With four seconds left on the clock before halftime, senior guard Xavier Johnson started his drive to the basket in the midst of an 8-0 run for Indiana men’s basketball against Maryland.
Johnson, who averaged 17 points for Indiana across the last three games, sped past his defender then pump faked, pivoted and dropped off a pass to junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. Jackson-Davis dunked it home right before the buzzer, giving Indiana a 33-26 lead, himself 12 first-half points and Johnson seven first-half assists Saturday in College Park, Maryland.
The Terrapins opened the game on an 8-0 run, but Johnson’s distribution and Jackson-Davis’ dominance in the paint fueled a 15-point swing for the Hoosiers. Then, the team led the entire second half thanks to 11 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Race Thompson and cruised to a 68-55 victory.
Thompson and Jackson-Davis scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, and combined for 21 rebounds. The Hoosiers held a 36-20 scoring advantage in the paint thanks in most part to Thompson and Jackson-Davis, and they combined for two of the team’s six blocks.
“That’s the strength of our ball club, is playing inside-out with both of those guys,” head coach Mike Woodson said at the postgame press conference. “I’m going to keep utilizing them. I think that’s the strength of our team, and I think the surrounding, supporting cast understands that.”
Thompson continued his hot shooting from 3-point range, going 2-2 from beyond the arc. After hitting just three of his 25 3-point attempts through Indiana’s first 18 games this season, Thompson has gone 5 for 8 from long range in the last three games.
Despite his struggles early this season, Thompson said he’s been working on his long-range shot every day after practice. Woodson said a power forward who can hit 3-pointers is valuable, and he hopes Thompson will continue knocking them down.
“It’s just the confidence the coaches give me,” Thompson said. “I was struggling from the 3-point line pretty much the whole season, and they’re urging me to keep shooting it.”
Johnson cooled off Saturday after three straight performances of at least 15 points, going 1-8 from the field and 1-5 from 3-point range. However, the Hoosiers outscored the Terrapins by 20 points with Johnson on the floor thanks in large part to his nine assists, which tied for a season high. Woodson said Johnson is starting to see the game better compared to earlier in the season.
“The game is slowing down now,” Woodson said. “He’s making winning plays for our ball club.”
Johnson improved his assist average to a team-high 4.5 per game Saturday, with the next closest being Jackson-Davis at 1.8, who was Indiana’s second-leading assist man Saturday with three. Jackson-Davis tossed one of his assists to sophomore guard Khristian Lander, who played for the first time since Dec. 22 and scored his first points since Nov. 30.
Lander, whose availability was a game-time decision, came back from knee tendonitis and filled in the backup point guard role for senior guard Rob Phinisee, who was injured in Indiana’s last game against Penn State. Lander scored 5 points on 2-2 shooting in the second half, but picked up four fouls in just 10 minutes.
Lander said after the game he was able to play after a good shootaround Friday that carried over to Saturday. Thompson said he was impressed with Lander and thought he played well.
“I think he can really help us,” Thompson said.
Woodson said Phinisee could be day-to-day at his press conference Friday, but Phinisee sported a walking boot and was rolling around on a leg scooter before the game Saturday. Indiana has a week before its next game, but Lander's availability will be crucial if Phinisee isn’t able to get healthy.
Sophomore guard Trey Galloway and forward Jordan Geronimo gave Indiana a spark off the bench in addition to Lander, scoring 8 and 6 points respectively. Galloway also finished with two assists, two steals and a rebound, and Geronimo also finished with eight rebounds, two blocks, and steal.
Galloway helped hold Maryland’s leading scorer, senior guard Eric Ayala, to 6 points on 2-12 shooting. Woodson said Galloway played a solid all-around game and that his defense and energy changes games.
“Trey’s a guy who’s going to try to blow things up, get steals,” Thompson said. “He’s just high-energy, so when Trey gets out there you know what you’re going to get out of him.”
Indiana will return to Bloomington for its next game against No. 24 Illinois with a two-game road win streak after dropping its first four away from home. That game is set for noon Feb. 5 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and it will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.