Make your home page

What Xavier Johnson’s return to the court means for IU basketball

BLOOMINGTON, IN - February 27, 2024 - guard Xavier Johnson #0 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. (Provided Photo/Indiana Athletics)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) – Tuesday night proved to be an important night for the Indiana University men’s basketball team for multiple reasons.

The first reason is because the Hoosiers snapped their four-game skid by beating Wisconsin 74-70 in front of the home crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The second reason is because the game marked the return of IU guard Xavier Johnson.

“It’s great to have X back,” IU head coach Mike Woodson said. “I mean, every day I go to bed thinking about what this team could have been like if we had X earlier. To have him back tonight, you can see the game changes a little bit when he’s on the floor. He didn’t play particularly well, but I thought he did some good things when he was in there.”

Prior to Tuesday, Johnson last played during the Hoosiers’ game against Iowa on Jan. 30. He suffered an elbow injury in that victory and hadn’t played since.

“He gives us defensive pressure out front,” Woodson said. “He gives us speed in terms of he’s the only guy that can really change directions and make plays off the bounce.”

Johnson finished with 5 points in 15 minutes of action against the Badgers. He also had one assist and one rebound.

“When we’re pushing the basketball, that’s when we’re at our best,” Woodson said. “When he’s got the ball and pushing and we can get ahead of the ball, we can play a little faster with X on the floor. We just got to get him in a little better shape and get him playing the right way.”

There’s no doubt he’s getting readjusted to being back on the court after his extended absence, as evidenced by his five turnovers against Wisconsin, but Johnson’s teammates also know the impact that he has on the team when he’s on the floor.

“It’s always great to have all our teammates back, and tonight was the first game we had everybody,” IU forward Kel’el Ware said. “I feel like X brings speed, and just being able to get the ball, especially going downhill off the pick and rolls. So, that helped us a lot tonight.”

IU (15-13, 7-10) is back in action on Sunday at Maryland (15-14, 7-11). Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. EDT.