The Indiana men’s basketball team (7-1, B1G 1-0) opened Big Ten play at home this Saturday as they welcomed the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-3, B1G 0-1) to Assembly Hall. Despite a slow start offensively and another game full of turnovers the Hoosiers were able to pick up their first conference victory 68-55.
Head coach Mike Woodson did not make any changes to the starting lineup entering conference play as Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis going things started for the Hoosiers.
The Cream and Crimson could not have started the game much slower on offense than they did against the Cornhuskers. Shooting 1-of-6 from the field and committing six early turnovers, three a piece from Jackson-Davis and Kopp.
At the under-16 media timeout, the Hoosiers trailed 7-2.
How did Mike Woodson and his team respond? How about some minutes for the hometown kid?
Born Hoosier Anthony Leal check in the game in the first half with the Hoosiers down double-digits. When he was subbed out, the Hoosiers had their first lead since the score was 2-0. Leal knocked down a three-pointer, had a cross court assist, and played lockdown defense in the 10 minutes he played in the first half.
Coach Mike Woodson praised Leal in his post-game press conference by saying, “He has been very competitive in practice. I came in to tonight knowing I was going to play him and he responded which was nice to see.”
It wasn’t just Leal. It was the entire second unit for the Hoosiers that brought them back in the game. Indiana’s second unit of Leal, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo, Michael Durr, and Rob Phinisee overcame a double-digit deficit and took the lead with 4:10 remaining in the first half off a Bates three-point basket.
Freshman Tamar Bates led the Hoosiers at half with 11 points. Three three-point shots and a fast break layup from the five-star freshman gave the Hoosiers the spark they needed offensively when they needed it most.
Bates expressed after the game that, “We (the bench) had laser sharp focus making sure we provided some sort of spark today.” This comes after the game against Syracuse where the bench struggled to provides any offensive help.
One problem that continues to plague the Indiana Hoosiers offense if their inability to take care of the basketball. In the first half IU recorded 11 turnovers. Four of which coming from preseason All-American Jackson-Davis.
Despite the slow start and the early turnovers, Indiana led at the break 26-22.
In the second half the Indiana defense took a turn for the better, and so did their ability to take care of the ball. It was not the prettiest half of basketball, but the Hoosiers were able to only turn the ball over four times in the second half and finished with 15.
The Hoosiers are at their best when they are running in transition, and they did just that in the second half.
Senior point guard Rob Phinisee picked it up offensively in the second half and was effective on both sides of the ball. Locking up on defense and scoring from all three phases on offense. Phinisee started to look comfortable in his extended minutes with Johnson in foul trouble.
Race Thompson secured yet another double-double on the season and finished the game with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Two of those points coming off a monster put back slam over the top of a Nebraska defender.
What was once a double-digit deficit turned in to a double-digit victory as the Hoosiers defeated the Cornhuskers 68-55. Jackson-Davis led the way for the Hoosiers with 14 points and seven rebounds while Tamar Bates finished with 13 points.
Coach Woodson had high praise for Tamar following his performance against the Cornhuskers by saying, “The thing I will say about Tamar is that he is not scared of the moment. He will take a big shot, sometimes it is a bad shot, but I like everything about Tamar.”
Up next for the Hoosiers is another test on the road as they travel to Madison, WI to face off against the No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers on Wed Dec. 8 at at 7:00 PM EST. The Hoosiers have not won a road game against the Badgers since Jan. 25, 1998.
Photo by Indiana Athletics