HomeSportsThe minute after: Xavier - In the hall

The minute after: Xavier – In the hall

Thoughts about one won 81-79 to the musketeers:

Wow.

Indiana survives in a hostile road environment tonight, showing just enough grit and moxie to earn a hard-fought victory against a good team. There is plenty to clean up and room for improvement. But wins like this are far from easy and never guaranteed.

A win is a win Indiana’s first this way in 20 years. Hats off to Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers.

Indiana got shocked early, the Cintas Center crowd and Xavier’s defense got the best of the Hoosiers early on. The ghosts of Indiana’s past arrived quickly. Trayce Jackson-Davis isolated from right block and double-teamed, his teammates failing to fire around him as the Musketeers applied pressure. Indiana’s bench, looking so strong and united against lesser foes, collapsed in the first half tonight and Woodson rightly pulled the plug on the experiment. Indiana’s dominant defense showed cracks as Xavier got hot from the outside and won the battle low.

With Jackson-Davis under pressure and the shots not falling, Indiana turned to a familiar, if inconsistent spark plug: Xavier Johnson. This season, Johnson has yet to get it going offensively, but his play tonight was essential. IU’s point guard helped steady the Hoosiers offense in the first half, as he busted the defense for his own buckets and assisted Jackson-Davis on the pick-and-roll.

So despite a start with Indiana back on their heels, the Hoosiers trailed by only two at halftime. And by the time the second half got going, Indiana was starting to find its way. The defense picked up on it and frustrated Xavier. Indiana asserted himself more on offense, forcing issue and getting several early fouls to find himself in the bonus for the under-12 timeout.

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As in the first half, Johnson and Jackson-Davis were the difference in the last 20 minutes. The duo combined for 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the second half. With Indiana two down with 6:49 left, Johnson drilled a three-pointer. Just over a minute later, he was fouled and made two free throws. On Xavier’s ensuing possession, he stole the ball on a bad pass from Adam Kunkel and scored on the other end for two, putting Indiana on five with 5:13 left. Malik Reneau, Indiana’s other star in the second half, scored on IU’s next possession to put Indiana up to eight with 4:11 remaining.

After getting off to a freezing cold start, Miller Kopp batted in a 3-pointer from the left corner after a Jackson-Davis skip pass from a double team came his way. That made it an eight-point lead for Indiana with 2:25 left.

But the final two minutes and substitutions proved awkward.

Johnson made a bad pass to Jackson-Davis, who didn’t even look. Colby Jones easily stole it, took it off the field and scored with an and-1 to boot, Johnson committing the offense after his turnover. Souley Boum boomed a 3-pointer to close it to a point advantage at Indiana with 56 seconds left. Reneau missed two free throws with 12 seconds left and Indiana still clung to a one-point lead.

The Musketeers ran out of timeouts for their ensuing possession, Kunkel just missing a driving layup with four seconds left, a Johnson rebound that secured the win for Indiana.

Johnson, Jackson-Davis and Reneau scored 35 of Indiana’s 43 points in the second half as the Hoosiers needed them all to hold on.

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Passing the first Test of the season, Indiana started 1-0 in its tough four-game non-conference slate with North Carolina, Arizona and Kansas still on deck.

“The schedule is what it is,” Woodson said after the game. “We can’t run away from it.”

submitted to: Xavier Musketeers

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