It was weird not seeing the regular lineup for Indiana men’s basketball Tuesday night against Northwestern, as five key players, including starter senior guards Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart, were suspended before the game due to disciplinary reasons.
Not having half of your team is something Indiana did not need at this point in the season. A win against Northwestern would not only have built Indiana’s momentum for future games, but bolstered chances to make it into the AP Top 25 rankings.
Fans would assume without Indiana’s key players, the team would have a tough time finding the production needed to win on the road, and it did. Head coach Mike Woodson is big on finding the “next man up,” and this was an opportunity for his bench to step up to the challenge.
Freshman guard Trey Galloway, who played with a steady pace, led the new lineup. He made his presence known by scoring a quick nine points and helping the Hoosiers have a 30-26 lead going into halftime. Galloway stepped up off the bench for the Hoosiers, shooting 4-for-5 from the field, getting everyone involved, and picking up where Johnson left off in the last few games.
Despite Galloway’s struggles with shaky turnovers, his strong performance ended with a career-high 13 points, five rebounds and three assists after he fouled out in the second half. Indiana kept making adjustments, using the big-man duo of junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson to handle business with their inside presence.
Jackson-Davis was extremely active for Indiana compared to his last game against then-No. 18 Illinois, playing 36 minutes to cover ground for his missing teammates. His contributions Tuesday night made a huge difference, scoring 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while keeping himself out of foul trouble to remain available for Indiana.
Lately, Jackson-Davis has been struggling offensively, shooting 4-for-13 against the tightening defense of Northwestern in the second half, who shrunk the floor to contain him off the block where he is most efficient. Jackson-Davis will have to find his rhythm again for Indiana to see more success.
However, the ability of Jackson-Davis and Thompson running the floor is unmatched, with both getting wonderful finishes around the basket to keep Indiana within striking distance for the majority of the game. Thompson has been sensational these last three games, leading Indiana in most points scored against Northwestern with 14 points.
Fatigue was a big factor in Indiana’s weak production Tuesday tonight. The wear and tear with only seven scholarship players available took a toll on Indiana, resulting in the team being outrebounded and out-hustled for second chance opportunities.
Players who usually do not usually receive minutes are not used to playing over 30 minutes like they did tonight, which also contributed to the Hoosiers’ lack of energy and control in the second half.
Indiana needs to figure out how to produce offensively without Jackson-Davis and Thompson, as guards still have a problem with being stagnant around the perimeter waiting for Jackson-Davis to get shot opportunities. This kind of basketball will not cut it against March Madness-level teams. Indiana’s guards need to make plays and show confidence in their scoring to have a successful team.
The five players who did not play Tuesday night cost their team a critical road conference win. It’s as simple as that. Their actions put Indiana’s chances of making the NCAA March Madness tournament at risk, disappointing not only Woodson, but every Hoosier fan who supported and believed in them every single game.