Indiana men’s basketball entered its game Thursday night against Maryland on a five-game losing streak and sitting on the bubble of NCAA Tournament contention. It was a must-win game for Indiana, and the team did just that, taking down Maryland 74-64 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Indiana relinquished late leads in its last two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, but it led the entire way against Maryland. Maryland tied the game at 30-30 early in the second half, but Indiana stretched the l
ead out to 12 points by the end of the second half to cruise to a victory.
“I think in the past we had been playing good basketball, but we just had to play 40 minutes,” senior forward Race Thompson said at the postgame press conference. “Not 38 minutes, not 39 minutes. We put a full 40 together tonight.”
The Hoosiers worked the ball inside for most of the game and took advantage of the Terrapins’ porous interior defense. The Hoosiers nearly doubled their opponents’ total points in the paint and finished with a 44-24 scoring advantage near the rim. Even then, they were a solid 5-of-13 from 3-point range compared to a 10-of-25 effort from long range for the Terrapins.
Thompson was the catalyst for Indiana’s paint dominance, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. Alongside him in the paint was junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had a quiet yet solid night compared to his normal standards, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Jackson-Davis also blocked two shots.
Thompson said after the game when he and Jackson-Davis are able to get going, it opens the floor for other players, like senior guard Xavier Johnson who finished with a game-high 24 points for Indiana.
“We know when Trayce or Race are going, we're going to go back to them,” Johnson said. “As a point guard, that's on me for running the play for them.”
Johnson picked up two fouls early in the first half and sat for more than 13 minutes. With senior guard Rob Phinisee and sophomore guard Khristian Lander out with injuries, the Hoosier offense struggled without Johnson on the floor.
However, when Johnson returned to the floor he put together a nearly flawless seco
nd half. He scored 20 of his 24 points and dished out four of his six assists after halftime. He made every shot he took from the field until the final minute of the game, when he missed a free throw to finish 7-of-7 from the field, 3-of-3 from 3-point range and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said he couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Johnson, but Johnson wasn’t happy about his late free-throw miss.
“It hurt,” Johnson said of his late miss. “I was tired, but it hurt.”
Johnson’s energy was another huge factor for Indiana in the second half as he skied for a one-handed slam dunk and found senior forward Miller Kopp in transition for another dunk.
Kopp scored 8 points on an efficient 3-of-5 shooting from the field. Johnson and Thompson scored 32 of Indiana’s 44 second-half points with the remaining 12 coming from Jackson-Davis and Kopp. While Indiana shot 15-of-20 from the field in the second half, Maryland graduate student guard Fatts Russell kept the score respectable with 16 s
econd-half points of his own.
The Hoosiers defended Russell well for most of the half, but he made a number of difficult shots to keep the Terrapins in the game. He finished with 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range.
“(Russell) had the hottest hand for us tonight,” Maryland head coach Danny Mannin
g said after the game. “He gave us the chance to have some type of success in a tough environment.”
With its season back on track, Indiana will hit the road again to face Minnesota at 6 p.m. Sunday in Minneapolis. Minnesota is 4-13 in conference play this season and lost to Indiana 73-60 on Jan. 9 at Assembly Hall.