While much is made of starting lineups in basketball, closing lineups often paint a clearer picture of where a head coach’s mind is at relates to the five he trusts most to go win the game.
Through 15 games of his college coaching career, IU’s Mike Woodson has only departed from his starting five of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Miller Kopp, Parker Stewart and Xavier Johnson once, and that ostensibly related to a punishment rather than anything performance related.
But over the last two games, only three of the first five have had major roles in the last ten minutes of each contest. And that’s particularly noteworthy because Indiana has been dominant during that part of its two most recent games.
In the last ten minutes of the last two games, Indiana outscored Minnesota and Ohio State by an average of 21.5 to 8.5 points, shot 61.5 percent from the floor, and committed just two turnovers total.
Meanwhile they held the Buckeyes and Gophers to 21.7 percent shooting while forcing a total of nine turnovers.
Of those total 20 minutes of second half game action over the last two contests, here is how the minutes were allocated:
- Trey Galloway: 20:00
- Trayce Jackson-Davis: 18:43
- Rob Phinisee: 18:29
- Race Thompson: 15:46
- Xavier Johnson: 14:33
- Jordan Geronimo: 5:04
- Parker Stewart: 4:16
- Miller Kopp: 2:42
- Michael Durr: 27 seconds
The quintet of Jackson-Davis, Thompson, Galloway, Phinisee and Johnson played the last 6:57 of the Ohio State game and turned a seven-point lead into a 16-point win. Three days later that same five played the six minute and five second stretch of the second half that saw IU expand its lead from 57-54 to 68-56.
On his Monday night radio show, head coach Mike Woodson was asked by radio voice Don Fischer about his team’s recent performances late in games.
“That’s huge. That’s what we call winning basketball where you’re finishing games,” Woodson told Fischer.
“When you’re trying to win and compete at a high level, you’ve got to be able to complete games like that when your back is against the wall a little bit.”
The combination of point guards Johnson and Phinisee on the floor together has been an emerging trend that has its origins on the defensive end. Woodson went to the duo in Indianapolis when Notre Dame was having success getting to the rim with dribble penetration.
“I feel like we get a lot of stops with me and him on the floor because it’s hard to beat us all off the dribble,” Johnson said on Sunday of playing alongside Phinisee. “We both pick up 94 feet, and we just play defense because we know it gets the team going.”
The newest addition to the defense-oriented late-game lineup is Galloway, who despite just returning from nearly two months off due to a wrist injury, has played every second of the last ten minutes of the last two games.
“He worked his butt off to get back and we’re benefitting from the results,” Woodson said Monday night of Galloway. “The last two games he’s been spectacular the way he’s played, his energy on both ends of the floor, and that’s why he’s been in at the end of the games, because he’s doing the things that I think are necessary to help us win games.”
STEWART LOOKING FOR MORE WAYS TO SCORE
When Indiana goes to late-game lineups without Parker Stewart, it is a decision that entails sitting the team’s best 3-point shooter on the bench.
With opponents doing their best to run Stewart off the 3-point line and make him score in other ways, his shot volume has been relatively low. He’s only averaging 4.3 field goal attempts per game over the last six contests.
Stewart averaged 19.2 points per game during the 2019-20 season while playing for his father at UT Martin, and he did that on 15.2 field goal attempts per contest. So he is accustomed to being leaned on as a scorer. Stewart is looking to his earlier career experiences to help him respond to the defensive ploy he has seen this year.
“At my old school I played point guard, obviously my role here is different so I’m still working on getting adjusted. But I feel like I’m getting more comfortable every game,” Stewart said when asked about looking to score more off the dribble.
Indiana set up some baseline out-of-bounds plays that resulted in looks for Stewart inside the 3-point arc as well.
“I got a couple tonight (Sunday against Minnesota) off of out of bounds plays, focusing on setting a good screen for someone else helps get me open,” Stewart said. “Also, trying to be more aggressive inside the arc opens up the three ball for me more as well I think.”
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