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Indiana's never-back-down attitude and resilience in win over Illinois likely clinch trip to NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS — Down one, the Fighting Illini’s speedy guard Andre Curbelo snatched the ball off the rim after a missed Miller Kopp free throw and went coast to coast with 10 seconds left. 

In the way was Indiana sophomore Trey Galloway, who forced Curbelo to his left hand and beautifully contested the layup. 

The shot missed and Indiana went on to beat No. 16 Illinois 65-63 in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal. 

Trayce Jackson-Davis boxes out Coleman Hawkins. (Bailey Wright/HN)

It had been three weeks since Galloway last played when he checked into the second round game of the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan. For most players it may be difficult to play a large role after coming off a lower body injury, Galloway didn’t miss a beat. 

On Thursday against Michigan, Galloway played 28 minutes, put up five assists and tallied three steals. It was a similar story on Friday as Galloway put up eight points in 24 minutes. 

One thing Indiana really missed during his absence was bench production. The starters could never get a rest or breather on the bench, despite needing one. Not only is Galloway another body on the floor, but he fits Mike Woodson’s defensive philosophy perfectly. 

With 1:38 to go against the Illini and Indiana up one, Galloway read a pass perfectly in the Illinois backcourt, got a hand on it and looked to be on his way down court for an easy jam. It wasn’t as easy as it looked and while gathering his dribble, Galloway let the ball slip out of his fingers and go out of play. It was a massive missed opportunity for the Hoosiers and the crowd murmured. They had seen this before. 

Despite the sequence, Galloway dug in and made the defensive plays necessary to advance to semifinal Saturday. 

In February, Indiana looked like it just didn’t fight at the end of games. Nothing went the Hoosiers’ way, and they always collapsed. Over the past two days the script has been flipped. The late-game demons possessing Indiana look to be exorcized.

Along with Galloway, this never-back-down attitude has been embodied by Indiana’s best player, Trayce Jackson-Davis. 

Jackson-Davis had been admittedly slumping over the past month. Something just felt off.

There's been a lot of talk of me not showing up at the end of the season. I wanted to change that narrative,” Jackson-Davis said postgame. 

From scoring six points in Indiana’s home loss to Illinois on Feb. 5, to now scoring 21 with 9-for-13 shooting on the same team a month later, it was the definition of a bounce back. This makes two games in a row where Jackson-Davis has put up 20 points and seven rebounds against two of the best big men in the conference, Hunter Dickinson and Kofi Cockburn. 

"Coach Woodson gave me confidence, my teammates gave me confidence,” Jackson-Davis said. “I was just doing my job.”

While the win over Michigan created relief, Indiana’s win over Illinois created hope. The ability to bounce back and not quit has made the team go from walking to sprinting. The narrative of those close losses is starting to change. 

No need for fans to worry about Indiana’s NCAA Tournament hopes as Friday's win at least pencils in a trip to Dayton’s first four, but the theme around the program is adamant on winning the Big Ten Tournament. 

We didn't pack for two days. We didn't pack for three days. We packed to win the Big Ten,” Jackson-Davis said postgame.

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