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Indiana climbs out of early hole to dominate as Woodson continues to trust starting five

The Hoosiers went from being outscored 8-0 in the opening two minutes to outscoring Maryland 68-47 the rest of the game in crucial win over the Terrapins on Saturday.

The starters– who have been questioned for their unsteady starts to halves– found themselves in yet another hole at the XFINITY Center.  But Mike Woodson did not need the bench to save them from trouble this time. Instead, IU’s first five answered with a 10-0 run before anyone checked in off the bench.

Race Thompson started the scoring for IU on his way to an 18-point, 12-rebound performance. It was the fourth double-double of the season for the redshirt senior. He was followed by fellow starter Trayce Jackson-Davis who came up just short of a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds.

The duo scored nine of the first eleven points of the game to regain the lead.

“They were good tonight man,” said head coach Mike Woodson of his dynamic frontcourt tandem.

“I mean Trayce didn’t have a double-double, but Race, he’s kind of had his way here lately in terms of being able to rebound and score the ball. And, I’m going to keep utilizing them because I think that’s the strength of our team, and I think the supporting cast understands that, and that’s important when you’re trying to win basketball games.”

Thompson also converted on both of his three-point attempts for the second-straight game. He’s now made five of his last six shots dating back to the Michigan game. The Plymouth, Minn. product is now 8-of-33 from deep on the year and has raised his shooting percentage from 11.1 percent to 24.2 percent after the game.

“It’s huge. You know, I’ve always had a four-man that I’ve been able to coach over the years in the NBA that can make the long ball at that spot. That’s valuable in our offensive system,” added his coach.

Starting point guard Xavier Johnson– despite shooting 1-of-8 from the field– was also another difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Playing in front of his family close to his home town, he ended the game with eight points and nine assists to just two turnovers. He was instrumental in the early run and found passing lanes to get his teammates easy looks.

A highlight of the night was when Johnson pushed the ball in transition pulled out an around-the-back move to blow past Fatts Russell and then did a wrap-around pass to find Trey Galloway underneath the basket. The Woodbridge, Va. native missed a few poster dunks, but no doubt put on a spectacle for his family and friends in attendance.

“X is starting to see the game better, what I call it from a point guard standpoint,” said Woodson. “The game is. slowing down now and he’s starting to see things. And, he’s making winning plays for our ball club. On both ends of the floor.”

Despite missing Rob Phinisee– who was out with a foot injury– Johnson and Trey Galloway held their own on defense. The Maryland duo of Eric Ayala and Fats Russell previously combined for 45 points against Rutgers but were held to just 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting, and five of Maryland’s 13 turnovers.

The Terps were held to just 16-of-56 shooting for 28.6 from the field and 6-of-27 from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers frontcourt also intimidated their opponents with six blocks, two of those from the lengthy, energetic Jordan Geronimo. Maryland was held to just 20 points in the paint.

The Hoosiers statistically played their best defensive game in the Big Ten since beating Ohio State. In that game, they held the Buckeyes to 28.6 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from deep.

“I mean we really did a great job on Eric (Ayala) and (Fatts) Russell I thought both their starting guards,” Woodson told Don Fischer.

“I mean we really locked in and made it tough for them to get catches, and made it tough when they did catch it. You know they saw bodies, and they didn’t have a lot of room to work freely and that’s good team defense. Everybody being in the proper position and doing what’s asked of them.”

Despite being able to climb out of their own hole, the bench did play crucial minutes in the win. Once again, it was the duo of Galloway and Geronimo providing the energy. The athletic Geronimo scored six points and pulled down eight boards in 18 minutes off the bench.

Galloway added eight points on 4-of-5 shooting with two assists and two steals in 25 minutes of play. The shifty combo guard is accustomed to getting acrobatic layups when driving in the paint. But, he took things to another level as he blew past a defender and finished the drive with a powerful dunk.

Khristian Lander, in the absence of Phinisee, came back from injury and played his first minutes since the game against Northern Kentucky. He provided five points on two-of-two shooting with a three. However, he was also called for four fouls in ten minutes.

“I mean, we just got production from everybody, and we’re gonna need that as we continue this journey,”  said Woodson.

For IU, it was their first win at Maryland since 1934, and thus of course the first since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2014-15. More importantly, it was the first double-digit Big Ten road win since last season when the Hoosiers beat Iowa 81-69 in January of 2021.

Up next, the Hoosiers will have a full week to prepare for No. 24 Illinois. The Illini are coming off a win against Northwestern and have a 15-5, 8-2 record.

“It gives us a chance to retool, and maybe add some things on both ends of the floor, and it gives our guys, guys who are banged up, a little bit of an opportunity to heal some of their wounds.” Woodson said.  “And then, we get back after it in another week.”

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