If you wanted a plot twist as Indiana’s men’s basketball team has worked its way through a week full of mid-major opponents, you got a big one Wednesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The No. 11 Hoosiers faced down Little Rock without the services of Trayce Jackson-Davis. Indiana was also missing Trey Galloway for the second straight contest while Anthony Leal had his right foot in a boot after an ankle injury.
How did Indiana do without its All-American and part of its bench? Fine, but it took time. Indiana won 87-68 over Little Rock, pulling away in the final 10 minutes.
Seniors Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson were the primary reason why. Thompson had 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. Johnson had eight assists and seven points in the second half.
“Me and X got into a little ball screen thing, like what you see Trayce and X do a lot of times. You get me and (Jalen Hood-Schifino) in a ball screen? (Johnson) will make a play for you. It was really just X playing and getting me into plays,” Thompson said.
After the game, Indiana coach Mike Woodson allayed any fears Jackson-Davis’s injury was a long-term situation. The Indiana star has been playing all season his with right hand wrapped.
“We’ll continue to evaluate him. He’s been beat up a bit physically. It’s nothing major. We rested him tonight and get him ready hopefully for Jackson State (on Friday),” Woodson said.
To start the game, Malik Reneau saw to it that Jackson-Davis’ rest could be stress-free. The freshman scored eight of Indiana’s first 12 points as his burst of quality ensured the Hoosiers would lead for the entire first half.
Reneau’s burst of quality turned out to be a pattern shared by the rest of the Hoosiers. Indiana enjoyed brief supernovas of excellence, such as a stretch for Jordan Geronimo where he scored six points and had a block to parry a Trojans’ run.
However, Indiana (5-0) also let Little Rock hang around. The Trojans sliced their deficit to 22-17 at one point, and Little Rock did a good job of keeping Indiana out of its transition offense.
One last burst, a 7-0 run fueled by Hood-Schifino and C.J. Gunn, lifted Indiana to a 37-22 lead, but Little Rock didn’t flinch. By halftime, Indiana’s lead was just nine.
Little Rock (2-4) continued to hang around. Indiana led 48-42 when yet another burst created yet another gap. This one was encouraging for the Hoosiers. After having made just two 3-pointers to that point in the game, Miller Kopp had two in a 12-0 run to make it 58-45.
Still, Little Rock didn’t flinch. The Trojans sliced their deficit to seven with 9:04 left.
Then Thompson – who played the second half with a headband on after taking a shot to the head in the first half – and Johnson took over. They scored five points in a 7-0 run that finally got Indiana past a 15-point lead as it led 74-57 with 7:41 left.
After that, Little Rock finally capitulated. Johnson and Thompson combined to score the next six points as Indiana made nine of its last 10 field goal attempts.
Indiana was also much better from 3-point range in the second half, making 50% of its attempts.
“I’m pleased. I can’t sit here and complain about anything tonight. It was a total team effort,” Woodson said.
Indiana has another short turnaround as it concludes the Hoosier Classic on Friday afternoon as Jackson State visits.