NEW YORK — The game of basketball is commonly referred to as a game of runs. Indiana men’s basketball’s Monday contest against the University of Louisville proved that true, and a late spurt to end the game put the Hoosiers on top in a 74-66 win.
Ironically, the two teams went back and forth to open the game. The Hoosiers and Cardinals traded baskets for the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the game in a tight match early.
Indiana’s second unit started the party of runs with a 14-3 outburst over a five-and-a-half minute span, turning a 15-12 deficit into a 26-18 lead. The late end of Indiana’s scoring stretch started another run, as the teams scored 9 straight points from the free throw line.
Louisville suffered a field goal drought just shy of eight minutes and trailed by as many as 10 points in the opening frame. However, the Cardinals broke the spell and outscored the Hoosiers 7-2 in the half’s final 98 seconds to cut the deficit to 5 points.
Indiana scored first to start the second frame, but Louisville responded with 6 points in a row — all from the charity stripe — to make it a 1-point game. Naturally, Indiana responded with an 8-0 run of its own to build its lead back to a 9-point advantage.
The teams traded scores before Louisville started the game’s longest scoring stretch — a 21-5 run over six-plus minutes. The Cardinals turned their 9-point deficit into a 7-point lead, their largest of the game.
Louisville’s scoring sequence was the culmination of all areas coming together. The Cardinals’ main success came inside with fast paced play. They took advantage of Indiana’s front court foul trouble and converted multiple layups or dunks in the paint. If those didn’t go, the Cardinals earned several trips to the free throw line.
A couple outside jumpers helped open the floor for Louisville and kept Indiana guessing defensively. After controlling the game and holding the momentum, the Hoosiers found themselves trailing by 7 points with less than eight minutes remaining.
With only the game left to lose, the Hoosiers flipped the switch and played more aggressively. Sophomores center Kel’el Ware and forward Malik Reneau, each with four fouls at the time, stayed in the game and attacked the basket.
The gamble paid off, as the duo scored Indiana’s next 10 points in the process of cutting Louisville’s lead to 1 point three times. Six of the 10 points came at the free throw line, as the front court turned the tables and gave the Cardinals’ big men in foul trouble, putting Indiana in the single and double bonuses and creating more opportunities to go at the basket.
Aggressive offensive play was a factor in the comeback effort, but it was the defense that flipped the script. Indiana head coach Mike Woodson — a noted proponent of man-to-man defense — switched to a zone.
“We couldn’t stop their step-up pick-and-roll,” Woodson said. “It was the right thing to do, and it probably caught them a little off guard because I don’t normally play zone.”
The blend of more intensity once trailing and the switch to zone completely disrupted Louisville. The Cardinals only made two field goals in the last nine minutes of the game, one of the baskets being a last-second giveaway when Indiana’s victory was assured.
Still, the Hoosiers needed to produce offensively to complete the comeback spurt. While it still trailed, Indiana scored 6 points off Louisville turnovers, including the go-ahead wide-open layup from senior guard Xavier Johnson to grab a 65-64 lead with just over three minutes to go.
The Hoosiers’ last 7 points came from the charity stripe to close out the contest. Indiana outscored Louisville 21-6 in the last seven minutes and 45 seconds, including a 13-0 stretch in the closing three-and-a-half minutes before Clark’s layup with four seconds left.
“The zone helped us,” Woodson said. “We were able to give them one shot, rebound the ball and we came down and Malik made a bucket, but the rest were fouls. We were trying to get the ball (inside) because they were in the penalty.”
Indiana’s back-and-forth affair can take on multiple meanings. In a positive light, it showed resilience in the final stretch with a big push to re-capture the lead and ultimately the game. With a glass half empty mindset, the Hoosiers never showed consistent periods of momentum and let multiple chances to run away with the game slip until the end.
The Hoosiers’ win over the Cardinals encapsulates the overall picture of their season thus far. Despite some opportunities, Indiana has not been able to come away with a large margin of victory.
Indiana’s next chance at doing so comes against Harvard University. The teams will face each other at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.