Indiana’s stingy defense holds Michigan scoreless the last 5:12 and propels Hoosiers past Wolverines

  • 02/12/2023 8:38 am in

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At the 10-minute mark of the first half, Michigan had already scored 24 points and was scoring at will. Kobe Bufkin was getting to the rim easily on pick-and-rolls and the Hoosiers had no answer.

Then, the script flipped. The Wolverines only scored 13 points for the rest of the half.

“I’m sitting in the timeout and I’m like ‘guys, if we keep it this pace, they’re gonna double that score 40-some points’,” Mike Woodson said.

While Michigan did shoot 51.7 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, the Hoosiers held them to 32 percent in the second half on just eight made field goals.

It wasn’t a pretty 62-61 victory for the Hoosiers on Saturday night at the Crisler Center. But Indiana did what good teams do and won on the road when not playing its best. Defensively, Indiana was elite down the stretch.

Michigan didn’t score for the last 5:12 and finished one of its last 10 from the field. Both teams were scoreless for the last 2:58.

“In the second half…coming down the stretch run man,” Woodson said. “We became so stingy on the defensive end that we refused to give up good looks.”

Notably, this was a game that Indiana could have put away multiple times. The Hoosiers had the ball up one on four different possessions in the last three minutes. In those possessions, Indiana turned it over twice, missed a layup and Trayce Jackson-Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one. The game was there for Michigan to take.

But at the end of the night, it was Indiana’s defense that got the last laugh.

“That’s what you gotta do on the road when you want to close out games, you gotta get big stops,” Jackson-Davis said. “Every time we went to the media timeouts we said, Just get three stops in a row. Get a kill. Get a kill. Get a kill. And then we started getting stops in a row and might have ended with about seven in a row.”

In this stretch, the Hoosiers’ defense was impenetrable. Indiana forced two shots that never hit the rim, picked up a steal and blocked a layup. Michigan only got one clean look and it was a Bufkin runner as the shot clock expired. It hit back iron. But perhaps the best defensive possession of the game was that steal.

With 1:30 left to play Miller Kopp got switched onto the 7-foot Hunter Dickinson on the left block. From there he fronted the junior big man and denied the ball. The smaller Kopp could only do this for so long though. Michigan’s Terrance Williams lobbed a pass but Trey Galloway, who had eyed it the whole way, sprinted from the weakside block to snag it out of the air. Indiana ball.

Galloway has been making plays like this all season long. He always finds a way to impact the game other than just scoring. On Saturday night, Galloway scored just four points in 33 minutes, but he’ll be remembered for that steal.

Last year, Indiana’s defense was its identity. Woodson preached how important it was for his teams to be solid defensively and fight on that end of the floor. Last season’s top-rated Big Ten defense set the expectation for all of Woody’s teams at IU. This season, especially early on, there were a lot of questions surrounding Indiana’s defensive play.

The Hoosiers gave up 84 points at home to Northwestern and then three days later allowed Penn State to shoot 18-for-31 from beyond the arc. Indiana looked like a team that had lost its way defensively. Since then, the Hoosiers have only given up 70 points twice, both wins over Purdue and Ohio State.

Against Michigan, Indiana only gave up 24 points in the second half.

You could argue that only two players truly played well for Indiana on Saturday. The two would be Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino. No other Hoosier scored more than four points. Michigan led for 33:54 of game time in a contest the Hoosiers never controlled. But IU won. And that’s what good teams do on the road.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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