No. 18 Indiana men’s basketball got two Jalen Hood-Schifinos on Saturday.
There was the freshman guard that, at times, looked like a freshman given the reins to the team after senior guard Xavier Johnson broke his foot. The Hood-Schifino that has struggled shooting, especially on the road, and has turned the ball over too many times.
Then there’s the five-star, the Hood-Schifino that has looked like a player well beyond his years. His unwavering confidence in the biggest moments returned against Michigan, and thanks to a strong two-man game with senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers escaped with a 62-61 victory.
“I’m not the type of person that’s ever going to lose confidence,” Hood-Schifino said after the victory. “I’m always gonna shoot the ball. I had some turnovers here and there, but sometimes that just comes with the game.”
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His toughness couldn’t be questioned Saturday. After a drive to the basket ended with a hard fall, Hood-Schifino stood up and rubbed his elbow, favoring it for the next defensive possession. But when Indiana stopped Michigan’s offense again, Hood-Schifino asked for the ball and hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 1 point, despite his elbow still sparking.
That sequence came just minutes after committing two turnovers, one on a travel and one on an offensive foul. The turnovers were his fifth and sixth of the games, but Hood-Schifino didn’t shy away from playmaking attempts.
“All those things, with maturity, he’ll get better,” Woodson said. “But he played a solid game. I mean, we needed every bit of his 21 points.”
For the last 11:50 of the game, Hood-Schifino didn’t turn the ball over again and scored 8 of his 21 points.
Hood-Schifino’s back-and-forth play showed itself in the first half. He started the evening with three missed shots and a turnover before finally scoring on a layup, then quickly picked up his second foul. After sitting for five minutes, he returned only to turn the ball over two more times.
“He’s young,” Woodson said. “From watching film, he’ll learn not to take chances, not to be lazy on entry passes to the post and not be lackadaisical with the ball out front when he’s handling it.”
Michigan’s lead ballooned to 11 amid his struggles, the largest lead the Wolverines would hold all game. For the remainder of the half, however, Hood-Schifino's play drastically tightened up. Without another turnover or foul, he scored 8 points, helping drag the Hoosiers to a 4-point halftime deficit.
Between Hood-Schifino and Jackson-Davis, Indiana had all the offense it needed to eke out a road victory. The two combined for 49 of Indiana’s 62 points, including 28 and 10 rebounds from Jackson-Davis.
“He’s a super talented player, probably one of the best guards I’ve ever played with, regardless of where or when,” Jackson-Davis said. “I feel like me and him are one of the best duos on the country.”
Hood-Schifino is now shooting 42% on the season, a number weighed down by as many games with one made field goal as it is buoyed by games with eight or more.
Saturday was another game with eight makes — Hood-Schifino was 8-for-15 from the field — his third in five games, sandwiched around two games where he went a combined 3-for-23. Stability is still the last piece of the puzzle for a guard who’s both aided and hindered the Hoosiers all year.
Against Michigan, a game chock full of the good and the bad and a microcosm of his season, Hood-Schifino fought to guide Indiana to the other side — and to second place in the Big Ten.
“Anytime you’re going through ups and downs, I just mentally stay composed,” Hood-Schifino said. “I feel like I’m built for every moment.”