Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball shows major changes in defensive victory over NIU

Sophomore guard Anthony Leal smiles after dunking the ball Nov. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana beat Northern Illinois University 85-49.
Sophomore guard Anthony Leal smiles after dunking the ball Nov. 12, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana beat Northern Illinois University 85-49.

Blowout wins should be fun to watch if you're an Indiana men’s basketball fan. 

Coming off a close win against Eastern Michigan University on Tuesday, it was expected Indiana would play with a sense of urgency on the defensive end the entire game. Head coach Mike Woodson must have made defense the priority in practice because this was the best defensive performance I have ever seen Indiana play since I became a student. 

The Hoosiers made major adjustments, demolishing Northern Illinois University 85-49 in a very impressive defensive performance Friday. Every defensive stop Indiana committed led to it receiving better scoring opportunities in transition. 

Indiana defended as if its life depended on it. Literally. 

The defense was so disruptive, the Huskies could barely score a basket, forcing up terrible shots and a surplus of turnovers. The Hoosiers held the Huskies to a 21.9 shooting percentage, the best defensive effort since 1996-97.

There was a difference in how senior guard Xavier Johnson played Friday. Johnson ended with 14 points, two rebounds and three assists, while taking advantage of everything the Huskies were giving him.  

Johnson looked comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and made an effort involving his teammates to build on a 27-point lead in the first half. If Johnson can be the main ball handler for Indiana moving forward, this will be a tough team to compete against. 

Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was an unbelievable presence Friday night, ending with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. He was the major piece for Indiana contributing to everything on the floor being the main spark in their offensive play. 

Furthermore, Jackson-Davis’s seven blocks were tied for fourth most blocks in a game in program history. Woodson is lucky to have a player like him who is willing to carry Indiana into a winning culture this year. 

Obviously, we have no choice but to question if Indiana can keep the defensive momentum going forward. They improved to a 2-0 record, but another question to consider is if they can carry the same intensity competing against high-level teams within the Big Ten like Michigan, Purdue or Ohio State. 

These teams are March Madness contenders and will truly test Indiana to see if wins like Friday are a fluke. The Hoosiers have been known for not stepping up to the occasion when playing better teams. 

But Northern Illinois was the team in front of Indiana Friday, and it took advantage of the level of competition to make a statement.

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