INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18, 2021 - guard Rob Phinisee #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Indiana Hoosiers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. Photo By Andrew Mascharka/Indiana Athletics

Defense, Phinisee and cutting down mistakes help Hoosiers survive another up-and-down game

Indiana still has not figured out how to play a full-40 minute game but managed to secure the 64-56 win over Notre Dame at the last Crossroads Classic.

As we’ve seen before, the starting lineup got off to a very slow and sloppy start. They were stagnant in their half-court sets and turned the ball over seven times through the opening 10 minutes, with most of the mistakes coming from ill-advised entry passes into the post.

The Irish did a solid job of packing the paint to force Xavier Johnson to settle for jump shots. The transfer from Pitt shot 1-of-4 from deep and 1-of-5 from the field in the first half and added three turnovers. The team in total shot 6-of-16 during that stretch.

“I mean, our offense was so bad tonight. It was ridiculous,” said head coach Mike Woodson. “But again, we found ways to get things done and in spurts.”

The Hoosiers started to pick up the intensity and took better care of the basketball midway through the first half. During that stretch, they committed just two more turnovers the rest of the half for a total of nine.

The offense also started to find its rhythm. After being down nine, the Hoosiers rallied for a 15-3 run heading into halftime. They ended the half shooting 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from the field and 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) from deep.

The run started with two made free throws by Trayce Jackson-Davis. It also ended with a drive, fake spin, and then a left-handed layup by Jackson-Davis– who finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks for his fourth double-double of the season.

“Going in (the half) I thought the momentum shifted our way the last, what, four, five minutes of the first half when we went on that run to get back in it. And then coming up three at half, you know, I was feeling pretty good at that moment,” said Woodson.

“But knowing that 20 minutes is still a lot of time. And I just told them, hey, we just need to put a solid 20-minute half together and come out of here with a win.”

The Hoosiers came out strong in the second half, extending their lead to 10 until things started to get chippy.

As Jackson-Davis went up for a put-back layup, he was hacked and tackled to the ground by Cormac Ryan. The Hoosiers were rewarded with a flagrant 1, but Parker Stewart– who ended with 12 points and shot 3-of-4 from deep– was given a technical for a retaliation shove.

And the momentum shifted again.

This led to an 8-0 run for the Irish to tie the game. However, Rob Phinisee was the difference-maker for the Hoosiers down the stretch. The sixth-man managed to find Race Thompson for a turnaround hook shot.

Then, after a missed dunk from Jackson-Davis, Phinisee managed to track down the offensive rebound. He followed it up by finding the open spot on the floor and draining a big-time three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to extend the lead to five. The Lafayette, Ind. native had 6 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. Phinisee also managed to play a major role in holding Irish freshman star Blake Wesley to 5-of-16 shooting.

With Tamar Bates unavailable, Indiana needed someone to step into that scoring role off the bench, and Phinisee was on point.

“He gave us a huge lift. I need Rob in the worst way. I think he knows how I feel about him in terms of what I think he can do. I just got to get Rob to believe more that he can do things like he did tonight.” said Woodson.

The defense down the stretch, as well as converting free throws was the key to closing out the game. The Hoosiers held the Irish to 3-of-8 shooting in the closing minutes, one of them being a meaningless bucket at the end of the game. In total, the defense held Notre Dame to 21-of-58, or 36.2 percent from the field, and 4-of-22 for 18.2 percent from long distance.

“I think it shows that we’re growing as a team. It was really big for us,” Jackson-Davis said of pulling away with the victory. “I think our defense is really what kept us in the game, and I think our defense is going to be a really big part of what keeps us in a lot of games.”

“That’s what we hold our hat on, and we made plays down the stretch. We got stops down the stretch that we needed to, and then we pulled that one out, so I thought it was good for us.”

With the win over the Irish, the Hoosiers finished with the best record in the 11-year history of the Crossroads Classic at 8-3. They are now to 52-22 all-time against Notre Dame and 5-1 in the event.

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