Indiana men’s basketball was in a slugfest. In its first road game of the season at Michigan on Tuesday night, the Hoosiers and Wolverines went back and forth, exchanging blows and trading the lead as the clock wound down. When it mattered most, the Hoosiers’ starting lineup stepped up and guided the team to a 78-75 win.
“I thought we fought,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “We made the key shots coming down the stretch and got key rebounds and stops when we had to get them.”
It was an odd start for Indiana. The Hoosiers kept pace early in the first frame but played poorly doing so, committing six turnovers in the first six-and-a-half minutes of the game. Nonetheless, they made shots when they took care of the ball, powered by the front court.
Midway through the half, it was Indiana’s bench players who picked up the slack. The second unit quarter of senior forward Anthony Walker, junior forward Payton Sparks and sophomores guard CJ Gunn and forward Kaleb Banks built up a 28-21 Indiana lead with eight minutes left in the first half. It was the Hoosiers’ largest lead of the game.
However, the starters stumbled as the remainder of the frame unraveled, allowing Michigan to creep back and ultimately take a 39-37 halftime lead.
Indiana regained the lead 43-41 to start the second half but then endured a four-minute scoring drought. The Hoosiers’ starting squad missed five shots and committed two turnovers in the stretch while Michigan retook control.
Banks came off the bench and broke the scoring spell at the 14-minute mark, triggering the start of a dramatic second frame. Michigan sophomore forward Will Tschetter — also a bench player — started a dominant stretch by balancing his size and shooting touch and gave Michigan a 6-point lead.
It was the impactful second unit that clawed back into the contest. Gunn capped off a 7-0 run with his second 3-pointer of the game to put the Hoosiers back up one. A few minutes later, Gunn created an opportunity for Indiana to break the game open.
It was to no avail. After he sank two free throws, Gunn stole the ball and ran the fast break. He dished it to senior guard Trey Galloway, but he couldn’t convert the layup. The next possession the roles reversed as Galloway nabbed a steal, but Gunn couldn’t put the layup in.
At that point, Gunn and Indiana’s bench had kept the Hoosiers in the game. Down the final stretch, however, Indiana’s starters proved the reason why they earned their positions and helped bring the Hoosiers to the finish line.
Every possession became a dire need for heroics. With 2:35 left, Galloway drove right and made a sweeping layup with a foul to take the lead but missed the layup.
Michigan graduate forward Olivier Nkamhoua attempted to respond with a turnaround jumper, but Hoosier sophomore center Kel’el Ware stuffed it, but Nkamhoua responded the next possession to tie things up.
Ware responded. After a timeout call, he scooped a hook shot over the defender’s reach as the shot clock ticked down, giving Indiana the advantage with 53 seconds left. After a Michigan free throw, it was Indiana ball, 35 seconds remaining, 75-74 Hoosiers.
After Reneau missed a shot but Michigan deflected it out, forward Mackenzie Mgbako received an inbounds pass with five seconds left. The freshman who hadn’t missed a free throw all season went to the line with Hoosier nation and the opposing Michigan crowd breathing down his neck.
Both were pure. Up 3, Indiana fouled McDaniel to prevent a game-tying 3-pointer, and he again split the free throws. Galloway did the same on the other end, and Michigan had one more chance with two seconds.
With Tschetter throwing the inbounds, a long pass was intended downcourt, but Ware leapt in the air and swatted it down to secure the road win.
Indiana had several stages where it suffered offensive stagnancy and lacked momentum, but it still pulled through. A strong effort from the starting five prevailed in a game that featured 18 ties and 12 lead changes.
The Hoosiers’ bench provided 28 points and stepped up in the lulls it needed to, just as the starters did by scoring the team’s final 12 points to outlast the Wolverines. The game didn’t develop in the preferred method with multiple scoring droughts and turnover-infested bunches, but the two units complimented each other just enough to get the job done.
The win marks Indiana’s first 2-0 start in Big Ten play since the 2018-19 season. It increased the Hoosiers’ win streak to four straight games and their record to 7-1 overall.
Next up for Indiana is a neutral-court showdown against Auburn University. The teams will face off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia. It will be available to watch on ESPN2.