With just under seven minutes left to go in the first half of the Indiana men’s basketball game against St. John’s University, freshman guard Tamar Bates made a step-back move and picked up the ball behind the 3-point line.
Bates stalled for a second, looking ready to pass the ball back out to one of his teammates to restart the offense. He landed right in front of the student section and a fan yelled “pull it” as he held the ball. Almost immediately, Bates rose up for the shot and drilled it, scoring 3 of his 11 team-leading first-half points and putting Indiana up 9 points on the way to a 76-74 win.
After the game, junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said Bates’ confidence has been growing and he thinks it will continue to grow this season.
“He's an intensity guy and he's going to keep bringing it,” Jackson-Davis said at the post-game press conference. “He wants to win so badly.”
Bates didn’t score in the second half, but he played important minutes down the stretch, including on the last play when Indiana’s defense forced junior forward Julian Champagnie, into a tough 3-point shot, which he missed to seal the win for Indiana. Bates played 27 minutes off the bench, Indiana’s third-most behind Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson.
After the game, Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said Bates played great but mentioned room for improvement in his game as he continues to work his way back from an injury.
“I've got to get him better defensively where he's not jumping around as much,” Woodson said. “I like him because he sees the moment. He's not scared of the moment. You need players like that.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo logged an important eight minutes in the game as well, scoring 7 points on 3-3 shooting in four minutes played in the second half.
Geronimo came in with around nine minutes left to play in the second half and halted a 7-0 St. John’s run with a 3-pointer. The play had stalled and Indiana’s offense looked stagnant after nearly turning the ball over multiple times in the possession, but the team found Geronimo who stepped into the shot and put Indiana up 59-56.
Then, right after the under-eight minute media timeout, Geronimo forced a turnover on the other end and made a jump shot to extend Indiana’s lead 63-58.
He’d make another layup before heading back to the bench to an ovation from the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall crowd.
“He came in and he responded,” Woodson said. “He made some big plays for us.”
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Thompson said Bates and Geronimo make big plays every day in practice, so it wasn’t surprising to see them do it in the game.
After the game, Woodson said Indiana’s second unit is just as important as the starting lineup, and tonight, he thought their play was great and reminiscent of the team’s last matchup with Northern Illinois University. He also said he needed to do a better job of managing the lead after St. John’s tied the game in the second half.
“I've got to do a better job, man, and when we got big leads like this, you know, this is kind of a carbon copy of the Eastern Michigan game,” Woodson said. “But the beauty behind it all, we didn't crack, man.”