BLOOMINGTON – Indiana had five players in double figures, including a season-high 13 points for Rob Phinisee, and held visiting Minnesota scoreless for more than six minutes down the stretch on the way to a 73-60 victory over the visiting Golden Gophers at Assembly Hall this afternoon.
Indiana is 12-3 and 3-2 in Big Ten play.
- Indiana can beat you with outside shooting: It's been talked about ad nauseum for going on five years: where's the shooting for Indiana? The Hoosiers have shown flashes of solving the seemingly never-ending problem this season, but Minnesota today decided to test Indiana's progress. For much of the first half, the Golden Gophers shadowed Jackson-Davis with two defenders, leaving point guards Phinisee and Xavier Johnson wide open for a parade of 3s. It was Minnesota saying, as plain as it could: "Beat us with 3s, if you can." Indiana obliged. In that first half, Phinisee and Johnson went 6 of 12 from beyond the arc to stake the Hoosiers to a 39-29 halftime lead. Johnson's shot is relatively ugly (more on that below), but he only needs to hit about 33% to make teams think twice about leaving him alone. Phinisee, meanwhile, was a revelation. The senior, who spent much of the last two seasons dealing with confidence issues and an oft-broken jumper, seems to be morphing into the outside threat/lockdown defender Indiana envisioned when he came to campus in the fall of 2018. Phinisee went 4 for 9 from 3-point range today, tying a career-high for made 3s set in January 2021 against Iowa. Phinisee's renewed ability to punish teams who sag off him is a credit to his hard work, but Indiana's new coaching staff deserves some plaudits, as well. Coach Mike Woodson has pushed Phinisee to keep shooting through misses and that confidence in the player has lifted Phinisee's own confidence. As a whole, the Hoosiers shot 9 of 24 from distance today, just enough to overcome a second-half surge from the Gophers.
- Good X, Bad X: Xavier Johnson is one of the nation's most unpredictable guards. He possesses a litany of skills that help a basketball team: aggressiveness going to the rim, finishing ability around said rim, quick hands, good court vision, (at times) passable outside shooting, athleticism in on-ball defense. Johnson is absolutely a player you want on your team, but he can be a frustrating watch because his myriad positive qualities are partially marred by a penchant for some poor shot selection and ill-advised passes. Like most aggressive players, there are times Johnson does not make the simple play and instead tries to do something spectacular. There have been times this season he has pulled it off, but more often he has turned the ball over or hoisted up an ill-advised shot. The Assembly Hall faithful were treated to both sides of that coin this afternoon as Johnson scored a team-high 14 points, including two crucial 3s in the first half and an outstanding and-one reverse layup in the second half to cap an 8-0 run, grabbed three rebounds and dished five assists, but also took a couple of quick shots during a Minnesota run in the second half. It was the typical Johnson experience: a lot of good, some bad. Indiana fans, who booed some poor Johnson shot selection at the Crossroads Classic will probably learn to appreciate what he brings to the table by the end of the season.
- One more step: Indiana led by 10 at halftime, but Minnesota embarked on a 9-0 run early in the second half to go in front 47-46 with 12:25 to play. The Indiana defense wasn't exactly poor during that stretch and the Gophers made some difficult shots around the rim (they later added a banked-in 25-foot 3 just when it seemed Indiana had regained some momentum), but the Hoosiers certainly weren't good at keeping Minnesota out of the paint. Minnesota taking the lead was a dangerous moment for the Hoosiers, coming as it did after a string of bad offensive possessions that brought the volume in Assembly Hall down to a whisper. The Hoosiers could have folded, but instead they rallied. They clamped down on defense, forcing Minnesota into eight misses in 10 attempts (the aforementioned banked 3 was one of the only made field goals in that stretch) and Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson did the dirty work on offense, fighting for tough baskets inside. Minnesota pushed the Hoosiers; it challenged them; it was hungry. Indiana absorbed the blows and kept fighting. It's another step in the right direction for this team as it proves to itself it can win.
Player of the Game: Trayce Jackson-Davis
Jackson-Davis didn't light up the scoring column as he did against Ohio State on Thursday, but he turned in his second consecutive double-double and sixth of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He acted as a dangerous decoy in the first half, taking the focus away from Phinisee so the point guard could get hot from deep and then got more active with the ball in the second half, scoring nine points. He finished 6 of 11 from the field overall, taking what the defense gave him all afternoon. Jackson-Davis's point total moved him past former Bishop Luers star James Blackmon Jr. and into a tie with Dick VanArsdale for 34th place on the all-time IU scoring list.
Indiana is 11-0 at Assembly Hall this season and 12-0 when coach Mike Woodson wears a suit. The Hoosiers are 0-3 when Woodson wears his tracksuit, as most other coaches have done the last two years. ... IU is above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time since it beat Nebraska on Dec. 4 to get to 1-0. The Hoosiers have won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since Feb. 7-10, 2021. ... Indiana forward Race Thompson is a Minneapolis native. His father, Darrell Thompson, is Minnesota football's all-time leading rusher after running for more than 1,000 yards three times in four seasons from 1986 to 1989. ... Like the Hoosiers, Minnesota is in its first season under a new coach. Woodson and new Gophers coach Ben Johnson are former players for the schools they now coach, though Woodson is 22 years older than Johnson. ... Minnesota came into the game 327th in the country in average rebounding margin at minus-6.2. The Hoosiers won the battle on the boards 39-34 today. ... The Hoosiers entered the contest No. 2 in the country in opponent field goal percentage at 35.1%. Minnesota shot 38% today. ... Jamison Battle led Minnesota with 19 points. ... Indiana was without sophomore guard Khristian Lander, who was held out for precautionary reasons with a leg issue.
Indiana will be back in action Thursday when it travels Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City to take on Iowa (11-4, 1-3 Big Ten). The game will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast Fox Sports 1. The Hawkeyes are led by 6-8 forward Keegan Murray, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 24.7 points per game. Murray is also averaging 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals and shooting 59.5% from the field.