Indiana was dominant in a must-win game against Penn State on Wednesday night. IU led from the very beginning and never looked back.
Three factors were key to the Hoosiers’ victory.
1. Shutting out the noise
The first Penn State possession ended in a shot clock violation. The tone was set, the energy was there and it never left Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.
Before Mike Woodson’s first substitution, the Hoosiers were up 15-2 over a Penn State team that just beat them just three weeks prior, one of IU’s lowest moments in the 2021-22 season. In those first five minutes, Indiana turned over the Nittany Lions three times.
On Wednesday night, the starting lineup had an individual average +/- of 9. An impressive feat. However, in the two games prior, the IU starters found themselves down big after the first five minutes. On Sunday against Michigan the Hoosiers were down 14-5 five minutes in and against No. 6 Purdue the IU starters put the team in a 12-6 hole before the bench provided the energy and steadiness. This is something that many fans kept an eye on over the past few days, but on Wednesday the starting five quieted all that noise from people calling for a change in the starting five after several slow starts.
No change is imminent in the starting group, which has been the same since November, but it’s just going to have to be consistent.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) January 27, 2022
2. Everyone wants to Race
Every team in the country could use a Race Thompson.
This is Thompson’s fifth season at Indiana. He’s battled injuries, sat through a redshirt season and now finally has become the glue of this IU team.
He rarely makes glaring mistakes, gives you 10 points and 10 rebounds nearly every night and most importantly he leads.
Thompson’s statline Wednesday:
- 18 points
- 2-for-2 3-PT
- 6 rebounds
- 1 block
Thompson just does all of the little things so consistently well. And on Wednesday it was his first game of his career with multiple made 3-pointers. His consistency is a large reason as to why he’s averaging 11 ppg and 8 rpg, while shooting 55 percent from the floor. Efficient as can be. Solid on the defensive end, huddling guys at the free-throw line and not to mention he has nearly perfected that post turnaway jumper.
He’s going to be that guy for IU who down the stretch of the season is going to have to make some big time plates and he’s ready for it.
3. X-man is evolving
Look at these Xavier Johnson numbers in his past three games.
This three-game stretch by Xavier Johnson has really been something.
Tonight: 19 pts, 6 asts, 4 rebs, 1 stl, 3 TOs
Michigan: 14 pts, 6 asts, 6 rebs, 3 stls, 2 TOs
Purdue: 18 pts, 2 asts, 4 rebs, 1 steal, zero TOs
In that span: 47.5% FG, 55.5% 3pt#iubb
— Kamil Gut (@GutKamiI) January 27, 2022
Ever since that game where he fouled out against Iowa on the road he has really turned it on. The in-season development has turned him into a guy who brings constant energy and physicality. He still has some turnover issues to get under control but you will take three turnovers if he’s putting up a 19, six and six statline every game.
I'm curious to see how he fares on the road this weekend at Maryland because he has shown some discomfort in other environments such as Iowa and Wisconsin.
For now, he’s finding his groove just at the right time.