Indiana’s toughness helps it pass first road test at Michigan

  • 12/06/2023 8:04 am in

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Mike Woodson says that winning in the Big Ten is never easy and road wins are even more difficult. On Tuesday night, Indiana found itself in a tough spot: on the road in the Big Ten for the first time and without its starting point guard.

In their second conference game, the Hoosiers were tested against the Michigan Wolverines but emerged with a 78-75 victory. Indiana had to do the little things to earn a win, and they did. They walked out of the Crisler Center with a gritty win.

After a first half with 10 turnovers, Indiana cleaned up its sloppiness as the game progressed. Michigan, typically a good 3-point shooting team, knocked down some critical 3-pointers in the first half, but Indiana’s defense limited them to just one in the second. Overall, Indiana looked like a team willing to do whatever possible to get the victory. The Hoosiers are finding a way to win through eight games that haven’t always been pretty.

“We’re a competitive team,” Mike Woodson said postgame. “We’re playing hard. I think after that UConn game we kinda talked and said we gotta play harder. They smacked us in the face and we played dearly for it in that particular game. Since then, we’ve been playing a lot better.”

With Johnson sidelined, Indiana needed more production from its bench. Payton Sparks and Anthony Walker gave Indiana quality minutes in the first half, while Kaleb Banks made his time count throughout the entire game. Those three came into the game and gave Indiana more than just a few numbers in the box score. But the best performance from the bench came from sophomore CJ Gunn.

The Lawrence North product had been unable to make perimeter shots in IU’s first seven games but connected twice from deep on Tuesday. Gunn finished with eight points, two rebounds, and four steals while being a major factor on the defensive end. It was the most minutes for Gunn since the UConn lost. More importantly for Woodson and the rest of the team, Gunn now has a performance under his belt that gives him confidence moving forward.

The entire second unit played well for Indiana on a night they needed to get every ounce of help they could get.

“He was great,” Woodson said. “He made shots but defensively in tone and very engaging on the defense end. He had four steals but our bench played great. Walker, Kaleb, and Big Payton, they were all great off the bench and we are going to need that.”

Games like these show how hard winning in the Big Ten can be.

Indiana didn’t have its senior point guard captain and was on the road this season for the first time, but still stuck together for 40 minutes. Offensively, the Hoosiers made timely shots and got key stops when it mattered most. Three different Hoosiers – led by 15 points from Malik Reneau – scored in double figures. It wasn’t pretty, but Indiana found a way and is now 2-0 in the Big Ten.

Indiana has repeatedly found itself in close games through its first eight games but has figured out ways to finish them. Tuesday was the latest example.

“I thought we fought,” Woodson said. “My theme coming into tonight’s game was you gotta come out and set the tone like you did in the Maryland game and give yourself a chance to win… We made key shots coming down the stretch and key rebounds, we got the stops when we had to get them.”

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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