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Anthony Leal comes up clutch again for Indiana basketball: ‘I want him to shoot that 10 times out of 10’



Indiana basketball guard Anthony Leal
Indiana basketball guard Anthony Leal came up clutch again for the Hoosiers, hitting a go-ahead shot with 22.7 seconds left in Tuesday's win. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said it best following IU’s 76-73 win over Ohio State on Tuesday — ‘When I played, Coach [Knight] always put it on the senior guys to lead and do the things that help us win’. That was the theme, headlined by an unexpected but always prepared senior guard.

Anthony Leal has become a fan favorite during his time in Bloomington. Whether it was on the floor, the bench or in the community, the former Bloomington South guard has always stayed ready and prepared. That stayed true on Tuesday night when he hit a game-winner with 22.7 seconds left.

Fellow senior guard Trey Galloway came off of a ball screen and attacked downhill on the right side of the floor — the same side in which Leal was on. Leal’s defender helped off creating an easy passing lane from Galloway to Leal.

Without hesitation, Leal let the three-ball fly — nothing but net.

“That’s a big time shot,” Galloway said postgame. “I feel so comfortable playing with him, ever since freshman year of high school.  I trust him and he trusts me.”

While Leal was not the exact player expected to take the final shot, the play was drawn up specifically for ‘basketball players to make play’. That’s certainly what they did.

“The confidence level is he’s on the floor,” Woodson said of his confidence in Leal. “I’m playing him during crunch time. It doesn’t matter who makes the shot. He had a wide-open shot, he took it and he delivered for us. That’s what basketball is about.”

“The design was for Trey to get downhill with the lob option with Kel’el (Ware) and me and mack (Mackenzie Mgbako) in the corners to try to find us,” Leal added. “Trey made the right play and I was able to make the shot.”

From one senior to the next, Galloway and Leal have played with each other longer than anyone on the roster. From AAU days to four years together in Bloomington.

It was the trust they both have in each other to be ready and make the right play.

“I think that combination and that trust we have for each other is special and I trusted him with the shot … I want him to shoot that 10 times out of 10,” Galloway said of Leal. “It’s a big shot for us to win the game. I’m just glad — he’s really stayied with it all this time because of could’ve gave up and quit when he wasn’t getting minutes, but the way he’s fought, stuck his nose in there and kept competing and kept being a great teammate it’s really paying off.”

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Leal’s shot capped off a massive comeback run by Indiana basketball. Down 18 points at the 17:39 mark of the second half, Indiana had two options. One, completely cave in and fold. Or two, find some way to ‘chip’ into the lead one possession at a time and have some pride and toughness — two aspects that have been questioned numerous times this year.

“Trusting in each other, that was a huge thing. Taking it one possession at a time and getting those crucial stops down the stretch,” Malik Reneau said. “Cutting into the lead and setting goals through those media timeouts like ‘cut it to 10 (points), cut it to six, tie the game now. Okay we have a chance to win the game now’ and then we did.”

“Keep chipping away, chipping away, chipping away,” Leal said. “And eventually if we keep doing that the momentum will swing in our favor and we’ll figure out how to win.”

That they did. Following Leal’s three, he would go on to deflect a pass on the following possession and then sink two free throws a few seconds later.

He played 26 minutes on Tuesday, but none bigger than the last 30 seconds where he scored all six of his points.

“Huge. I’m thinking – my point of view trying to get good positioning if he misses. Just huge shot. It doesn’t get much better than that, giving us that one-point lead,” Reneau said. “Giving us that cushion to get the stop on the other end … huge game by Anthony Leal and I give him huge props for that.”

Leal, who had a career-high 13 points earlier this year against Iowa, had scored more than six points just twice in his first 56 games in Bloomington. He’s matched that total in two of the last three games. He had just 16 points on the season before his career performance last week.

Now, in just two games, he’s surpassed that total.

But, just because he hasn’t scored a lot doesn’t mean he forgot how. He was Indiana Mr. Basketball as a senior and finished his career with a school record 1,620 points.

Where does this shot rank? Pretty high up, and his biggest shot since high school.

“Silver Creek,” Leal said. “In high school.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Keep chipping away, chipping away, chipping away’: Indiana basketball steals first quad one victory on road against Ohio State

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.