Indiana needed this one. Badly.
A road loss to Rutgers sparked an outpouring of rage from the fanbase online. Writers publicly called Mike Woodson’s abilities as a coach into question. Photos of Dusty May were all over the iubb hashtag on Twitter.
You’re never gonna quiet criticism from Hoosier fans, no matter what. But a 22-8 run to open the game will certainly make things a bit less loud on the internet.
The great start gave Indiana a lead it never relinquished in a 74-62 win Friday night. It’s a start Woodson attributed to the scouting report and his players’ execution, praising the Hoosiers for their defense.
“I thought the scouting report was perfectly fit going into the game, and they followed it right from the start,” Woodson said. “We really defended the ball. We didn’t let their guards really get away from us in terms of getting downhill, so we really focused in on not giving straight-line drives where we had to help as much.”
The first points of the game came courtesy of a pair of 3-pointers from Trey Galloway and Mackenzie Mgbako. From there, Galloway would go on to lead as a distributor, leading the Hoosiers with 7 assists and no turnovers.
As the most experienced guard on the floor with Xavier Johnson’s minutes limited, Woodson needs Galloway to have performances like that. It wasn’t necessarily his forte a few years ago, but he’s improved in that regard.
The energy at Assembly Hall reached its highest point when Galloway got a dunk in transition off a lob from Mgbako, fueling both the Hoosiers and every fan in the stands.
Mgbako proved reliable as a scorer, going off for a career-high 19 points.
Woodson said it came from his aggressive start, he was left open with one of Malik Reneau or Kel’el Ware drawing a double and made the Gophers pay. When Woodson ran plays for him, he usually knocked down the shots.
It wasn’t just 3s though. He drove with a purpose with the ball in his hands, taking it to the rim throughout the night. Above all things though, Woodson has emphasized defense with Mgbako.
“I feel like defense is the No. 1 thing he’s been trying to harp on because I feel like defense creates offense, and that’s really it.”
He’s knocked down shots before and been taken out for defensive lapses. He stayed with his assignment tonight and was rewarded with 34 minutes and a spot in Woodson’s closing lineup.
And then there was Ware with 17 points and 14 rebounds, almost quietly in the first category. He was aggressive on the glass, using his length to reach over the Gophers and haul in boards.
Indiana found a few ways to get him the ball in scoring position, be it on lobs or if he just found himself alone from deep.
There have been times where he fades on the offensive end or runs into foul trouble, it’s what led to his minutes being cut at Oregon. Here, he’s been provided the opportunity to work through it.
It’s safe to say Woodson has been rewarded for doing so.