After a lackluster performance on the road in East Lansing earlier this week, Indiana bounced back with its biggest win of the season last night, taking down the No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers in Mackey Arena.
The season sweep of Purdue (music to my ears, basketball ambrosia) is Indiana’s first since 2012-13.
Jalen Hood-Schifino had a career-high 35 points, while Trayce Jackson-Davis added 10 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists to become the fourth highest scoring Hoosier in program history. Four Indiana players finished in double digit scoring, finally proving that the offense can travel when it needs to.
For the first time since the 2016 Big Ten title, Indiana hit the 20 win mark in the regular season and will not need a run in the conference tournament to cement its place in the field of 68. As things stand though, Indiana is a half game out of second place in the conference and projects to get a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
The season easily could have been lost when Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson went down in a span of four games, but Mike Woodson has turned the season around and even preserved a shot at the conference title with yesterday’s win.
Here’s Three Things:
He’s been listed as a first rounder in mock drafts for the last couple of weeks now, but last night proved that Jalen Hood-Schifino is one of the elite players in college basketball right now. His 35 points are the second most for a freshman in a game in Indiana history, behind only Jay Edwards’ 36 points against Minnesota in 1988.
In both matchups against Purdue, it’s been extremely obvious why he was considered a five-star recruit, a cut above Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. He can create offense and score from any spot on the floor, which helped Indiana exploit Zach Edey’s lack of defensive mobility.
At this point, I don’t see any way that he would be back for his sophomore season, which may not sound great but is a good thing for Indiana in the long run. Mike Woodson has established that Indiana can be a destination for players of Hood-Schifino’s caliber to realize their potential, which should lead to more big time commitments in the future.
Jalen’s performance last night is a prime example of how recruiting wins translate to on court success. Realistically, Mike Woodson won this year’s matchup with Matt Painter on August 24, 2021, when Hood-Schifino signed on with the Hoosiers.
Hood-Schifino was also crucial in landing Malik Reneau, who projects to be a staple in Indiana’s offense going forward after flashing his potential in games like Indiana’s four point road win in Minnesota, when he had 10 points. The pair continue to recruit their former teammates from Monteverde too, including Liam McNeely and Asa Newell, who are both top 25 players in the class of 2024.
This is not to overshadow what Jalen means to this team right now. Despite his potential, nobody was expecting him to have to take on this role in the offense when the season started.
There’s really no way Indiana would be in the position it’s in if Jalen hadn’t played himself into being a potential lottery pick, so we should all be grateful to witness the season he’s had. He won’t be around long, but he’s already taken the Hoosiers to new heights in his short stay in Bloomington.
One of Indiana’s biggest problems this season has been getting offense from people other than Trayce and Jalen, especially on the road. This was not an issue last night, as Indiana got big contributions from both Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway, who both outscored Trayce last night.
Most importantly, the two were true 3-point threats, going a combined 6-11 from deep to punish the Boilermakers for overcommitting to Trayce or Jalen. Kopp’s 3-7 night was far from his best percentage-wise, but he stayed aggressive all game and kept putting up shots well into the second half.
In 38 minutes as Indiana’s secondary ball handler, Galloway committed 0 turnovers, helping Indiana stay under 10 turnovers as a team in what was probably the most hostile environment they’ve seen all season. The duo also defended well, making Loyer and Smith as uncomfortable at home as they were in Assembly Hall a few weeks back.
If Kopp and Galloway can keep producing and shooting like this on the road, Indiana can become a lot more dangerous in the Big Ten tournament and beyond. Teams are going to continue to focus their entire defenses on Trayce and Jalen, so those two need to be ready to step up and make them pay for this team to reach its highest potential.
Indiana lost to Purdue in every game for four straight seasons before Mike Woodson arrived. In his first four games against the Boilermakers, Woodson is now 3-1.
As I said above, a lot of this comes down to the caliber of recruits that Woodson has been able to bring to campus. There’s simply no way Indiana could have swept this year’s season series without Jalen Hood-Schifino cutting up Painter’s defense both times.
Woodson has also gotten more from the guys on the roster that he inherited, like Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is firmly in the NPOY conversations and has probably the best professional outlook of his career. Archie had Jackson-Davis in a much more limited role in his offense and defense, never allowing him to handle the ball or protect the rim he does now.
It hasn’t exactly been the season some expected in October or November, but Indiana will likely end up with the best NCAA tournament seed it’s had in nearly a decade and seems to have a roster capable of putting together a little run once there. The program has a sustained upward trajectory again, finally.
With two games remaining, Indiana has a chance to further solidify itself as a four (or even three) seed and position itself well for the big dance. No matter what happens though, it’s hard to deny that things are fun again.