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After a nearly two-week holiday break, the No. 15 Indiana Hoosiers got off to their best start of the season and subsequently suffered a catastrophic collapse thanks to their worst finish in any game so far this year.
LAS VEGAS -- The final score doesn't tell the whole story, as No. 14 Indiana fought back during its toughest test of the season in Las Vegas.
'They were tougher than us': No. 10 Indiana's struggles against Rutgers continue in opening Big Ten loss
It was a struggle from start to finish for No. 10 IU inside Jersey Mike's Arena where ranked teams have met their match in an environment as rowdy as any in the sport. IU was sloppy with early turnovers and failed to consistently rebound, all leading to the 63-48 loss, its first of the season.
It was their first taste of an atmosphere unlike anything they had played in before — a packed Assembly Hall filled with fans eager to see how IU's highly touted freshman class would perform.
DAYTON, Ohio -- Indiana’s First Four meeting with Wyoming was an old-fashioned rock fight. The type of game IU has found itself in throughout the 2021-22 season. It's the type of game the Hoosiers can win and wear down their opponent in the process. Beating Wyoming 66-58 allows Indiana to enter the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is a stage the Hoosiers had not seen in over six years and after playing through some early postseason jitters, they played a game they knew they could win. In March, these games slow down, making any semblance of rhythm on offense difficult to find. This allows a team like Indiana to lead with its defense, where it statistically had the best in the Big Ten (opponents shooting just 39 percent). IU made things especially difficult for Wyoming's Hunter Maldonado, the team's leading scorer. Maldonado was forced into 10 turnovers, the Cowboys finished with 19. In March, you have to find a way to take away the other team's best player and Indiana did just that. It wasn't pretty to watch, but Indiana doesn't win pretty; They win gritty. "I thought our defense was really the key when we were struggling offensively to make shots," Mike Woodson said. "We just kept grinding." And keep grinding they did. Even when IU stalls offensively, its ability to string multiple stops together gives the offense countless opportunities to eventually score. The most recent example is a 17-point second half comeback against Michigan just a week ago. IU and Wyoming pounded the ball inside resulting in most opportunities being at the rim. Seventy-two of the 124 points scored came in the paint. A war in the paint is one IU is willing to fight. When you have one of the more dominant big men in the country, it can be a recipe for success. When Trayce Jackson-Davis is able to give you an efficient 29 points and nine rebounds, you have a chance to win. This tournament is uncharted territory for all IU's players. But one player made it his goal to get Indiana basketball back to March Madness. Jackson-Davis has never been more motivated, IU fans should expect his level of play to continue to elevate throughout the team's run. In his first game on the biggest stage of his career, he dominated and detailed his feelings on the experience afterwards. "I've always dreamed about playing in this tournament," Jackson-Davis said. "Being able to live out that dream and just performing at the highest level, I'm truly grateful." Any team crossing paths with Indiana will have a hungry Jackson-Davis to deal with. In addition to matchup issues with Jackson-Davis, IU always has the threat of a wild card off the bench. Jordan Geronimo was the perfect complement to Jackson-Davis on Tuesday night. Geronimo's 15-point, seven-rebound performance was the most impactful in his IU career. What makes players like himself, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp and Tamar Bates wild cards is you never know when they're going to explode. Indiana will need at least one of its wild cards to perform in order to make a deep run. Having the threat of unexpected scoring can go a long way in helping IU with more balanced efforts to compliment its staunch defense. Even as a 12 seed, I believe Indiana has the recipe to make a run and bust a few brackets. Next up is the fifth-seeded Saint Mary's Gaels. IU will continue to make these games look ugly, at least for its opponent. Starting with Saint Mary's on Thursday, IU will look to slow the pace and win the battle in the paint. The Hoosiers have a dominant post player who can take the game over in the half court, a top defense in the country that can shut down an opposing team's best player and a slew of x-factors coming into every game. All of this and the belief instilled in these players by Mike Woodson are why Indiana is a threat. One could say that over the past five games, Indiana is playing its best ball of the season and I believe that will continue. I'm taking IU to advance past the round of 64 and upset Saint Mary's 74-71.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Game tied at 77, a spot in the Big Ten championship game on the line, Jordan Bohannon with the ball. The sixth year senior proceeded to send a prayer to the basket... and it was answered. A 3-point bank shot was the difference in a 80-77 loss for Indiana against Iowa in Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals. This game presented a few questions, and Zak Ibrahim and William McDermott provided their answers: Where was this game ultimately decided? Zak: Lack of communication down the stretch cost Indiana a spot in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. After the 2:27 mark of the second half, Iowa proceeded to knock down three 3-point shots until the final dagger by Jordan Bohannon. Before the game-winner, each shot Iowa hit was open and uncontested. Each possession down the stretch featured defensive lapses stemming from miscommunication -- uncharacteristic for an IU team that wins games by communicating and getting stops. William: The game was decided at the 3-point line. Zak told me before the game that Indiana needed to hit a mark of eight threes. They hit five. On the Hawkeyes’ side, they hit 14 3-pointers. That’s a 27-point differential. And in a game that was decided by a Hail Mary shot, that differential is glaring. Not to mention, Indiana gave up several wide open jumpers down the stretch. When it mattered, the Hoosiers didn’t defend the arc well. What does Trayce Jackson-Davis flipping the switch do for Indiana? William: In three games, Trayce Jackson-Davis has put up 76 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks against some of the best big men in the country. When TJD goes, the Hoosiers go with him. After the Michigan game, TJD said head coach Mike Woodson was tough on him at halftime. Something switched and Indiana’s best player responded, never backed down and proved why he was a preseason All-American. In order for Indiana to play well in the tournament, Trayce needs to continue his dominance. Zak: When Jackson-Davis has a favorable matchup, it opens up everything for Indiana offensively. Iowa deciding not to send double-teams only meant Jackson-Davis could have his way, and he did. The Hoosiers believe they have the best player on the court when he’s in uniform. When he’s able to show that to his opponent, Indiana plays with utmost confidence. Thoughts after Jordan Bohannon’s shot went in? Zak: These are the highs and lows of March. Indiana and its fans experience jubilation followed by heartbreak in just over a day. As much as it hurt, the shot didn’t end the Hoosiers' season. Bohannon got hot late and complemented an incredible game by Keegan Murray with his clutch shooting. It’s a moment Iowa will never forget and one that will take IU fans some time to get over. William: The mojo had run out. Indiana had avoided the late-game collapses two days in a row but couldn’t avoid it a third. Bohannon’s shot was ridiculous. IU defended it perfectly and sometimes the ball just goes in. However, the postgame press conference from Woodson, Xavier Johnson and Jackson-Davis was extremely optimistic moving into Selection Sunday. These players and coaches have proven to themselves that they can compete with anybody. How have the past three days defined IU’s season? Zak: Through all the ups and downs of its season, IU showed just how good it can be in must-win games. After an underwhelming regular season, IU needed to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament to be a lock for March Madness. Coming back from being down 17 to Michigan and holding Illinois in check showed what this group is made of. Both teams had beaten IU by a combined 35 points in the regular season, but IU never backed down and exacted revenge when the stage was biggest. William: It proves they’re a team that never quit and never backed down. After a 2-9 stretch in February it would have been very easy to give up and surrender. It would be another lost season. That’s what we’ve seen in the past six years -- teams that give up. These past three days prove that they can stand their ground. Indiana isn’t afraid of the moment. It’s a culture change if anything. After watching these past three games and the excitement around it, who wouldn’t want to be a part of this team? Heading into the tournament, how can they build off of this week? William: Despite Jordan Bohannon’s late-game heroics, the program’s confidence must be through the roof. Whether they’re in Dayton or anywhere else, they have to like their chances in their first round. For a program that is about to reach the big dance for the first time in six years, just winning a game would be monumental. For the first time in quite a while, the grass is bright green heading into the big dance. Zak: The Hoosiers have felt they can compete with the best in the country, but this weekend proved that to the rest of the world. It took a 30+ foot game-winner off the glass to keep IU from a chance at winning its first ever Big Ten Tournament title. As much as it stings, Indiana's players can take stock in the fact that they got better with each game against some of the best teams in the country. Mike Woodson has this team believing in itself, and that's a powerful thing for team in March. On Sunday, the Hoosiers will know who they will face in the postseason. Despite the ridiculous shots and epic buzzer beaters, Indiana has responded. That’s not going to change. They roll with the punches.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The stage was set for IU in West Lafayette. Given their recent struggles, the Hoosiers forced themselves to play with urgency in order to try and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A season sweep of Purdue may have been enough to punch that ticket. After a battling down to the wire, Indiana ended its regular season with a 69-67 loss at No. 8 Purdue. The environment? Only the most hostile they've played in all season. It was hard enough to hear yourself think, let alone communicate with teammates and coaches. Early in the first half, that environment seemed to overwhelm Indiana. Playing like the team that only won one game in the month of February, IU fell behind by as many as 13. Six early turnovers and opportunistic second-chance points put IU behind and left Purdue fans in a frenzy. Postgame, Mike Woodson addressed the areas Indiana struggled in most. "I thought they got all the 50-50 balls... when you're on the road you have to win the 50-50 balls," Woodson said. "They out-toughed us in that area." 'The head of the snake' as he's been called, Xavier Johnson, sparked a key run for IU before halftime. Trimming the deficit to just four sparked belief in the Hoosier locker room. Indiana's guard play was the deciding factor in the Jan. 20 matchup, when Indiana bested Purdue in Bloomington. Johnson did his best to will IU to victory and make heroic plays down the stretch, ultimately coming up short on a last-second heave from half court as the final buzzer sound. Johnson finished with a game-high 18 points and career-high 12 assists.
Indiana held on for dear life in the second half of Sunday night's contest against Minnesota, ultimately squeaking out an 84-79 win. Given its recent struggles in the month of February, IU will take win 18 in any fashion possible, even if it means watching a 27-point second half lead whittled down to just three points with under a minute to play. This was an Indiana special, teasing its fans with flashes of brilliance only to allow its demons on the road to make an appearance, all in the same half. However, what can be taken away from Sunday is that Indiana was able to close the door in a game it could not afford to lose. Building a lead is one thing, but protecting it in a hostile environment is another. Minnesota caught fire from 3-point range in the second half but after the first 2:20 of game time, IU never relinquished the lead. Head coach Mike Woodson kept his postgame comments short and sweet when it came to his assessment of how the game played out. "They were at home. They weren't playing well early. We were playing great. They got hot. We were able to withstand it..." Woodson said. "We made the plays down the stretch we needed to make." An honest man will tell you Indiana got comfortable in the second half and that's exactly what Woodson detailed in his postgame thoughts. But in the same breath, it's important to note that IU got back to what built the large lead when the game became close, all while Woodson was content to let his team play through it. When the game began to slip away from Indiana, Woodson refused to call timeout to halt the momentum, a decision made by a coach who understands that allowing his players to close out a game on their own builds maturity. Woodson has preached all season about helping his players learn how to win, even if that means having them find their way through what could've been an epic collapse. A player who has shown great leadership while rounding into form is IU point guard Xavier Johnson. Over the past two games Johnson has accumulated 48 points, 14 assists and just four turnovers while shooting 61 percent from the field. As teams have committed to taking away Trayce Jackson-Davis via double-team, Johnson has commanded IU's offense. His aggressive, yet calculated, attack is what led to Indiana building its 27-point lead. Woodson also spoke on his point guard's improved play as the season has progressed. "He's getting the ball where it's got to go. Guys are benefiting. He was solid. I will need that the rest of the way," Woodson said. Now all focus for Indiana shifts to Wednesday night against Rutgers in Bloomington, a huge game with NCAA Tournament implications that could dramatically shift the outlook of both team's seasons. The Hoosiers will look to carry their momentum built over the past two games to remain consistent with their current tournament predictions, which have them playing in March. Beating both Rutgers and Purdue will solidify that position but while many do not see that happening, it is about Indiana not ruining its own chances by losing games it should win. That almost took place Sunday night, but with two games left in the regular season, this saying still plays: a win is a win.
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.
In what was a choppy game, Indiana got something you can never take for granted: A win on the road in the Big Ten. "Any time you can go on the road and get one, it's huge," said Mike Woodson after the win. Beating Maryland 68-55 meant Indiana got to put a bow on an absolute rollercoaster of a month. In January, the Hoosiers went 6-3 highlighted by their incredible upset over then-No. 4 Purdue. Following that up with a loss to an unranked Michigan team showed their lack of consistency and they hoped to find it on the road. What has remained consistent is the performance of Xavier Johnson, who was playing close to home in D.C. His struggles with fouls and turnovers resulted in inconsistent minutes and therefore inconsistent play. However, over the past two weeks he seems to have come into his own. Saturday afternoon saw his shooting stroke disappear but his passing had never been better. With his family in attendance, Johnson took it upon himself to get his teammates involved with flash and focus. The ball movement was contagious for the Hoosiers as they finished with 17 assists. They weren't rattled by Maryland's zone defense and by swinging the ball from side to side, created opportunities to score off cuts to the basket while catching the defense out of position. Johnson totaled nine assists (a season high) while only recording two turnovers and one personal foul. He led the fast break like a man possessed and whipped passes into his big men after barely seeing them out of the corner of his eye. Johnson's level of play could not have come at a better time for Indiana with the recent injury to Rob Phinisee who didn't dress and is nursing plantar fasciitis. Even without Phinisee, Indiana's defensive pressure was impressive from the start, specifically at the rim. It was a collective effort to contest and send shots away from the opposing basket. The six blocks for Indiana is a solid total but even more impressive is the fact that five different players recorded one. Collectively IU held Maryland's leading scorers in Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell to just 5-for-24 combined from the floor. Woodson spoke on his team's defensive effort and they were able to execute. "They saw bodies," he said. "They didn't have a lot of room to work. That's good team defense. Everybody being in the proper position and doing what's asked of them." Offensively Indiana controlled the painted area scoring over half its points at the rim and keeping Maryland away from theirs. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson took turns seeing who could score more in the paint. Both teamed up to have efficient days from the field and rebound extremely well. Jackson-Davis finished with 17 points and nine rebounds while Thompson tallied a quiet 18 and 12. The question is and always has been, can Indiana keep it going for more than a couple games? Well, after looking at their schedule in the month of February, the Hoosiers will have to. Starting with Illinois they face a gauntlet of Big Ten foes on the road and at home. A week from Saturday promises to be another telling matchup for the Hoosiers at home against a top-25 team in Illinois. Woodson left his postgame interview with these thoughts. "This team is continuing to grow." And they'll have to grow up fast in order to keep pace with the best in the conference.
Streaks are meant to be snapped just like records are meant to be broken. Indiana just didn't know when it would happen. Having lost nine straight games to Purdue, Jan. 20, 2022 will be remembered in a number of ways. It could go down as the "Rob Phinisee game" after the senior from Lafayette scored a career-high 20 points and hit a game-winning 3-point shot. It could be known as "The game without Trayce" as the preseason All-American battled through foul trouble, playing only 11 minutes with his team still managing to emerge victorious. In the end, it will go down as the night Indiana finally beat No. 4 Purdue in front of one of the best crowds Assembly Hall has ever hosted. The buzz around Bloomington was different this time and the outcome showed you why. Here are five questions for us to answer after the insanity. What if I told you before the game that Trayce Jackson-Davis would have four points in 11 minutes? Zak: Well I would have had a sneaking suspicion that Jackson-Davis got injured, possibly dooming Indiana’s season. Then I would have told you that Purdue must have made it 10 straight victories over IU and it probably wasn’t close. The fact that the opposite occurred and IU was able to beat the No. 4 team in the country behind legendary performances from its backcourt seemed inconceivable just days ago. In the end, Rob Phinisee gave Indiana the best effort of his career while Jackson-Davis still managed to deliver the two clutchest free throws of the season. William McDermott: I would have said Indiana must have gotten blown out. Jackson-Davis was coming off an odd back injury against Nebraska but was still good to go. Purdue’s objective was clear early -- get him in foul trouble. It worked and he never had the chance to get going. Luckily for IU, the bench made me eat my words from my previous story and played phenomenal. What sparked Indiana’s run in the first half? William: Robert Phinisee. The senior was just incredible. Confident and under control. I turned to Zak at one of the timeouts and just remember talking about how impressive he was in controlling the pace and flow of the game. It looked so natural. When Indiana needed a bucket early he responded. Zak: William tells the truth. Phinisee checks into the ball game, instantly gets a block, a steal and knocks down his first 3-pointer. William turned to me with astonishment and instantly sang his praises. He was right, as Phinisee turned the game around and would not be denied. He looked like a different player, a determined player, set on getting his first ever win over the rival Boilermakers. How did this game change Rob Phinisee’s legacy? Zak: Phinisee's performance on Thursday night showed basketball players everywhere that no matter how poorly you've performed offensively in a season, one big game can change everything. His game-winning 3-pointer sealed his legacy as a clutch shot maker who stepped up when his team needed him the most. However, I do believe this performance doesn't happen without Mike Woodson's constant encouragement in his ear. William: Phinisee will forever be remembered for this performance. IU fans will always remember this. Put the photos in the Louvre. He was known as ‘Big Shot Rob’ for a reason. He showed why. What were you thinking when Phinisee’s game winner went up? Zak: From our angle in section K, I thought it was missing off the back rim. It didn't look on line to me, as he was clearly off balance and fading to his right but he put enough arc on the shot to nestle it in. Phinisee showed guts taking that shot after missing a previous wide open look, seconds before. William: My first thought was, “is this the play that was drawn up?” It was. Woodson said postgame that it was a new inbound set they just learned and it was supposed to be for Jackson-Davis underneath. Jackson-Davis was a little open but Galloway, the inbounder didn’t like the look. Phinisee, who missed the shot right before, was the second option. Is Mike Woodson’s first season already a success? William: No, make the NCAA tournament. Things are looking good already but it just needs to happen. It’s been too long. This is a good start. The energy and aura that Woodson has brought to the program is something that I don’t think many saw coming. I mean, students were lined up around Briscoe right before the game. That’s like a block and a half away! All in all, make the tourney for the first time since 2016 and people will be happy. Zak: Call me a prisoner of the moment but yes. This team has shown that defending its home court is not just something written on the whiteboard before every game. It is part of the program's identity now and that is all thanks to Mike Woodson. The belief he has instilled in his players has set up IU to be consistent threat in the Big Ten and singlehandedly reinvigorated a program that looked liked it had lost its identity. Of course, the tournament is what we should look at as the baseline for success in Indiana, but this win will never be forgotten and missing out on the tournament well could be.
We've seen this movie before and IU fans never like the way it ends. Sure the beginning is fun, the team plays well and builds a lead — only to have it slip through their hands in the waining minutes. Leading by seven at the half, Indiana had its first road win in sight. Shooting 58 percent from the field while holding the nation's leading scorer in Keegan Murray to just six points meant IU had executed its game plan for the first 20 minutes. It was a game of runs early, but Iowa dealt the finishing blow resulting in a 83-74 victory for the Hawkeyes. Iowa benefited from a career night by Kris Murray, twin brother of Keegan. Kris scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds off the bench. Both were career highs. Keegan Murray was in foul trouble for most of the game, meaning Iowa would have to lean on alternative scoring sources. Iowa has the personnel beyond Keegan to score and showed that on Thursday night. It was the 11th time Iowa has scored over 80 points this season. The Hawkeyes have only lost once when doing so. For the Hoosiers thus far, leaving the state of Indiana has meant their chances of winning are slim to none. Head coach Mike Woodson spoke postgame on what it takes to win on the road. "Turnovers, rebounding and free throws are the three areas you have to be great at to win on the road... and we struck out on all three,” Woodson said. Couldn't have said it any better myself. Woodson is spot on here. There are times when IU has performed poorly in these areas and won — every instance has occurred at home. Indiana's play against Iowa's full-court press and half-court zone was especially concerning. IU committed 23 turnovers leading to 34 Hawkeye points (41 percent of their total). In the second half there were more instances of Indiana looking lost on the offensive end than actually putting together productive possessions. This starts with the point guard play. Much has been made about their poor shooting from the field, but now initiating the offense and taking care of the ball have become serious issues. Rob Phinisee and Xavier Johnson combined for nine points and eight turnovers on 3-for-12 shooting. All after playing an outstanding first half against Minnesota on Sunday when it looked like they had turned things around. Johnson's foul trouble has affected his rhythm on the court all season. He leads the team in personal fouls (2.8 per game) and with Woodson's unwillingness to play Khristian Lander, the team looks to Phinisee who struggles to fill the holes created by Johnson's constant absence. Woodson voiced his displeasure with how IU's guards handled Iowa's zone defense. "We didn't handle it,” Woodson said. “Rob and X didn't handle it well at all." On top of the turnovers, the rebounding discrepancy against Iowa was inexcusable and hard to comprehend. Iowa shot a worse percentage from the field and had its leading rebounder in foul trouble all night. On their own, the Murray brothers combined for more rebounds (20) than Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Jordab Geronimo, Michael Durr, Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway (19) combined. This is an IU team leading the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game at almost 31 coming into Thursday night. "When (Iowa) made the run in the second half, there was a two-minute stretch where we couldn't get a rebound," Woodson said. "They kept getting offensive rebounds until they either drew a foul or put it back in." The free-throw shooting discrepancy between IU and its opponents is consistently staggering. Shooting just 5-for-11 in the second-half of a road game in conference is sure to come back and bite you. This is problem that goes back years with this core unit but until this group make foul shots consistently, IU will always be at a disadvantage late in ball games. Indiana has a great chance to the quiet the narrative of its road struggles when it travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska on Jan. 17. Woodson aims to have his team prepared to get back in the win column during an important stretch of games starting with Nebraska. "They'll be ready for us... we have to go there and commit ourselves for 40 minutes,” Woodson said.
Indiana quickly regained momentum in 2022 by feeding off the infectious atmosphere inside Assembly Hall, picking up its first win over a ranked opponent. Propelled by stellar performances from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Trey Galloway, IU defeated No. 13 Ohio State 67-51. After their lackluster performance at Penn State, the Hoosiers needed to release some pent up aggression. IU would do so defensively, holding Ohio Sate to just 51 points on 31 percent shooting from the field. It was the Buckeyes' worst offensive performance statistically since they last played in Assembly Hall back on Jan. 11, 2020 when they scored only 54 in a loss. Offensively it was the usual suspect for the Hoosiers, Jackson-Davis played one of the most complete games of his college career, finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Head coach Mike Woodson spoke on the All-American's performance postgame. "I expect him to play like that... I was harsh on him more than anybody coming out of the Penn State game," Woodson said. It's no surprise to see Jackson-Davis responding to his coach's criticism. Jackson-Davis returned to this program this season to be coached by a man whom he believed would take his game to the next level and we've seen that happen just 14 games in. You need to see this. Left handed d u n k from @TrayceJackson? Yeah, we got it. CC: @IndianaMBB pic.twitter.com/wRFoUyBu8o — Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 7, 2022 What came as a pleasant surprise were the game-changing minutes provided by sophomore Trey Galloway. Galloway had missed two full months with a fractured left wrist and contributed 19 minutes of outstanding production on both ends. He finished with eight points, four rebounds and four assists featuring two late-game steals which solidified the victory. I certainly didn't see Galloway being this productive, this quickly, after his scary fall against St. John's earlier in the year. When asked about Galloway's performance and quick turnaround, Woodson said he wasn't surprised. "We knew that was a piece that was missing... we patiently waited for him to rehab to get back and he responded tonight," Woodson said. Galloway was ball of energy all night for IU. His nonstop movement with his body and the ball helped Indiana get out of slumps suffered in its half court offense. He's an outstanding driver of the basketball who understands his limitations as a distance shooter, so he regularly utilizes a quick pump fake, getting his defender off balance and creating an open lane to the hoop. Finally, Woodson voiced his pleasure with how his team was able to rebound from a tough loss and play a complete contest. "I thought this was probably the best game we've played all season... in terms of how we defended and how the ball moved offensively," Woodson said. It's become clear that Indiana will play like a different team at home. They're a more confident team which believes they can beat any team that sets foot on that hardwood in Bloomington. Opponents have been quick to attribute the hostile atmosphere to their struggles and Indiana has taken advantage of every opportunity thus far. I believe we'll see this mentality the rest of the season and it will result in further upsets...opposing teams beware. After picking up their 11th win, the Hoosiers remains undefeated at home, when Woodson wears a suit and when Trey Galloway plays -- trends the Hoosiers will look to continue having contribute to their on-court success after a momentum-building win. IU's next test comes in the form of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Assembly Hall at noon on Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In the final Crossroads Classic, Indiana emerged victorious 64-56 over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. IU improves to 9-2 on the season after picking up its eighth win in 11 tries, the most by any team in the Classic. Down by as many as nine with seven minutes to play in the first half, IU looked to its man in the middle to settle things down. Struggling to create clean looks in the half-court meant that post ups for Trayce Jackson-Davis were Indiana's best chance at creating offense. This proved to be true with Jackson-Davis making his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Jackson-Davis finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. In the postgame press conference, head coach Mike Woodson detailed his demands to get the ball inside to the All-American. "Our strength is playing inside-out with our big guys...and I don't really want to stray away from that," Woodson said. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey called the decision on when to double team Jackson-Davis a "dilemma" because of IU's new threats on the perimeter. IU was not firing on all cylinders by any means, but the new wrinkle of having personnel who can hit 3-pointers led to its eventual double-digit lead. With 12 minutes to play in the second half, IU accumulated a 10-point lead. Subsequently, Notre Dame answered with a 11-1 run to tie the game at 46. It almost looked like the second half against Wisconsin was producing a sequel. However, this time Woodson referenced his team's polar opposite performance down the stretch. "That's the first thing I said when I closed out our meeting with the team... our guys stepped up and made the plays they needed to make to win the game," Woodson said. Although that was certainly the case, Indiana played far from perfect, committing 14 turnovers. The team is averaging 16 a game which is tied with Illinois for the most in the Big Ten. It's a glaring issue the Hoosiers have to clean up if they are ever going to keep teams at bay and maintain leads. While the lack of direction and sloppiness on offense were concerning for IU, there were bright spots that can't be glossed over. The play of Rob Phinisee, while his shooting percentage might not show it, had his most effective game of the season. He scored six on two made 3-pointers, collected five rebounds and had a team-high five assists. His passing was excellent, specifically on lob passes to Jackson-Davis resulting in either field goals or free throws. The biggest make from the perimeter came from Phinisee with under five minutes to play and could be a sign of things to come for a player who hasn't been healthy all year. When asked about Phinisee's role with the team Woodson had glowing things to say about the longtime Hoosier. "I need Rob in the worst way," Woodson said. "I think he knows how I feel about him... he can make plays for other people. That's what point guards do." His contribution was that much more important due to the absence of Tamar Bates. No Bates meant that IU would search to replace his playmaking ability. More playmaking came from an unlikely source for IU. Sophomore Anthony Leal played 16 minutes, didn't score but moved the ball extremely well and has grown extensively on the defensive end. Fellow sharpshooter Parker Stewart has been a revelation and continues to shoot the lights out from 3-point range. At 49 percent from outside, there's no reason this team can't look for more opportunities for its best shooter. Indiana continues to lean on its defense and do just enough on offense to squeak out victories. There's still a lot to clean up but even more to look forward to in the coming months.
This year's Hoosier squad looked different from years past... for a half. 1998 remains the last time Indiana was able to win in Madison, Wisconsin. However, this game especially left the Indiana faithful bewildered. After playing arguably their best half of the season and accumulating a 22-point lead they couldn't possibly lose, right? Shockingly, Indiana lost 64-59 to the No. 22 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. It was clear from the opening tip that Mike Woodson had preached playing with urgency to his team. IU was poised to perform and get its first signature win of the year. IU put together a masterful first half on both sides of the ball. Offensively the Hoosiers played a satisfying brand of basketball in the half court and in transition. In the half-court no one was standing -- there was constant movement and cutting, and the shot selection was excellent. Shooting nearly 55 percent, IU built a 22-point lead with 1:20 to play in the first half. IU even hit five of eight 3-point shots and only missed one free throw. Unfortunately for IU, things evened out in the worst possible way as the second half spelled disaster. Wisconsin came back from the dead and by the end of the night, Indiana had taken its place. Indiana scored a season-low 17 points in the second half. IU missed easy looks at the rim and open looks from 3 stopped falling. Six misses from the free-throw line compounded their issues late, making it more difficult to stop Wisconsin's momentum. "We have to fix that. We have to make free throws on the road in tight games," Woodson told Don Fischer on his postgame radio show. Trayce Jackson-Davis had a season-low nine points on 10 shots and got his least amount of post-up opportunities all season. In the backcourt, Xavier Johnson posted an active stat line despite getting into foul trouble yet again. Johnson attempted to take over in the games biggest moments but seemed out of control when playing downhill and driving to the basket. He finished with seven assists but strayed away from facilitating down the stretch and IU certainly would have benefited from better ball movement. The Badgers relied heavily on their leading scorer Johnny Davis to lead them back. Davis competed on both sides of the floor in the second half, finishing with 23 points on nearly 50 percent shooting and was the only Badger in double figures. His final bucket came with 1:17 on the game clock. With time running out on the shot clock, Davis fired a fadeaway 3 from the right corner and it settled in to give Wisconsin its first lead since the early moments of the contest. Afterwards Woodson acknowledged the significance of the shot. "The biggest bucket was Davis' 3 to put them up," Woodson said. "We couldn't answer after that." The 22-point comeback matched the largest in Wisconsin's program history set back to 1976. IU continues to display the disturbing trend of being the Big Ten's Jekyll and Hyde. The Hoosiers show flashes of brilliance but playing a full 40 minutes still eludes them. Playing two halves of efficient basketball is a part of what separates the good teams from the great ones. IU will not be able to survive these sloppy halves against conference opponents. Woodson understands this better than anyone and put himself front and center after the loss. "I've got to get them over the hump... This was a winnable game," Woodson said. IU has the chance to get right against Merrimack in Bloomington on Sunday.
After suffering its first loss at the hands of Syracuse, Indiana returns home to welcome its first Big Ten opponent Saturday. The Nebraska Cornhuskers come off their own heartbreaking loss against NC State this past Wednesday. After losing in four overtimes, Nebraska fell to 5-3 while Indiana is 6-1. With both teams following multiple-overtime road loses, their emphasis will be on bouncing back and not making the same mistakes which cost them each close ball games. The Cornhuskers certainly watched the tape of IU's first half struggles against the Syracuse zone defense and may implement that into their own game plan. Opponents implementing zone defenses against IU is something to watch for in the coming weeks. Head coach Mike Woodson said he was disgusted with his team's turnover differential against Syracuse. If the players weren't already tired from playing 50 minutes of basketball, the sprints Woodson made them run in the practices following surely did. IU will continue to aim for no more than 12 turnovers per game. Led by an offensive-minded head coach in Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska averages 80 points and gets half of that total from three players. Bryce McGowens, Alonzo Verge Jr. and Derrick Walker are all talented but the roster is top-heavy in terms of scoring. Their lack of scoring depth may prove costly against an IU team poised for an improved defensive showing.
Where to begin... After 50 minutes of war on the hardwood in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse outlasted Indiana 112-110 on Tuesday night. This game was an instant classic and arguably the most entertaining game of the early college hoops season. Having not yet tasted defeat, Indiana was determined to make an impression against its toughest opponent to date. Down 16 at the break and 18 early in the second half, the outlook was bleak for Indiana. Thirteen first-half turnovers were front and center for the Hoosiers. The turnovers would remain a disturbing trend for Indiana as they finished with a season-high 26. I think many of you will agree, if that number is just cut in half we would be talking about an undefeated Indiana team heading into conference play. Head coach Mike Woodson called the unforced errors in the first half "ridiculous" as they are a clear deficiency for an otherwise skilled group of players. Those issues combined with the stellar play of the Boeheim brothers left Indiana searching for answers at the half. The zone was causing all sorts of problems for Indiana in the first half. A 2-3 zone eliminates all one-on-one matchups and can bait teams into hoisting up three point jumpers. The Orange executed the zone effectively to start the game. They forced IU's forwards to become decision makers inside, leading to a litany of early turnovers. Also, IU did itself no favors by missing plenty of open 3s to start. As the Hoosiers held on for dear life, Parker Stewart brought them back from the dead, igniting the offense with four 3-pointers in a matter of minutes. That 12-1 run gave the Hoosiers the momentum needed to keep up with the Orange. IU exploded for 55 second-half points and finally began dissecting Syracuse's 2-3 defensive zone. The adjustments made by Woodson and his players showed the difference in this year's Indiana team compared to those from years past. IU began to find the soft spots in the zone leading to easy shots for Race Thompson, who also found open shooters when his looks were not there. Thompson may have had the ball in his hands more than any game this season, playing a career-high 44 minutes with eight assists but also seven turnovers. Without the added elements of Stewart and Miller Kopp stretching the floor, Indiana would have no chance to win high scoring affairs like Tuesday night’s game. Both Stewart and Kopp picked ideal times to have their best games as Hoosiers. Stewart finished with 20 points, featuring six makes from 3, while Kopp had a career-high 28 points and showed he can do more than just spot up. In fact, this matchup featured six players finish with 20 points or better. The last time a box score has featured numbers like that was back in 2009 when Syracuse played six overtimes against UConn. While those numbers are impressive, I think I've waited to long enough to discuss the heroics of Trayce Jackson-Davis. Fresh off his honor of being named National Player of the Week, Jackson-Davis rose and shined again. With around four minutes left in the second half, Jackson-Davis fell to the floor after banging knees with a defender. He grimaced in pain and the entire city of Bloomington held its breath. After icing the sore knee over on the bench, Jackson-Davis remarkably returned to the court, reinvigorated for the final minutes of regulation and overtime. Jackson-Davis has shown more emotion in the past two games than ever before. He's playing like a man who has completely bought into what Woodson is selling. Every time he enters the huddle he implores his teammates to give everything they've got on each possession. That passion is exactly what Jackson-Davis displayed in the latter stages of the contest. After the contact to his knee, Jackson-Davis scored 13 points in the final two minutes of regulation and both overtime periods. Finishing with 31 points and 16 rebounds, Jackson-Davis turned in another All-American effort. He even shot 9-for-14 from the free-throw line, including two shots to tie with less than a second remaining. Under Woodson, every player is showing improvement and buy-in for a program that has been re-energized. Indiana may have left the Carrier Dome with a loss, but the Hoosiers showed the country this group will never lay down. This team continues to shows signs of evolving into a group that can win consistently. Conference play presents a new threat but something tells me these Hoosiers will be ready. IU heads home to play Nebraska and open up Big Ten play in a winnable game on Saturday.
Early non-conference matchups have given Indiana a chance to find its identity under Mike Woodson. Through five games, the Hoosiers have shown us their defense is what will give them a chance to win every game. Even without Rob Phinisee for the second straight game, their perimeter defense was staggering. Hoosier guards have been excellent at making decisions when defending in the half-court, whether it's contesting perimeter jump shots or feeding opposing guards into the paint to be at the mercy of Trayce Jackson-Davis or Race Thompson. Indiana blocked eight more shots Tuesday night, which is right around its average of seven per game. Opponents have had nowhere to turn for clean looks at the basket and more often then not, they are finding Hoosier hands contesting. Now in back-to-back games, IU has held opponents to the lowest shooting percentages allowed since 2009. Louisiana shot 19.2 percent and Jackson State did not fare much better at 20.7 percent. Jackson State's 35 points are the fewest IU has allowed in a game since 1971. IU now ranks first nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed at 28.4 percent. There is no question Woodson wants to lead a team that takes pride on the defensive end. Five games in, his players have brought their hard hats to work each and every game. Woodson would not ask that of his team if he knew the personnel was not capable. This group for Indiana defends by committee. When you watch IU, the players' ability to switch defensive assignments is key when defending the pick and roll. Effective switching on the perimeter is not possible without constant communication and versatile defenders. Whenever screens are set, players such as Jordan Geronimo and Race Thompson are able to stay in front of ball handlers long enough to where another switch can take place. Newcomers such as Tamar Bates, Xavier Johnson and Michael Durr complement the defensive energy that the core group of players have brought throughout their years with the program. Bates and Johnson continue to add elements of aggressive defense and offense that teams in recent history have not had. The size and length IU can show teams on the perimeter, will only increase opportunities in transition from live-ball turnovers. Indiana is averaging over five steals per contest while forcing 15 turnovers. Nothing is more fun than a team that likes to run up and down the floor. This team has the ability to do so, scoring 18 of their 70 total points in transition Tuesday night. The level of depth at guard and forward have made this possible. Not enough can be said about the job Woodson has done as a recruiter. It's an early sample size of how the team can play together but so far the pieces seem to fit. Woodson came to IU envisioning a team that could get back to the promised land led by its defense. While we are only five games in, he seems to have found it. After Thanksgiving, Indiana will face Marshall and Syracuse before opening up Big Ten play against Nebraska on Dec. 4.
Two of the top 10 winningest programs in NCAA basketball history collide for a Gavitt Games matchup Wednesday as Indiana welcomes St. John’s. Both teams are looking to start 3-0 following comfortable victories in each of their most recent contests. Indiana looks to carry over an improved defensive effort from its latest outing in hopes of stopping the St. John’s attack. The Red Storm features its own all-conference threat in Julian Champagnie. The Hoosiers will have multiple bodies to throw at Champagnie, who led the Big East in scoring last year at 19.8 points per game. St. John’s received several votes in the AP poll and are seen by many as a tournament team which would come as no surprise to its decorated head coach Mike Anderson. Part of Anderson’s recruiting class last year is its talented guard Posh Alexander. Alexander won the honor of Big East Freshman of the Year joining names such as Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. Not bad company, right? Indiana’s dynamic duo of Xavier Johnson and Big Ten player of the week Trayce Jackson-Davis have started strong. Now it’s time to show out on the nationally televised stage of FS1. Not only that, but some of the fresh faces will have to make their mark in order for Indiana to emerge victorious. Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp have been relatively quiet in the starting five. They could see more opportunities off of Jackson-Davis double teams leading to more open 3s. Open shots have to begin falling for Indiana, and getting these two those looks is imperative. It marks the eighth all-time meeting between IU and St. John’s, with their last meeting coming in 2015. The Hoosiers won 83-73 in Bloomington. Wednesday night will show us a lot about how IU is coming together early in the season. The Hoosiers are currently 6.5-point favorites at home.