The Hoosiers refused to fall into another early hole against Penn State on Wednesday.
The Hoosiers stormed out of the gates and did so with a little extra juice after their blowout loss to Michigan on Sunday. And they did so with the same starting five that has been criticized for their energy level to start the past couple of games.
Their statement was made as Trayce Jackson-Davis–15 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four blocks– went right after forward John Harrar for the right-handed finish seconds into the game. He followed it up with a block on Greg Lee that he slapped out of bounds.
This was just the start of a 17-3 run to start the game.
“That’s something we have to bring every single game as starters,” said Race Thompson after the game.
“That’s the main thing. We just talked about it for the past two days of getting off to better starts because I think Coach said we were, like, minus 47 over the past four games or something, or however many games, so I think we just talked about that as a unit, and we came out, we responded. That was good for us.”
After getting picked apart in the pick-and-roll game in the first matchup against Penn State, the Hoosiers were ready for it this time. The tight-knit defense held the Lions to 5-of-30 shooting for 16.7 percent from the field and 1-of-10 from deep in the first half.
Although Penn State got hot from three in the second half, Indiana was able to force 14 total turnovers, which led to 16 points. They also made it difficult in the paint for the Nittany Lions by blocking 10 of their shots.
“That’s a big part of who we are as Indiana. When we first came in, our number one thing was defense. That’s the first thing we worked on, and that’s what got us to this point in the season of winning as many games,” said Xavier Johnson.
By halftime, it was a 29-point game in favor of the Hoosiers. It was the largest halftime lead of the season, surpassing the 27 point edge over Northern Illinois in the second game of the season.
It was also the largest halftime lead against a Big Ten opponent since leading Ohio State 48-18 at home in 2016.
“It’s probably our best game in terms of a half that we put together in the Big Ten,” said head coach Mike Woodson.
A major factor in the large halftime lead was Indiana’s ability to convert from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers stormed out to a 6-for-6 start from deep. They would miss the last two attempts of the first half drop to 6-of-8.
The display was equally impressive in the second half. They converted of 4-of-5 of their second-half attempts. In total, they shot 10-of-13 for 76.9 percent. This marked the highest percentage and the most three-point output since the Syracuse game where the Hoosiers had 11 in a double OT loss.
Race Thompson, who finished with 18 points and six boards, nailed both of his three-point attempts for the first multi-three-point game of his career. Tamar Bates also had two from long range.
Xavier Johnson– 19 points, four rebounds, and six assists– also converted on all three of his three-point attempts.
“I thought the ball movement was great the first half. When Trayce was doubled and Race got doubled some, the ball was moving, and the defense really couldn’t catch up, so we got good looks that way,” said Woodson.
“Hey, I’ve never told us not to shoot threes. We’ve bot to shoot them when you’re open, and I thought Parker and Miller and X, everybody who shot them, they were in tune and knocked them down, and we’re going to need them to continue to do that because we need the three ball. Ain’t no doubt about that. We can’t go 4 for 17 like we did against Michigan.”
However, like in the early stages of the season, the Hoosiers failed to come out of halftime with the same intensity that got them the lead. The team was outscored by the Nittany Lions in the second half 40-28.
The defense lacked the same aggressiveness of the first half. This led to Woodson showing some frustrations on the bench in the effort of his players, who dilly-dallied after the big halftime lead.
Penn State shot 15-of-30 in the second half and went 8-of-16 from three. They ended up shooting 20-of-60 for 33.3 percent from the field and 9-of-26 for 34.6 percent from deep for the game.
“I just thought the first half we were locked in,” Woodson said of the difference in defense between the halves.
“We had three to four times we had miscues on switches, and they made us pay for them. Again, you’ve got to stay with the game plan all the way through for 40. That’s what you got to commit yourselves to for 40 minutes. I thought we played 20 good minutes tonight.”
Despite the mediocre second half, the Hoosiers finished the job and avenged an earlier loss to Penn State. Next up, they take on the Maryland Terrapins on the road.
The Terps recently beat No. 24 Illinois on their home court and claimed a road win over Rutgers earlier this week.
“Well, again, the road is what it is. We’re playing Maryland on the road. They’re playing a lot better,” said Woodson.
“They’re playing great, man, and you’re going to have to commit for 40. We’ll put a game plan together, and we’ve got to commit ourselves for 40 minutes to go down there and get a win. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re capable of winning on the road. We proved that in Nebraska.”
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