Before Saint Mary’s College took down Indiana 82-53 in the Round of 64, it lost its last game in the West Coast Conference Tournament final to No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga on March 8. While Saint Mary’s came into it with eight days of rest, the Thursday matchup in Portland, Oregon, marked Indiana’s fifth game in eight days.
After three games in the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana took down the University of Wyoming on Tuesday night in its First Four game to advance in Dayton, Ohio, almost 2,400 miles from its next stop.
Indiana tipped off against Wyoming around 9:30 p.m., just 46 hours before its game with Saint Mary’s started. After the win, Indiana’s flight was scheduled to take off at 1 a.m., but didn’t leave Dayton until after 4 a.m. due to issues with the plane.
“I know Indiana won't use this as an excuse, but the situation they had is tough,” Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett said. “They were just playing Wyoming. They were trying to get that win. They just finished their conference tournament. They really didn't have any chance to prepare for us.”
Bennett said he could see how gassed Indiana’s players were by halftime and added his team had a much better situation coming in because it was able to rest.
Regardless of the circumstances, Indiana played hard against Saint Mary’s. However, Indiana’s effort couldn’t make up for its lack of energy. Saint Mary’s outscored it 63-32 after Indiana held its last lead, 21-19, with 8:04 left to play in the first half.
The wheels fell off for the Hoosiers on both ends of the court as the game went on. A lackluster performance on offense in the first half became an awful one in the second as the Hoosiers shot 11-27 from the field before halftime and 7-26 after. Freshman guard Tamar Bates scored 6 points in the second half, the most of any Hoosier, and he was the only Hoosier to make more than one field goal in the second half.
“I don't think it had anything to do with legs,” junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “Obviously, when you start playing a lot of minutes, you get tired regardless. I just think that overall they were a sharper team than us today.”
Jackson-Davis, a second-team All-Big Ten selection this season, scored 10 of Indiana’s 28 first-half points and was on his way to a fifth-straight 20-point game. However, he attempted just three field goals in the second half and made one to finish with a team-leading 12 points in the loss.
Senior guard Xavier Johnson scored 11 points and tacked on 5 assists, but the remaining three starters — seniors guard Parker Stewart, forward Miller Kopp and forward Race Thompson — combined for just 6 more points. Bates and sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo, who scored 7 and 9 points, respectively, both outscored that trio by themselves.
Geronimo scored a career-high in Indiana’s last game against Wyoming to advance after missing its last game in the Big Ten Tournament with an ankle injury, and his 9-point performance Thursday was the third-highest on the team.
“I just gained, I guess, a lot of confidence in myself,” Geronimo said Thursday. “I'm able to provide to help my team win, and just being able to work with my team is always a good experience.”
Indiana started strong on defense, only allowing 14 points from Saint Mary’s in the first 10 minutes, but it broke down as Saint Mary’s offense hammered away inside and found 3-point opportunities. Sophomore guard Trey Galloway hit a floater with 8:35 to play in the first half, giving Indiana a 21-17 lead. However, Saint Mary’s outscored Indiana 23-7 from that point to the end of the first half.
The Gaels led at the halftime break 40-28, and instead of coming out of the locker room reenergized in the second half, the Hoosier looked even more fatigued. The Gaels opened the half on a 25-5 run, and the Hoosier faithful’s loudest cheers came when a pair of Indiana cheerleaders, Cassidy Cerny and Nathan Paris, built a human tower to retrieve the ball when it got stuck behind the backboard.
Indiana’s starting lineup shot 2-12 in the second half and scored just 9 points. Johnson scored 4, Thompson scored 3 and Jackson-Davis scored 2 while Kopp and Stewart put up goose eggs. Jackson-Davis played 14 minutes in the second half, the most of the starters, and Saint Mary’s outscored Indiana by 19 when he was on the floor.
The Hoosiers finished 21-14 in their first season under head coach Mike Woodson and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. They also won two games in the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“It was a great run for our ball club this season getting back into the Big Dance,” Woodson said. “Now we've got to build on it for the future. That's what it's all about at this point.”