IU basketball: Mike Woodson finds a lineup he can trust to close out games

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  • Mike Woodson
    Mike Woodson
    American basketball player and coach
  • Rob Phinisee
    American basketball player

BLOOMINGTON — Mike Woodson called it winning basketball.

IU had a lead to protect, and in a game in which the Hoosiers found a different way to run its offense in the first half and then recovered from a second half lapse, Woodson stuck with the same five guys for nearly the final seven minutes of Sunday's home game against Minnesota.

So with 7:18 remaining in the game, Woodson subbed on seniors Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson. The five on the floor were Johnson, Thompson, Rob Phinisee, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Trey Galloway.

Woodson didn’t sub any of them out until just over a minute remained and the result was in-hand.

He had found his close-out lineup.

More: IU's point guards may be flawed, but they came through vs. Minnesota

That group of five locked down Minnesota in the final minutes of IU’s 73-60 win Sunday in Assembly Hall. Jackson-Davis played 19 minutes in the second half. Thompson played 16, Phinisee 15, Galloway 12 and Johnson 11. Those minutes of playing the defense Woodson talks so often about — the one he so relies on and the one that ranks among the best in the nation — brought IU a second-straight double-digit Big Ten win at home.

“We had the lapse and then we started to really pick it back up and play,” Woodson said. “And then coming down the home stretch those last three, four minutes, we were solid.”

IU’s defense has been its rock all season. It’s ranked second nationally in field goal percentage allowed and leads the Big Ten in fewest points allowed per game.

Phinisee said the team’s goal is to hold opponents to 60 and limit its best player. IU didn’t quite hold Minnesota’s best scorers, but it did hold the Gophers to 60 points.

“If you hold teams 60 and under, you're going to give yourself a chance to win a lot of games,” Woodson said. “They believed that.”

And IU did that. After a first half when it shot the ball as well as it has all season, finding 3-point shooting contributions from Phinisee, IU didn’t quite have the same room in the second half. IU turned back to what its relied on. It found its forwards inside, Minnesota not able to be quite as heavy on Jackson-Davis any longer. And it sat back on its defense after Minnesota closed the deficit down to one point.

After a Minnesota 3-pointer cut the score to 55-54, Woodson went to that defensive lineup. He found a combination to get Johnson and Phinisee on the floor together. He had Galloway back, providing the same spark on both ends he did against Ohio State.

“It's effective a lot,” Johnson said of he and Phinisee together. “I feel like we get a lot of stops with me and him on the floor because it's hard to beat us all off the dribble. We both pick up 94 feet, and we just let it play defense because we know it gets the team going.”

Minnesota only made one shot after that 3 with 9:02 left in the game. Woodson began to sub in that defensive line up until he had that final five on the floor with just over seven minutes to go. It was the exact same lineup IU used to close out No. 12 Ohio State on Thursday.

With Johnson and Phinisee finding chemistry together, Galloway’s play on both ends and IU’s starting post players protecting the rim, Woodson found the lineup to close out Big Ten games. It’s a lineup that requires having a lead. There isn’t consistent shooting in that five nor much consistent offense outside of Jackson-Davis.

Though it’s a lineup that doesn’t need to score, because it hardly allows any points. Through the Big Ten stretch IU is going to rely on its defense to get it to the NCAA tournament should it make it — and Woodson has found a final five he can rely on.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana basketball: Mike Woodson finds his close-out lineup vs. Minnesota

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