering Penn State also has a second-year coach, no basketball tradition and a string of mid-major players from the transfer portal, it was a lackluster performance by Woodson's team, which went 0-6 against Penn State, Iowa and Northwestern this season.

"To see my seniors walk away and not win a Big Ten championship is kind of disappointing to me," Woodson said.

They also made only 2 of 14 shots from distance (none in the first half) as Penn State made 8 of 23. The number of three-point makes obviously won't work. But Indiana also needs to crank up its focus on taking threes. Jackson-Davis said some of his teammates appeared reluctant to shoot from the perimeter.

"Our coach draws up a lot of great plays for us and we shoot a lot of open shots," said Penn State guard Jalen Pickett, who scored 28 points, making nine free throws.

In two games against Penn State, both IU losses, the Hoosiers were outscored 78-18 from the three-point line. That’s not a recipe for a successful March -- in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament. 

"When they started to make shots, we kind of backed off," said Woodson. "We had some good looks. We just didn't make them. That's part of the game."

"We've got to be more intense on the ball," Jackson-Davis said.

Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway struggled, missing 10 of 14 shots, including all six from distance.

The Hoosiers (22-11) were projected to be a No. 4 seed prior to Saturday's defeat. They will learn their assignment when the 68-team tournament field is announced at 6 p.m. Sunday.

"Obviously we're upset," Jackson-Davis said. "But at the same time we've got the NCAA Tournament."

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