It was tough seeing Indiana’s poor performance Sunday against Michigan, but the team’s takeaway from the loss was clear when Indiana made a statement Wednesday night, flattening Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
There is nothing like watching revenge games. Seeing players focused and eager to destroy their opponent makes the games exciting to watch.
The team played outstanding basketball Wednesday night, getting vengeance following its inefficient activity against Michigan. The energy was different for Indiana as everyone was dialed in, holding Penn State to shooting 16% from the field in the first half.
Head coach Mike Woodson encouraging his players in early shootaround might have been what Indiana needed coming into Wednesday night’s game. Indiana created a 12-0 run early in the first half and ended the game shooting 77% from 3-point land.
It was shocking to see how efficient Indiana was shooting the basketball without big contributions from senior guards Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart. Indiana’s performance was built off straight focus, which is something Kopp and Stewart need more of to be a threat for Indiana when everyone else’s shooting is off.
Indiana’s defensive approach reminded me of how it played earlier in the season. Players were talking more, getting over high ball-screens, reacting quickly to switches and forcing Penn State to speed up its game plan with costly turnovers.
Indiana even did a better job with fighting over screens, taking away Penn State’s driving penetrations to disrupt the passing lanes leading to fastbreak opportunities.
There was no question Indiana made a statement as a whole, but senior guard Xavier Johnson also made his presence known, carrying Indiana’s momentum to further to a 29 point lead. Johnson led the team, scoring 19 points, four rebounds and six assists being 3-3 from 3-point land.
Johnson has been playing wonderful basketball for Indiana, having the mentality to get downhill every possession to create opportunities for himself and teammates. He remains efficient and patient on both ends of the floor and could boost Indiana into the AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll conversation.
The big man duo of junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson were also in full-force Wednesday night. Jackson-Davis and Thompson both scored in double figures, combining for 33 points and four blocks, doing everything they could to contribute energy on both ends for Indiana.
That energy of Indiana will have to remain present for the rest of this season in order to get itself into the March Madness tournament. It will only be a matter of time until all players will be healthy and ready for battle.
It is definitely a huge blow for Indiana with senior guard Rob Phinisee leaving the first half due to an apparent ankle injury. He is a huge piece for Indiana going into the rest of this season, and it will be a devastating blow to Indiana if he cannot return.