The Hoosiers ran out of gas, and it showed.
Indiana came out hot. Parker Stewart started the game off with a three, which seemed like a good omen. Then Trayce Jackson-Davis scored six early points with an early alley-oop from Xavier Johnson. Jordan Geronimo picked up where he left off with a three-pointer and a layup in transition.
They were finding ways to score and keeping pace with a St. Mary’s team that ranks No. 9 in adjusted defensive and No. 49 in adjusted offense, per Kenpom.com. A Trey Galloway floater even managed to capture a four-point lead, 21-17.
Then Jackson-Davis and Johnson went to the bench, and the rout was on.
St. Mary’s hit a couple of three’s en route to a 9-0 run. Indiana’s offense went stale. After starting 7-of-11 from the field, they made just four of their next 14. The run extended to 23-7 and a 12-point deficit for Indiana.
“I feel like we started off pretty good, pretty solid, then towards the middle of the game, we started hitting shots. We weren’t up on ball screens. I don’t think it had anything to do with legs. Obviously, when you start playing a lot of minutes, you get tired regardless,” said Jackson-Davis.
“I just think that overall they were a sharper team than us today. They hit their shots and ran their offense, and they were an overall better team.”
And fatigue set in. After playing in five games in eight days, and just one strange day of rest between the first round and the play-in game because of flight troubles, the fresh-legged Gaels were too much for the Hoosiers.
The defense allowed St. Mary’s to penetrate the lane, get easy baskets, but even when they missed, the Gaels managed 10 offensive rebounds for 11-second chance points. All signs of a tired team.
Then the Gaels flexed their muscles. They built off their halftime lead by holding the Hoosiers to just 1-of-12 shooting to start the second half. This led St. Mary’s to go on another run, this time it was a 24-5.
Overall, the defense had no answers for the high-powered St. Mary’s offense. They managed to shoot 51.7 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from deep with 10 three-pointers.
“Overall, it was our defense. We’ve been really, really good on the defensive end of the floor, and tonight we just didn’t have it. We didn’t have the spark. We were letting guys dribble-drive past us, screen and rolls, open layups, and just not being tough at the rim. Stuff of that nature where we make it hard for teams,” added Jackson-Davis.
“Tonight they really dictated to us, and we didn’t punch back.”
It was in all a successful season for the Hoosiers. They were able to beat some of the top teams in the Big Ten in Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio State as well as make the NCAA Tournament. They managed to grab a tournament win over Wyoming.
However, the 29-point beat down and what is now the largest tournament loss in program history will leave a bitter taste in their mouths. But hopefully, one they use for fuel for the future.
“I have nothing but love and respect for (St. Mary’s) Coach Bennett. I thought his team competed at a much higher level than we did tonight. It just means we’ve got to go back and get busy this summer and get better,” said head coach Mike Woodson.
“But it was a great run for our ball club this season getting back into the Big Dance, and now we’ve got to build on it for the future. That’s what it’s all about at this point.”
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