INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Hoosiers needed a win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament as they faced the Michigan Wolverines in Juwan Howard’s first game back from suspension. So, how did the Cream and Crimson respond to their last “win-and-you’re-in” game of the season? By making history.
The Hoosiers overcame a 17-point second half deficit, defeating Michigan 74-69.
Despite having Trey Galloway back in the lineup and available, Mike Woodson went with his usual starting five for the Big Ten Tournament. Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis got things going for Indiana.
This game was the textbook definition of “fight until the final buzzer sounds.” Indiana struggled mightily in the first half on both sides of the ball but did not let it effect the rest of their performance.
Xavier Johnson got things started early on the offensive end starting the game 3-of-4 from the field (2-of-2 from three) and scored eight of Indiana’s first ten points. Jackson-Davis, however, got off to another slow start. The newly-minted All-Big Ten 2nd Team honoree began the game 0-for-4 with a turnover.
Coach Mike Woodson hinted at what the halftime conversation with Jackson-Davis sounded like after the game by saying, “His play in the first half was not really good. I kind of keep locker room things inside but it was not pretty, I will tell you that.”
Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson led the way for UM through the first ten minutes as he accounted for seven of the teams first 15 points.
Michigan led 15-10 at the first timeout with 12:34 remaining in the half.
After that timeout Indiana went on a scoring drought that lasted just over five minutes. The Wolverines took a 21-10 lead that consisted of a 17-3 from Michigan. Indiana had no answers early as TJD was still struggling, and Xavier Johnson had to be sidelined for a majority of the first half with two fouls.
Speaking of fouls, Michigan did not pick up their first of the game until there was only 6:43 remaining in the first half. Indiana finished the first half with 10 team fouls compared to Michigan’s three.
At the half, IU trailed UM 41-28. In the first half Michigan shot 44 percent while the Hoosiers shot just 38 percent. The biggest discrepancy came on the boards with Michigan outrebounding the Cream and Crimson 21-14 to create the 13-point lead at the break.
The second half is where things got interesting. Even then, they got worse before they got better.
The Hoosiers opened the second half on a 7-2 run to cut the Michigan lead to just eight points. That was until Wolverine freshman Caleb Houston hit back-to-back threes to stretch the lead back to double-digits. Houston then added another three to take the lead to 15-points.
Johnson, who has been prone to foul trouble all year, picked up his third foul of the game with just under 18 minutes left in the contest.
With 11:50 remaining in the game the foul discrepancy was still a question. Indiana sat at 16 fouls compared to Michigan’s six. There was no excuse, Indiana was flat out being outplayed, but they were not getting any help either.
That is when things turned around.
A quick 7-0 run by the Hoosiers trimmed their deficit to ten points, and Gainbridge Fieldhouse came back alive. Michigan was forced to take a timeout as the Hoosiers not trailed 60-50 with just under ten minutes remaining.
The run did not stop there. After trailing by 17-points with 12:52 left in the game, the Hoosiers cut the deficit to just six points with 7:07 remaining. The six-point margin was the closest the Hoosiers had been since the 10:25 mark in the first half.
To make a run of this caliber it must be done on both ends of the floor. Indiana was putting in work on the offensive side no doubt, but it was their defense that turned up multiple levels to bring them back in to the game.
Indiana held Michigan without a basket for 11:10 in the second half. In other words, the Wolverines went scoreless for over a continuous fourth of the game.
A Miller Kopp three-point basket brought the Michigan lead to just one point. The very next possession the Hoosiers took the lead after a pair of Jackson-Davis free throws. This was Indiana’s first lead since the 15:14 mark in the first half.
Indiana’s star Jackson-Davis came alive in the second half. Scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting while also grabbing four rebounds. Xavier Johnson continued to impress the coaching staff and U fanbase with his nine points, six rebounds, and seven assists in the second half alone.
Woodson, along with the rest of Indiana’s fan base, has noticed the rapid improvement of Xavier Johnson over the last month of games. “X has been pretty goof here as of late,” Woodson said. “I thought again tonight he led us.”
With 44.1 seconds left in the game the Wolverines nailed a three-point basket to make it a 2-point game. How did the Hoosiers respond? By learning from the mistakes, they have made in games prior, and shutting the door on any comeback Michigan had in mind.
Final buzzer. Comeback complete.
The Hoosiers rallied from 17-points down to defeat the Wolverines and stay in contention for a bid in the NCAA tournament after a thrilling 74-69 victory, the largest postseason comeback in Indiana history. IU was led by Jackson-Davis with 24 points and Xavier Johnson with eight rebounds and seven assists.
“I could not be more proud of a group of guys,” Woodson said. “This is really gratifying…a big game that we had to win.”
The Hoosiers will look to add another win to their tournament resume as they face off against the No. 16 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament at 11:30 AM EST on Big Ten Network.