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Is Galloway the new way in the IU basketball starting five?

Trey Galloway scored nine of Indiana’s first 14 points on Tuesday, helping the Hoosiers jump out to a six-point lead against Northwestern in Evanston.

The sight of Galloway providing an instant impact was familiar to Indiana fans.

That he was doing it in the first five minutes of a game, however, was not.

With Indiana shorthanded due to the suspension of five players including two starters, Galloway was thrust into his first starting assignment of the season.

The Culver, Ind. product has built a reputation for playing aggressive defense off the bench, but against the Wildcats he showed another dimension — as a primary scoring option in the backcourt.

On his first score of the night Galloway shot-faked from the wing, drove right and got past his man for a baseline floater.  Then he drove right from the top of the key and got all the way to the rim for two.  Next he took a wing ball-screen and went left for a nifty off-hand scoop shot in the paint.  Finally, Galloway filled open space on the baseline and confidently knocked-down a corner three.

Galloway’s ability to produce points in bunches was a revelation.

“He’s been fantastic. I mean, coming off the bench, he’s been great. The other night I thought the first time he got a crack to start, he was phenomenal the whole game,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said on Friday morning as the Hoosiers prepare to face Michigan State.

Galloway ended up matching a career-high with 13 points on Tuesday on 6-of-10 shooting.  He added five rebounds and three assists.

But Galloway also had five turnovers, and he ultimately fouled out.  Fatigue may have played a role.

With his suspended teammates watching helplessly from the bench, Galloway appeared to wear down after playing a career-high 37 minutes while being thrust into somewhat unfamiliar primary ball-handling duties.

Starting is not unfamiliar to Galloway.  He was part of the first unit seven times as a true freshman under Archie Miller before an injury sidelined him.

Will Woodson stick with his sophomore sparkplug in the first five?

“I mean, that’s a thought,” Woodson said.  “We’ll have to make that decision after today’s practice and see where we are. But he’s definitely played well enough to be in the (starting) lineup.”

Woodson’s primary starting five has included Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp on the wings along with Xavier Johnson, a combination no doubt designed to give Indiana better spacing with ostensibly its two best 3-point shooters on the floor.

Stewart was part of the group of five suspended players, marking the second time this season he has been pulled from the starting five for disciplinary reasons.  Woodson could choose to send a message and keep Stewart out of the lineup.

But Stewart is also making 45.1 percent of his threes, making him easily the best on the team from long range among those with a reasonably high volume.

Stewart and Kopp overlap in many ways.  They are both perimeter shooters but not serious threats to attack off the bounce.  Neither is an especially impactful perimeter defender.  Their presence on the floor together leaves IU exposed defensively against guard-oriented teams.

On the other end defenses have learned to stick to Stewart and Kopp rather than help, mostly taking away their threat as shooters.  That creates a fairly vanilla offensive three-man game funneled to the middle of the court as the Hoosiers try to run high ball screen actions.

Kopp was brought to IU to be a 3-point specialist, but he’s only had more than two threes in a game once all season, and he’s made just 6-of-18 shots (33 percent) from behind-the-arc over the last seven games.  While Kopp wasn’t suspended, he’s the more obvious choice to come off the bench if Woodson makes the move.

In addition to his prowess as a perimeter defender, Galloway could mix things up for Indiana offensively with his ability to get past his man and willingness to push the tempo.  He has also added a floater to his shot repertoire, and that has contributed to him making 63.6 percent of his attempts from 2-point range.

“I think it’s been in my game for a while now, but recently I’ve wanted to get back to it,” Galloway said last week of his floater. “It’s been part of my game since high school, and just developing it, it’s a good thing to have right now, especially against good bigs. That was one thing I really worked on when I hurt my wrist.”

The tradeoff is perimeter shooting, where Galloway is 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) on the season.  But with Kopp slumping that decision seems easier, and moving Kopp to the bench would give IU that perimeter threat in a different rotation.

Effective field goal percentage measures the added value of the 3-point shot, and even with that Galloway is well above Kopp, 58.2 percent to 46.5 percent.

Will Woodson make the move?  That remains to be seen on Saturday in East Lansing.

For his part, three-year starter Trayce Jackson-Davis was pleased with what Galloway brought to the team on Tuesday.

“I think Trey played really well this game,” Jackson-Davis said after the Northwestern game.  “He showed his toughness, his grit, I think he came off ball screens really well, got downhill.  He played really, really good defense, and for a position that he hasn’t really necessarily played (point guard), I thought he did a great job.

“He’s just going to keep working and building from here.”

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