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Xavier Johnson emerging in Indiana men’s basketball’s offense

Johnson transferred to Indiana from Pittsburgh this past offseason.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Indiana Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Johnson transferred to Indiana men’s basketball this past offseason after spending the previous two seasons at Pittsburgh. He’d started in 65 of his 66 career games with Pittsburgh. He’s spent this season helping run the offense under new head coach Mike Woodson,

Before Indiana’s game against Penn State, Woodson told Johnson to get downhill and make plays once he’s there. Johnson promptly picked up six assists, including an alley-oop to Trayce Jackson-Davis and finding Miller Kopp beyond the arc for a 3-pointer.

When Johnson wasn’t setting up plays for teammates he dealt the damage himself, pulling up for a 3-pointer early in the first half and storming down the court for a layup following a Penn State turnover.

[RELATED: Three Things: Indiana beats Penn State 74-57]

That layup could have been a dunk, but a Penn State defender was in hot pursuit to make a play if Johnson went for the rim. Rather than take that risk, Johnson opted for an underhand layup.

“He’s getting everybody involved, and also getting himself involved when he needs to,” Race Thompson said in a postgame press conference. “He really helps set the pace of the game.”

Johnson nearly doubled his scoring average from the previous 17 games in Indiana’s past three against Purdue, Michigan and Penn State. Following the win over Penn State, Woodson said the game is beginning to slow down for Johnson.

Woodson began to enter the postgame press conference as the player’s portion ended. Johnson noticed after answering one last question, calling out “Gotta wait, big dog!” with a smile as his coach stood in the doorway.

“It’s still a work in progress, man, but he has gotten better,” Woodson said. “His last three ball games have been pretty positive and productive. I just need him to continue to grow, man, because we’re going to need him as we continue this journey in the Big Ten.”

He’ll have a chance to continue this offensive tear in front of friends and family when the team travels to Maryland on Saturday. Johnson attended Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia, just an hour’s drive from XFINITY Center.

“I do have a lot of family down there,” Johnson said. “It’s only 45 minutes from being home. I know it’s going to be a good environment overall. I’m still going to play with my team and go and win the game on the road.”