Indiana desperately needed a Big Ten road win to get back on track after its worst loss of the season Saturday. You would not have known that with how the Hoosiers came out in the first half.
Even before the subs came in, starters were missing layups, free throws, and turning it over without much pressure from Ohio State. Then the bench came in without a true scorer left in the lineup and the Buckeyes started expanding their lead.
The lead got to 18 points two minutes into the second half and the game looked over. Malik Reneau, Indiana’s leader this season, appeared to have lost his composure on a travel call that ended an earlier Hoosier comeback attempt.
Then Reneau finished a dunk that the broadcast noted could be the spark Indiana needed. Trey Galloway followed it up with a three, then another layup, and suddenly the comeback had begun.
It wasn’t the kind of win that solves all of Indiana’s problems going forward, but the kind of effort that will keep the rest of the season interesting as the Hoosiers navigate the rest of conference play.
Here’s Three Things we learned:
While he scored more points against Kansas, Galloway’s 25 points, four assists, and six rebounds tonight make a strong case for being this being the game of his career at Indiana. This time, it was enough of a boost to give Indiana a hard-earned win.
Galloway and Reneau each played 38 minutes tonight, a less than ideal number in the big picture, but a reflection of how badly they want to win. As Xavier Johnson continues to miss time, Galloway stepped up to be the point guard Indiana needed to eke out a road win.
Despite starting at the two spot next to Gabe Cupps, Galloway was the offensive initiator when it came to crunch time to Indiana. Every time the shot clock hit 10, Indiana got him the ball and he made something happen, whether it was a pass, floater, or drawing a foul.
He also got it done on the defensive end today, drawing a huge offensive foul on Bruce Thornton that helped swing the momentum back in Indiana’s favor. And when it came time to take the lead, he delivered a perfect pass to longtime teammate Anthony Leal.
That’s the kind of effort and leadership Indiana needs from its seniors, especially in the backcourt, if it wants to remain competitive this year. It would have been easy to quit on the season after struggling through last game, but he responded in the best way possible.
One of the more asinine questions to emerge in the online discourse over Indiana’s 2023-24 season has been whether Mike Woodson can develop players. It’s a question that looks dumber every single time Indiana takes the floor this year.
Alongside Galloway, Reneau was the only Hoosier making things happen whenever he touched the ball. And like Galloway, he easily could have quit on this team or this game, especially after the tech he got early in the second half.
Instead, he turned in a career-high 14 rebounds to go with a game-high 26 points and two assists. He also hit 10 of his 15 free throws, making it more difficult for the teams who can’t stop him to foul him down the stretch.
Most significant tonight was his availability for 38 minutes. This is both a product of the work he did on his body in the offseason and his discipline, as he surely would have fouled out with the way he played last year.
I’d like to see him get back to the 3-point shot that was working for him earlier this season, but it’s hard to argue with the success he’s having inside and drawing fouls. Until other teams can figure it out, he’s gotta keep getting the ball.
For how ever much the fans may have quit on this season, the players have not. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is a challenge for anybody, and nobody really expected this team to do it on the heels of its 18-point home loss to Penn State.
Anthony Leal’s statline tonight is a great example. He struggled at the free throw line and focused on moving the ball on offense rather than getting his own shots, but knocked down a crucial 3-pointer with under a minute to play.
That shot gave Indiana its final lead, but wouldn’t have happened without the five rebounds and two assists he had before that moment. He gave the Hoosiers 26 crucial minutes of guard play on the heels of a tough personal performance against Penn State.
Ultimately, Indiana will need more scoring from the other bench players in the rotation, but you can’t fault Payton Sparks, Anthony Walker, or C.J. Gunn for their effort tonight.
All Indiana can do at this point is take things one game at a time and hope to piece together enough of these gutsy wins to make a run at some kind of postseason.