With just seven scholarship players, and no outright point guard, Indiana traveled to Illinois to take on Northwestern, falling 59-51.
Here are some quick-fire takeaways from what happened on the court, and what happened off it before the players even put on the candy stripes.
Suspensions derail Indiana’s depth
Before the game, IU Athletics announced that Tamar Bates, Xavier Johnson, Khristian Lander, Parker Stewart, and Michael Durr would not play against Northwestern due to “disciplinary reasons.”
Further clarification on what caused their absence and how long it will continue is still to come, but disappointment ripped through the Indiana fanbase before the game over the mass-absence in one of the most winnable matchups down the stretch.
It is ALWAYS something with #iubb. Always.
— Hoosier Sports Live (@HoosiersLive) February 9, 2022
The five suspended players sat court-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, but were unable to leave make the step onto the court to help Indiana.
More reporting will come when more is known, but the ripple effect of the suspensions played a huge role in Indiana’s gameplan against the Wildcats.
It’s difficult to play with seven players
For the second time this season, Anthony Leal broke the starting five, replacing Stewart, and Trey Galloway operating in place of Xavier Johnson at point guard. Leal and Galloway provided the defensive energy required, helping Indiana to a good defensive first half, limiting Northwestern to 30.6 percent shooting from the field, and just 1-for-13 from 3.
Indiana failed to consistently bring down missed shots, allowing a stunning 13 offensive rebounds, playing a large role in Northwestern’s surge in the second half.
Ultimately on the day, inexperience coupled with a lack of other options cost Indiana.
Galloway’s time at the point was hot and cold, with a team-high nine points and four turnovers in place of the three missing guards in the first half. Head coach Mike Woodson would be wise to observe his assertiveness and ability to take over as reason to alter the long-term starting five.
With just seven scholarship players available, Nathan Childress got minutes for the first time since Nov. 23 against Jackson State due to Jordan Geronimo’s foul trouble in the first half.
When Durr might be otherwise be brought in to rotate Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis, they were forced to play through tough spells, leading to low efficiency from the frontcourt duo.
Leal was dependable, but given more than 30 minutes, his contributions were forced to exceed his experience and talent level.
After getting a flagrant one for a hook and hold, Trey Galloway didn’t leave the game, as Indiana had no other options to handle the ball.
One might wonder how different the game would look if Indiana had a full selection to draw from.
A return home didn’t bring Kopp back
Miller Kopp’s struggles to consistently integrate into Indiana’s offense have been well documented. After transferring from Northwestern, Kopp has averaged 6.2 points and 2.4 rebounds a contest, and shooting 38.7 percent from 3, good for second among IU’s starters.
However, reminders for Kopp and others may have cropped up, seeing the purple court he used to defend, that last season for the Wildcats he averaged 11 points a contest. He got looks, but failed to click at a consistent rate, shooting 1-7 from the field, and tallying just 3 points.
Kopp’s long-term role with the team should be investigated post-return from suspension for Indiana’s quintet, and when IU needed to turn to him, he was unable to step in and hit shots required to keep exact vengeance in his return home.
Trayce Jackson-Davis needed to take over — and didn’t
Jackson-Davis was needed more than ever as Indiana lost two starters.
Usually efficient, the junior mirrored his team’s shooting display, falling much lower than his season average of 59.1 percent shooting with a 4-13 shooting display accompanying 13 points.
Jackson-Davis wasn’t the cause of the defeat, but he failed to be the reason for a victory. Often called one of the best players in the nation (for good reason), there may be potential regret when looking back on this game. Northwestern was beatable, but Jackson-Davis and Indiana couldn’t put their shots down, or live up to the billing.
Indiana needed this win
A late-night trip to Northwestern likely wouldn’t rank high in the preseason assessment of potential season-defining results, but as the season played out, it has turned out to be.
Off the back of a thumping home loss to Illinois that asserted the Hoosiers are fallible at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers were facing a schedule that saw them play three Big Ten teams ahead of them in the standings after the Northwestern matchup.
Under Woodson, Indiana has dared to look upwards, and dream higher. Falling to Northwestern causes the Hoosiers to instead turn nervously over their shoulder, with the sixth position and above-500 record in the Big Ten in peril.
Trey Galloway should be a starter
This is the last, and maybe most important takeaway. Whether for Kopp or Stewart, his role in keeping Indiana alive against Northwestern against all odds, and his consistent energy needs to be rewarded with a starting role.
Indiana will hope to get back a good chunk of its squad back as the team turns the corner into the final stretch of the season, starting with a trip to East Lansing on Saturday to face Michigan State.