Indiana ended a five game losing streak with a convincing 10-point victory over the visiting Maryland Terrapins in Assembly Hall. Indiana had entered the dreaded “must-win” portion of the season, according to such brilliant basketball minds as Stephen Bardo, and luckily, the Hoosiers won. The win keeps Indiana’s tournament hopes alive and temporarily silences concerns about its ability to close out games. At least until Sunday.
Here’s Three Things:
The Xavier Johnson Experience, Part Two
Indiana was once again without guards Rob Phinisee, Khristian Lander, and Trey Galloway, leaving Xavier Johnson as the only healthy Hoosier with any ball-handling experience. Tonight was a much better performance from Xavier, who was one free throw away from having a perfect shooting night (7-7 FG, 3-3 3pt., 7-8 FT). His 24 points were the game high, as were his six assists. Maryland finished with just seven assists as a team. Johnson was more cautious with the ball tonight too, turning the ball over just three times in 27 minutes of action.
Johnson has his share of critics among the Indiana fanbase, but games like tonight prove just how Important he is to this team. Parker Stewart, Tamar Bates, and Anthony Leal - Indiana’s only other healthy guards - combined for just 11 points tonight, on a rare off-night behind the arc for Stewart.
Ideally, we have at least one more healthy guard for the remaining three games, but credit to Johnson for stepping up when Indiana needed him and putting together one of his best performances as a Hoosier. It wasn’t long ago that Indiana had Serious point guard problems, so fans should not underestimate Johnson’s value to this Indiana team.
It wasn’t perfect
The final score does not reflect the fact that the game was, overall, not very comfortable for Indiana. Twice, the Hoosiers got up to a ten point lead, only for Maryland to tie it up or get within one possession. There were long scoring droughts, again.
Unfortunately, the way Indiana beat Maryland didn’t really answer some of the bigger concerns about the team. The bench scored just eight points tonight, even with an extended role given all of the injuries. Indiana also took just 13 3-pointers, including six from Stewart, who was not having a good night.
As is, Indiana is favored to win its next two games against Minnesota and Rutgers, per Kenpom. Still, the Hoosiers will probably need at least one of Galloway or Phinisee to get healthy or have the bench step up for me to feel great about Purdue or a Big Ten Tournament game.
It was a win though
Despite the injuries and underwhelming scoring nights from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Parker Stewart, Indiana eked out a win and snapped out of a funk that likely would have ended the season under the prior regime. Miller Kopp contributed eight points, and Race Thompson added 19 in 38 minutes on the court and Indiana got a solid defensive performance from the bench in the first half, allowing Jackson-Davis and Johnson to get some much-needed rest during this stretch of the season.
If the Hoosiers win those two games in which they’re favored, they’ll hit the 20-win mark for the first time since 2020, when they probably would have made the tournament had it not been canceled. The tournament hopes are very much alive and tonight was proof that this team can win these types of games, even without playing its best basketball.