Anthony Leal isn’t going to light a stat sheet on fire. Four years into his college basketball career, that’s pretty evident.
But you can’t judge performance from a box score. Leal put up two points, one block and a single assists against Kennesaw State on Friday night. Those numbers don’t come anywhere near his true impact on the game.
He wasn’t in for cleanup duty, being inserted when Indiana lost the lead in the second half. For a backcourt lacking depth due to absences from Xavier Johnson and Jakai Newton, Leal provided exactly what was needed.
He brought the ball up the court in relief of Trey Galloway and got it where it needed to be as Indiana seized control of the game. On defense, he knew exactly where he and fellow teammates needed to be to stem the Owls’ attack.
With Leal in, Indiana went on a 32-17 run to close out the game for the win. He finished with the highest +/- of the team on the night, with 17.
Leal’s experience is what mattered. He knows where to be on both ends of the court and provides a steady presence. Going from bench hype man to helping turn the tide of a potential bad loss is no small feat.
It’s something the staff picked up on, even before the game.
“After the break, he came back, and I thought his two days of practice, he deserved to play more, and I just decided to play him,” Mike Woodson said after the game. “He gave us a hell of a spark when he came in. I mean, just from a defensive standpoint. He did a lot of things that we didn’t do early in that spot.”
Leal could see more minutes as the season goes on, especially with Johnson recovering from an injury. Given all the time he’s spent here and the kind of teammate he’s been, you can’t say it’s anything but well earned.