Minutes before Indiana men’s basketball’s game against Northwestern on Tuesday night, head coach Mike Woodson announced five players — including starting guards senior Xavier Johnson and graduate student Parker Stewart — have been suspended for “disciplinary reasons.”
Hoosier fans took to the Twittersphere to speculate on the reasoning before and throughout the game, which ended in a 59-51 defeat at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois. While the cause is unknown, the suspensions coupled with senior guard Rob Phinisee’s injury left the team with seven scholarship players.
“I’m not going to give you all the in-house things, they broke rules and they were punished for it,” Woodson said. “We’re going to be a team, and you set rules that guys got to obey as a team.”
All five suspended Hoosiers warmed up with the team before the game, but they stayed planted on the bench and watched as their teammates got out to a 30-26 halftime lead. Woodson said the suspended players knew he was upset about what they did, but they remained on the bench because they’re still part of the team despite not deserving to play.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said despite not being on the floor, the suspended Hoosiers were still trying to be good teammates from the bench and cheering them on.
“That’s all you can do,” Jackson-Davis said.
Ultimately the wheels fell off for Indiana as fatigue set in for the starting lineup, all of whom played at least 34 minutes. The team led 35-28 early in the second half, but a scoring drought of over five minutes and a 13-0 run by Northwestern proved too much to overcome for a winded Indiana lineup.
"I thought all the guys who played tonight played extremely well,” Woodson said. “Unfortunately, their teammates let them down by doing the things they done."
Indiana’s forward pair of Jackson-Davis and senior Race Thompson combined for 27 points and 17 rebounds, but Jackson-Davis struggled from the field in the loss, shooting 4-for-13 in a team-high 39 minutes. Thompson went 7-13 from the field, but missed all three of his 3-point attempts and went 0-2 from the free-throw line.
While Indiana’s big-man duo did what they could to keep the Hoosiers in striking distance even as the clocks neared all zeros, sophomore guard Trey Galloway starred for the team and tied his career-high with 13 points. Galloway filled in as point guard with Phinisee hurt and Johnson and sophomore guard Khristian Lander among those suspended.
Galloway said the circumstances were unexpected, but the Hoosiers who played did a good job of adjusting and competing.
“I knew what I had to do,” Galloway said. “I just wanted to come out here and compete for my teammates.”
Galloway played every second of the game until he fouled out with 2:36 left to play, finishing with five rebounds, three assists and a block. However, he also finished with five turnovers. Woodson said Galloway didn’t have enough energy to play well through the home stretch of the game because he didn’t have a backup, but Galloway along with the rest of the Hoosiers “played their butts off.”
Indiana’s remaining starters, senior forward Miller Kopp and sophomore guard Anthony Leal, struggled throughout the game. Despite playing 34 minutes each, the pair made just one field goal each, going a combined 2-12 in the game.
Kopp returned to his former stomping grounds after playing his first three seasons of college basketball at Northwestern. However, he didn’t receive a warm welcome and went cold in the building he used to call home.
Indiana will remain on the road for its next game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. Woodson said the team would regroup, but he still has a decision to make on the suspended players.
“I don’t know if it’s a one-game thing or not,” Woodson said. “I gotta make that decision if that’s something I want to do when I’m heading home tonight.”