Last time Indiana faced Maryland, the defense led the way to a 13-point victory in late January. Since then, the worst of the Hoosiers' fears had been realized. A five-game losing streak could only be snapped if they were able to take care of the Terrapins for the second time in 27 days.
IU was able to stop the bleeding on its season by beating Maryland 74-64 in Assembly Hall for the team's first win in the month of February. IU collected that comfortable win, but this time with the offense led the way.
The Hoosiers shot a season-high 59.6 percent from the field.
After getting off to one of its hottest starts, IU only led by three at the half. A disturbing trend over the losing streak has been Indiana's inability to close out halves.
Allowing a 10-point lead to disappear at the break meant Maryland was taking noticeable momentum into its locker room with Indiana fans left to say, "Not this again."
All would be forgotten once Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson decided the game would not be lost.
Xavier Johnson played with channeled aggression in the second half resulting in his best performance as an Indiana Hoosier. He overcame foul trouble from the first half and turned it into a season-high 24-point performance which featured no misses from the field (7-for-7) along with six assists.
"I see what a lot of people say."
After a perfect shooting day and leading all scorers with 24, Xavier Johnson and Mike Woodson offer their perspectives on social media and its impact on individual and team play. #iubb pic.twitter.com/3mhFzKLbxD
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 25, 2022
Race Thompson complimented his point guard's efficiency and how Indiana is hard to stop once Johnson has it going.
"We're definitely going to be hard to beat...you might say Trayce is the head of the snake but it's really X, we really go as he goes," Thompson said.
Johnson's energy and stellar play sparked IU's most efficient half of the season, making 15 of 20 shots from the field. At one point, IU had converted on 13 straight field goals in over 13 minutes of game time. At the end of the hot streak the Hoosiers' lead was 12 and they would get the necessary stops to officially close the door.
Thompson played the role of go-to post scorer to perfection. Trayce Jackson-Davis struggled to escape his double-teams but with Thompson in a zone, he was able to shoulder the load.
Head coach Mike Woodson had high praise for Thompson after his 19-point, nine bound effort.
"He's been that guy kind of all season for us... we're going to need that from everybody," Woodson said.
The recent losing streak has IU's NCAA Tournament hopes officially on the bubble, making Thursday night's win a moment for the coaches and players to exhale during the stretch run off the season.
Woodson was forthcoming in his comments about his team's resilience and attitude throughout the past few games.
"Our attitude has been great, even in the five-game skid... for the most part [tonight] was a total team effort and I'm pleased as hell," Woodson said.
"These guys are not quitting, I'm telling you that now."#iubb head coach Mike Woodson says his squad isn't done quite just yet. pic.twitter.com/vh1l8KE9rr
— Griffin Gonzalez (@grifgonzo) February 25, 2022
There's no question IU needed to right the ship but now the focus shifts to Minnesota and Rutgers. In order to ensure a birth in the NCAA Tournament, IU will either have to win both games before its trip to Purdue or look to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament.
Essentially if Indiana holds serve against teams it should beat, the Hoosiers will be dancing for the first time since 2016.
Indiana travels to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon and will play the Golden Gophers on Sunday at 6 p.m.