Four months from now it will simply count as an important win on a postseason resume.
Indiana was by no means perfect on Wednesday against St. John’s in connection with the Gavitt Games. Following a familiar script, they ran out to a big lead, at one point 37-23, only to watch it all melt away in front of a raucous and at times nervous crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. But the Hoosiers competed and found enough answers in the critical moments down the stretch to claim a 76-74 win over a very talented and tough-minded Red Storm squad.
Let’s take a closer look at the win with this edition of the Report Card.
IU (3-0) will host Louisiana on Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
It was to be expected against St. John’s aggressive defense, but turnovers were a major reason why the big lead lead evaporated. The Hoosiers had seven of them in the first ten minutes of the second half, a stretch where the Red Storm turned a 12-point deficit to just two.
There were multiple variables that contributed to the unsteady effort. First, starting point guard Xavier Johnson couldn’t stay on the floor due to foul trouble, Rob Phinisee was dealing with a calf issue and was largely ineffective, and Trey Galloway, who has been used as a primary ball handler this year, was injured.
Those challenges at the top of the offense coupled with what St. John’s was throwing at Indiana had the Hoosiers on their heels.
“I thought they hit us with everything they could possibly hit us from a man-to-man press, zone press, half-court zone-press. I mean it, was a lot to swallow,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game.
IU turned it over on 21.9 percent of its possessions. When they did manage to take care of the ball, the results were good if not great. The Hoosiers shot 51.7 percent from the field including 60 percent from 2-point range.
Indiana could have avoided the close call with a better night at the stripe. Collectively Johnson, Phinisee and Tamar Bates made just 1-of-7 free throws.
“We have to get better at making free throws,” Woodson said. “We shoot them every day but guys just got to be comfortable and knocking them down because that could be the difference in winning and losing.”
With an assist from Indiana’s version of the red storm — it’s student section — St. John’s struggled out of the gate, appearing nervous and sloppy in front of the energetic crowd.
St. John’s was held scoreless for a 6:44 stretch in the middle of the first half. IU used that to its advantage, going up 18-10, and eventually 37-23, its largest lead.
IU held St. John’s to just 33.3 shooting in the first half and 25.0% from behind the arc. The Red Storm had nine first half turnovers.
But St. John’s used a lot of 5-out in the second half, as it tried to pull IU’s shot blockers out of the paint and get to the rim. Indiana allowed too much dribble penetration, and struggled at times with giving too much room to Julian Champagnie off those drives, who doesn’t need much with his quick release.
“In the first half we took away a lot of their actions and we were contesting a lot of their shots, and they weren’t getting any good looks,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said.
“And then in the second half, we kind of settled in a little bit and they started getting shots. And when you let a team feel comfortable, they are going to make you pay for it.”
It certainly didn’t help Indiana that three of its best on the ball defenders were challenged, with Johnson on the bench, Phinisee not 100 percent, and Galloway out of the game.
St. John’s came into the ballgame averaging 105 points against inferior competition, and in the end IU held them well under that mark.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score, keys to the game and specialty stats
- Woodson, Jackson-Davis, Thompson post-game
- Geronimo, Lander and Bates come up big off the bench
Trayce Jackson-Davis (A-) The junior nearly played the full game, and he showed off an expanded skill set. He scored with his right hand on a spin move, made an 18-footer, and made some impressive transition passes He had some sloppy second half passes too and at times was reluctant to use that right hand. Jackson-Davis became the 54th player in program history to score 1,000 points.
Race Thompson (A-) Thompson may have saved the game with his floater through the lane with 25 seconds remaining. He had four steals on the night, and impacted the game by being able to handle the ball in space — although he did have three turnovers.
Miller Kopp (B) On paper this game didn’t look like a good fit for Kopp. That he had his best game as a Hoosier is a good sign. He gave some things up defensively on the perimeter, but had three blocks. The headline for Kopp was his two 3-pointers, and he also made some nice midrange shots.
Parker Stewart (C+) Stewart is in the a strange pattern where he makes shots early and then disappears. Obviously part of that is because he is marked as a shooter, so he isn’t being given any space. Stewart isn’t one of IU’s best perimeter defenders, but he is bought in from an effort standpoint.
Xavier Johnson (C+) Going into the game Johnson appeared to be the most important player on the court for Indiana, but once again, he couldn’t stay out there. He is averaging just over 20 minutes a game, mostly due to foul trouble. He led off IU’s scoring with a three, and had two critical dribble drive buckets late in the game.
Tamar Bates (A-) Indiana’s version of the microwave, Bates came in off the bench and scored 11 first half points during an eight minute span that saw the Hoosiers grow their lead from 14-10 to 37-23. He was given the starters minutes (15) in the second half, although he did cool off after the break.
Rob Phinisee (C) With struggles from the field, the free throw line and a couple turnovers in 18 minutes, this was a version of Phinisee many had hoped we would no longer see. But this could also be a benefit of the doubt scenario as Woodson hinted at a calf issue in his post-game radio remarks.
Jordan Geronimo (A) After St. John’s had tied the game, Geronimo made a three and then a reverse lay-up to help the Hoosiers stretch the lead back to seven. “He came in and he responded,” Woodson said. “He made some big plays for us.” Geronimo also added five rebounds and a steal in just eight minutes.
Khristian Lander (A-) Lander was by no means perfect, but he was much steadier than what we saw from him as a freshman. He gave Indiana an encouraging six minutes and will likely now see an expanded role if Trey Galloway is out for a while.
Michael Durr and Trey Galloway also appeared in the game. Galloway left with an injury after a flagrant foul.
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