BLOOMINGTON — This one wasn’t glamorous. There were less than four minutes remaining in Wednesday’s game between IU and North Carolina. Trey Galloway got caught in a screen defensively and switched onto UNC big man Armando Bacot. Bacot is listed at 6-11 and 235 pounds. Galloway is listed at 6-4, 203.
Then, Galloway made a very Galloway play. Bacot tried to seal him. But Galloway pushed and bumped and bothered. He slipped in front of the talented big man just in time to knock an entry pass out of bounds.
It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t even a turning point in Indiana’s eventual 77-65 win over North Carolina. But these are the types of things Galloway does. He makes winning plays. Playing defense. Bringing energy. These aren’t going to necessarily grab headlines, but they are important, nonetheless.
The way he bothered Bacot was a vintage Galloway play. Just like Wednesday was a vintage Galloway performance. After missing the past few games, Galloway returned Wednesday as a necessary spark. He had 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and zero turnovers. His nickname is fitting.
“We call him ‘Crazy Man’ because that's how he is on the defensive end of the floor,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said of Galloway. “He really thrives off of that, getting steals, out in transition, running. He's a big play-maker.”
Galloway earned a night like Wednesday. Now in his third season with the Hoosiers, he has already endured a somewhat tumultuous career. A homegrown star at Culver Academy, Galloway committed to IU when Archie Miller was coach. His first season at IU was amid the weird world riddled by COVID-19. IU struggled as a team, leading to the firing of Miller. The same day Miller’s firing was announced, without knowing who the next coach would be, Galloway released a statement.
“I’m staying and I believe in IU basketball and I trust in everything that is going to happen in the future,” Galloway told Joe Tipton.
Beyond all of that, Galloway has dealt with injury after injury. In between those setbacks, he flashed dynamic playmaking and cracked the starting lineup. But he dealt with a back injury his first season. Then last season he broke his wrist against St. John’s. Then he dealt with a groin injury, and said he played at about 60-65% — at best — toward the end of the season. This offseason, he had groin surgery.
“I mean, it’s challenging, just because you don’t want to be injured and some of those things you can’t really control,” Galloway said at IU’s media day. “Obviously, the broken wrist, I couldn’t control that. Kinda reflecting on it and knowing it could be worse. I think that’s one thing that helped me during those dark times for me when I was sitting out. I just looked at it as ‘it could always be worse. I couldn’t be wearing this jersey at Indiana.'"
Given how he plays, it’s not surprising Galloway has an affinity for Rocky Balboa. Galloway views himself as an underdog. To a certain extent, he’s not wrong. In IU’s four-man 2020 high school recruiting class, Galloway was arguably the least heralded. That class was headlined by five-star guard Khristian Lander. Anthony Leal was IndyStar Mr. Basketball. Jordan Geronimo possessed freakish athleticism. How exactly Galloway would fit into the equation was unknown. But there is something so unquantifiable about what Galloway does on the court.
“The (Rocky) movies have been inspirational to me because obviously he’s a fighter and it shows what it takes to come out on top," Galloway said. "And just being the underdog. And I think that’s one thing I’ve been — just an underdog. And so I think just having the underdog mentality all the time, even when you’re on top, it’s just great to have.”
Some of how Galloway's toughness can be attributed to his father, Mark Galloway, who coached him in high school.
“I think just being a coach's son, you kinda have to bring that toughness because it’s not easy,” Galloway said. “So I think I really picked that up at a young age, just try to be a tough player.”
This season has brought another challenge. Galloway got banged up during IU’s win over Xavier. He missed the next few games as a result. But Wednesday he made his return and proved his two-way importance. It was somewhat reminiscent of his performance against Ohio State at Assembly Hall last season when he returned from his wrist injury in valiant fashion. On Wednesday, he did a variety of things, including helping slow down UNC star Caleb Love.
"You learn to teach young guys how to play hard, man," IU coach Mike Woodson said. "That's 90% of it, man. You figure the other 10% out through X's and O's and doing all the little things that help you win. He's figured that out. He figured that out a year ago when I took the job. I like everything about him because he plays hard."
Perhaps now the question becomes whether Galloway can stay healthy. But try to appreciate Wednesday for what it was. A player who has been through a lot and stuck with the program during a low, playing his heart out. Another accurate summation of Galloway can be found in this sequence.
With just more than six minutes remaining in the game, IU led by seven. Galloway navigated around a screen on defense and poked the ball out from behind RJ Davis. Galloway took off the other way. Jackson-Davis tossed the ball to Galloway who hung in the air like an acrobat, as he does so often, and flipped the ball up for two points.
Crazy Man. There he goes again.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU basketball vs. North Carolina: Trey Galloway makes winning plays