It wasn’t why they recruited Xavier Johnson out of the transfer portal, but Indiana knew that he’d add value against whoever they drew in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge this year.
The three-year starter at Pitt has seen all of the teams in the ACC extensively, but with the unique challenge that the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone presents, Johnson’s experience against the Orange is especially helpful to the Hoosiers.
Johnson has played in seven previous meetings against Tuesday evening’s foe, and he has taken an active role in letting his teammates know what to expect.
“Xavier has been stepping up in his leadership role,” junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “He’s been texting me throughout the day today (Monday) and yesterday telling me about opportunities against their zone and what they’re going to do. He’s really locked in and ready to take on this moment.”
In his seven previous appearances against the Orange, Johnson started six times and he has seen a total of 238 minutes against that zone, an average of 34 a game. Johnson averaged 12 points in those contests.
As a facilitator Johnson seemed to grow as he faced Syracuse more often. In total he has averaged 5.9 assists in his seven previous meetings, and 6.3 over the last six. He committed 12 turnovers in three games vs. Syracuse as a freshman, but has averaged just 1.8 turnovers over the last four contests against the Orange.
The cause for concern with Johnson against Syracuse is his offensive efficiency. Over the seven games he has made just 21-of-79 shots (26.6 percent) including 15-of-68 (22.1 percent) over the last six meetings.
A good rebounding guard, Johnson has also averaged 4.3 on the boards against Syracuse.
In his three trips to the Carrier Dome, Johnson made 12-of-38 shots (31.6 percent) and averaged 12.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.7 turnovers.
JACKSON-DAVIS MAKES MORE THAN MARSHALL’S SINGLE COVERAGE PAY WITH HIS 43 POINTS
Trayce Jackson-Davis’ parents had a serious conflict on Saturday night.
Go watch one son play in a Division One college basketball game against Marshall, or watch the other play in a high school football state championship game.
Jackson-Davis is a vocal fan of his brother Tayven Jackson, who became a back-to-back state title winner on Saturday night as the starting quarterback for Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind. As soon as the Marshall game was over, Jackson-Davis asked the media for an update on the status of Center Grove’s game against Westfield, which was still ongoing at the time.
Very soon thereafter he managed to connect with his brother.
“I actually Facetimed my brother right after his game and congratulated him. I’m proud of him,” Jackson-Davis said on Monday.
His parents made the logical choice, opting for a championship game over what appeared on paper to be just another early season tune-up against a mid-major for Indiana.
Of course it ended up being much more than that for Jackson-Davis, as he broke the Assembly Hall single-game scoring record with 43 points.
And he let his family know about it.
“The rest of my family, I kind of joked around with them,” he said. “I texted them right after the game and said ‘that’s what you guys get for not coming to my game,’ just throwing a little shame their way. I know they can’t be at both, so it happens.”
THE WOODSON-BOEHEIM CONNECTION
Carmelo Anthony is perhaps the most significant player to suit up for both of the two head coaches on Tuesday night at Syracuse.
Mike Woodson and his 77-year-old counterpart Jim Boeheim haven’t crossed paths much throughout their lengthy careers, but there is some history, and it starts with some players they’ve both coached such as Anthony, who was with the Knicks when Woodson was the head coach there, and led Syracuse to Boeheim’s lone national title in 2003.
“He is a hell of a coach,” Woodson said of Boeheim. “I’ve had some communications with him when he was with the Olympic team when I would go and I had a few players with Carmelo and Tyson Chandler and way back when I had Joe Johnson who played on the Olympic team. They always brought Boeheim in to kind of set up, talk about zones with the coaches, and he and I have interacted over the years.
“The fact that I did coach Carmelo, one of his best players probably that’s ever played at Syracuse, one of them, I have nothing but respect for Coach Boeheim.”
PHINISEE REMAINS QUESTIONABLE
Indiana has been playing with just 10 of its 13 scholarship players available over the last three games.
Freshman center Logan Duncomb is expected back from a three-game suspension on Tuesday, while sophomore guard Trey Galloway is still a few weeks from returning after suffering a broken wrist.
That leaves Rob Phinisee as the lone unknown for Tuesday night (7 p.m. Eastern / ESPN 2).
The senior point guard has been dealing with a calf injury he suffered against St. John’s.
“Rob went a little bit yesterday (Sunday),” Woodson said. “I don’t know where he is right now in terms of playing tomorrow. We’ll practice at 1:00 today, so I’ll get a feel how he felt after yesterday and even if he can go today, so I won’t know that until I get to practice.”
Sophomore point guard Khristian Lander has had some bright moments early in the season, but he struggled against Marshall on Saturday with three turnovers. If Phinisee can’t go, the Evansville native will get to take on the Syracuse zone at the Carrier Dome as a back-up for Johnson.
“Khristian has given us some positive minutes, so if Rob can’t play, Khristian has to be ready to go,” Woodson said.
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