When Indiana men’s basketball took the court against Northwestern Tuesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, an unfamiliar figure stood closest to the visiting team’s basket as junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis prepared for his battle for the opening tip at centercourt.
Starting at point guard for Indiana was sophomore guard Trey Galloway.
It was Galloway’s first start this season, but the opportunity turned out to be for all the wrong reasons. Moments before Tuesday’s tip, Indiana Athletics announced in an email that five players, including senior guards Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart, sophomore guard Khristian Lander and freshman guard Tamar Bates, would not play due to disciplinary reasons.
Ultimately, those absences in the backcourt were too much for Indiana to make up for in a rowdy road environment. The seven-man rotation head coach Mike Woodson was limited to led to fatigue among Indiana’s starters and an NCAA tournament reputation-damaging 59-51 loss to Northwestern.
“Trey Galloway played his butt off,” Woodson said postgame. “All the guys played extremely well. Unfortunately, their teammates let them down.”
But Galloway, who has provided a spark off the bench for the Hoosiers all season through creative drives to the rim on offense and relentless activity on defense, seemed prepared for the moment. He hadn’t been in this position before in his collegiate career, but knew the ins and outs of playing as a true point guard from his experience at Culver Academies High School, where he averaged over 20 points per game his senior year.
“I knew what I had to do,” Galloway said. “I just wanted to come out and compete for my teammates. It was unexpected but you gotta adjust and try to find ways to win the game. We did a good job of that.”
With Galloway operating as the team’s primary ball handler, the Hoosiers’ movement on offense gave reason for hope against the Wildcats despite how shorthanded they were.
Through the opening six minutes against Northwestern, Galloway already poured in 9 points on 4-4 shooting. He picked his spots to attack with both care and precision, knocking down his patented floater over an opposing forward, scooping in a pair of layups and drilling one of Indiana’s four 3-pointers of the night.
Because sophomore guard Anthony Leal was the only other scholarship guard available for Indiana and he also started, Galloway played all 20 minutes in the first half.
“That’s toughness,” Jackson-Davis said about Galloway’s performance. “He showed his grit. He got downhill. For a position he hasn’t necessarily played in (much) he did a great job, and he’s just gonna keep working and building from there.”
What came in the second half, though, reaffirmed how valuable Galloway’s persistence and composure are to Indiana’s success.
Galloway gave up five turnovers, but he made up for it with his involvement in every other aspect. Of his three total assists against the Wildcats, two came on a pair of wide-open 3-pointers in the first half and the other through a bounce pass to junior forward Race Thompson to cut the Hoosier’s deficit to 4 points with under four minutes left.
To cap off a career-high night in scoring with 13 points, Galloway threw up and banked in an off-balance shot to keep Indiana within striking distance during a second-half cold spell in which it made just eight field goals.
If not for the five personal fouls he picked up in the second half before fouling out with just over two-and-a-half minutes remaining, Galloway would have played every minute of Tuesday’s game.
Galloway’s hustle and energy, along with his ability to create for himself inside the 3-point line, have warranted calls from fans for an inclusion in Indiana’s starting lineup. He has usually replaced Stewart or senior forward Miller Kopp when checking into games this season, but his performance in Tuesday’s game may encourage Woodson to keep him in the starting five.
Kopp had a chance to redeem a long stretch of poor offensive play in his first season with Indiana when he returned to face his former team. His struggles persisted, though, as he shot just 1-7 from the floor and 1-5 from deep, including an airball in the final minute that would’ve cut Northwestern’s lead to 3 points.
Depending on how long the other guards are held out, which Woodson said he has yet to make a decision on, Galloway may be in line for another start when Indiana takes on No. 17 Michigan State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan.