Indiana men’s basketball moved to 3-0 with a 76-74 win against St. John’s University in the Gavitt Tipoff Games Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana stayed composed in a back-and-forth second half that came down to the final possession.
Woodson said in a press conference leading up to the game that the Hoosiers tried to be as prepared as possible in practice for the Red Storm’s full-court press, and he made it a point to his players to not shy away from running the offense in a higher tempo. Once they broke out of the press, he said it would be crucial to find a way to solve the Red Storm’s frustrating half-court zone defense, and ultimately the Hoosiers found their scoring touch, shooting 52% from the floor against a Red Storm defense that had held its opponents to just 65.5 points per game.
“I thought they hit us with everything they possibly could, from a man-to-man press, zone press and half-court zone-press,” Woodson said “But I'm happy with our ballclub and where we stand today, because we're competing. Our defense has been solid as hell.”
The physical nature of St. John’s press and the Hoosiers’ organized defensive scheme resulted in a scrappy game with several controversial moments between the two.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Red Storm senior guard Montez Mathis was ejected for a flagrant two foul on sophomore guard Trey Galloway. Galloway stole an inbound pass, falling hard to the floor after Mathis hooked his arm on the layup attempt.
Galloway could walk the contact off but sat out the rest of the game. Woodson said the condition of Galloway’s injury is unknown and he’ll have to be evaluated.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who earned his third career Big Ten Player of the Week nod Monday, put together his second double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The other half of the Hoosiers’ backcourt duo, senior forward Race Thompson, brought life into a packed Assembly Hall from the opening tip with nine first-half points and four total steals.
“Having that crowd and Assembly Hall rocking like that, we’re gonna need that in the future because the games are just gonna get tougher,” Jackson-Davis said.
Aside from the expected contributions from Jackson-Davis and Thompson, freshman guard Tamar Bates sparked Indiana’s offense in the first half, leading all scorers with 11 points on 5-7 shooting. Bates drew costly fouls on St. John’s forwards with drives to the basket and connected on several timely jump shots.
“His confidence is growing,” Jackson-Davis said about Bates. “He’s an intensity guy. He’s gonna keep bringing it and he’s a guy that’s not afraid to be vocal.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo made the most of his limited minutes for a second consecutive game, confidently stepping into his jump shots en route to a 3-4 shooting night to give Indiana some breathing room late.
St. John’s junior guard Julian Champagnie, who averaged 21 points in the team’s first two games and led the Big East last season with 19.8 points per game, kept his team in the game the whole way with 32 points on 6-12 shooting from deep.
Despite Champagnie’s late heroics, the Hoosiers never let their slim lead completely slip away. With under a minute left, a pair of Hoosier players passed up open 3-pointers to run more time off the clock, and their patience was rewarded when Thompson nailed a floater to put them up 75-72 with 21.5 seconds remaining.
“Last year we struggled closing out games,” Thompson said. “Coach Woodson says it’s a new year and we’re not doing that no more.”
Indiana continues its home stand against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.