The Minute After: Kansas

  • 12/16/2023 4:15 pm in

Thoughts on a 75-71 loss to the Jayhawks:

What a difference a week makes.

With the Auburn debacle firmly in the rearview mirror and Assembly Hall’s magic alive and well, the Hoosiers seemed primed for the upset of No. 2 Kansas. On the back of a strong first half on both sides of the ball, Indiana carried a 13-point lead with 15:07 to go in the second half. Trey Galloway was playing the game of life. Mackenzie Mgbako’s breakout game was finally here. The 3-pointers, at long last, were dropping at a high rate.

But Kansas slowly and surely started to assert itself as the second half wore on. And so a game Indiana had firm control of began to slip from its grasp for good. With 8:48 to go, a Hunter Dickinson bucket pulled the Jayhawks within three points. Another Dickinson make at the 4:32 mark gave Kansas its first lead of the game, 62-61. Malik Reneau answered right back to put the Hoosiers up 63-62. But Dajuan Harris Jr.’s floater on the Jayhawks’ next possession regained them the lead at 64-63 with 4:16 left. It was a lead they never relinquished. Kansas continued to make the plays down the stretch, hitting six of its last eight shots and key free throws late to close this one out.

But Indiana had its chances. After knocking down a 3-pointer to pull the Hoosiers within two points at 71-69 with 54 seconds left, Galloway got another great look from 3-point range after Indiana got a stop on defense. A make would have regained the lead, but it missed.

“I thought it was good,” Galloway said after the game. “Not all shots fall, but next opportunity I get, I’m gonna make sure I make it.”

Indiana then fouled Kevin McCullar Jr. and the strong free-throw shooter missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But Dickinson was able to disrupt Kel’el Ware from behind on the rebound and a questionable call saw the refs calling it out of bounds on Indiana and upheld after a review. That meant Kansas got to reset with 17 seconds to play. The Hoosiers fouled McCullar Jr. again, and this time, he sunk both free throws. What could have been a two-point deficit with the ball was now four points. The Hoosiers went for a quick-hitter 3-pointer from Mgbako, which missed, but Ware tipped it back in to pull Indiana within two. Indiana then again sent McCullar to the line and he hit both free throws once more. The four-point lead with just seven seconds left was enough for Kansas to seal the victory, as a late Gabe Cupps 3-pointer didn’t fall.

“I don’t think our defensive intensity was there the second half,” Mike Woodson said post-game.

Woodson also pointed to fatigue as a factor late.

“I thought fatigue set in. I played Cupps and (Galloway) the whole second half.”

Galloway was sensational this afternoon. He got to the basket time and again, whether off the perimeter or on that zoom dribble handoff action Indiana has run for him a fair amount this season. Indiana’s captain also drilled 2-of-4 from deep, looking confident in his 3-point shot for the first time in a long time. Galloway exited the game after fouling out with seven seconds to go with a career-high 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Despite foul trouble limiting him, Mgbako had a standout performance. He continues to look better on defense and hit 2-of-4 from deep. But he also got buckets on the drive off the perimeter, a wrinkle to his game we have yet to see much of so far this season. He finished the contest with 14 points (4-of-9 from the field, 4-of-5 from the line) with five rebounds.

On an afternoon Kansas doubled Ware (3-of-12, 11 points) and neutralized Reneau inside with the height of Dickinson as he made just three two-point buckets, the scoring punch from Galloway and Mgbako was key.

The glass-half-full look on this one is Indiana played one of the best teams in the country down to the wire. Bring this into Big Ten play, and you give yourself a chance every night. But the glass-half-empty look reveals this: With today’s loss, the Hoosiers have zero non-conference NCAA tournament resumé wins. And with a down Big Ten this season so far, Indiana’s margin for error to pick up quality wins in conference play to make the NCAA tournament is slim.

As things stand on the afternoon of Dec. 16, this is a team with work to do to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

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