What a difference 17 days have made in Indiana’s season. The Hoosiers have gone from 1-4 in the Big Ten after a loss to Penn State on Jan. 11, to a 6-4 team in the league and playing much closer to original expectations.
Order is restored in Bloomington, and the vision of a meaningful March is back in play as Mike Woodson’s team won its fifth in a row Saturday night, 86-70, over Ohio State. Here are five instant takeaways.
The Hoosiers deserve to have a number next to their name on Monday
Indiana was the second team out of the AP Top 25 on Monday, but with five consecutive victories in the deepest conference in college basketball, the Hoosiers are deserving of being ranked on Monday. Among their wins on the recent surge? An 80-65 drubbing over an Illinois team in Champagne, the only defeat the Illini have suffered in the last seven games. Saturday marked the fourth time on Indiana’s winning streak that the Hoosiers won by double-figures. They aren’t just winning; they’ve been controlling teams in the NCAA Tournament conversation. This team is beginning to look like the squad we thought they could be in the preseason after adjusting from injuries.
Indiana’s freshmen can switch the Hoosiers into a different gear
Trayce Jackson-Davis said in the preseason that the Mike Woodson era already felt different because of the type of talent the Hoosiers head coach was acquiring. He was referring to five-star prospect Jalen Hood-Schifino and four-star freshman Malik Reneau, who both scored in double-figures in Saturday night’s win.
Hood-Schifino was the story of the first half. While Ohio State got off to a solid start, the 6-foot-6 Pittsburgh native was lighting it up from downtown to the tune of six triples. He scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the opening stanza and put Indiana in position to finish the first half on a 15-0 run that gave them a 46-30 lead at the break.
Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino has a HUGE game
Hoosiers guard Jalen Hood-Schifino carried Indiana to an 86-70 blowout win over the Buckeyes.
The 6-foot-9 product Reneau continued a strong week and showed off his all-around skillset with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. For a Hoosiers team that is looking for bench production, Reneau can be a sixth man who provides the spark in that role. For a team that sometimes is lacking offensive consistency and perimeter rhythm, Hood-Schifino in particular is so important on that end of the floor. He hit Indiana’s average in threes made per game in the first half.
The Hoosiers have also gotten back to their defensive roots
Indiana has only allowed 61.2 points per contest on the five-game winning streak. The Hoosiers were 24th in defensive efficiency a year ago, the top mark in the Big Ten, but that end of the floor was part of their issues earlier in the year. They’ve gotten on track on that end of the floor, playing more of the way Woodson has strived for his teams to have success.
Ohio State is in free fall mode
The Buckeyes were a Top 25 team earlier this month. After an offseason of major turnover for Chris Holtmann and the loss of EJ Liddell, it looked as though Ohio State was going to stay afloat and play a factor in the Big Ten. It’s been a nightmare of a last three weeks for this program, and they’re trending towards missing the NCAA Tournament. The Bucks have lost six of their last seven games and have struggled defensively. They’re relying on youth and inexperienced players in the main roles to produce for them, and it has not worked. Mike Decourcy had them in the “next four out” in his bracket projection on Friday. It’s danger time for OSU, and a must-win game comes Thursday in Columbus against Wisconsin (7 p.m. ET, FS1).
Trayce Jackson-Davis is playing as well as anyone in America and holds the keys to Indiana’s March potential
This is why TJD came back to Bloomington for one final season. We’re watching it right now, with his latest form of greatness coming Saturday night. The senior went for 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the win. On the winning streak, he’s averaging 25.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. That’s national player of the year level production, and yes, there’s an argument for the fact that college basketball’s top two players in terms of production are from the Big Ten with Zach Edey and Jackson-Davis battling it out for top honors. That’s a fun individual race to watch in the weeks ahead.
Hoosiers’ Trayce Jackson-Davis slams home alley-oop
Malik Reneau threw an alley-oop to Trayce Jackson Davis for the first half lead.
Up next for Indiana: a trip to Maryland for a Tuesday showdown at 9 p.m. ET.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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