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‘High confidence in himself and fears nothing’: CJ Gunn excels as Indiana basketball outlasts Ohio State



Indiana basketball
Jan 6, 2024; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard CJ Gunn (11) goes up for a dunk past Ohio State Buckeyes center Felix Okpara (34) during the first half at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. © Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana basketball improved to 3-1 in the Big Ten and 11-4 overall, after outlasting Ohio State on Saturday night 71-65.

It wasn’t pretty but Indiana was able to pull out the win as sophomore guard CJ Gunn shined off the bench for the Hoosiers.

Gunn has shown flashes throughout the year but finally had that complete performance that many were waiting for. In the win, Gunn finished with 10 points while shooting 4/7 from the field and 1/2 from beyond the arc.

“I mean, that just comes from work he puts in,” Xavier Johnson said about Gunn’s performance. “CJ is in the gym all the time and now you’re just seeing the results. He’s a guy that has high confidence in himself and fears nothing.”

Despite some shooting struggles, Gunn’s confidence has never wavered and tonight it showed.

“I think it’s just how much I watch the game and study the game,” Gunn said when asked if the game is slowing down for him. “Coach made an emphasis that I need to be more in tune with what we’re doing on both sides of the floor. Being upstairs with [Brian] Walsh and [Jordan Hulls], just going over film consistently, that obviously brings me more comfort in the game.”

Gunn looked very comfortable on the offensive end and made some highlight plays for Indiana in the win.

While a lot will be said about his play on the offensive end, and deservedly so. Gunn’s defensive effort played a huge role in the win.

Indiana basketball struggled to defend the three-point line in the first half, but Gunn came in and did an excellent job running shooters off the three-point line and defending the talented guards on Ohio State’s roster.

Gunn’s performance was no surprise to Indiana basketball Head Coach Mike Woodson.

“His last few days of practice has been tremendous,” Woodson said about Gunn’s play in practice leading up to the game. “I’m telling all these guys, you know, it’s how you practice, man, that carries over into a real basketball game. You don’t bring it in practice you’re not going to bring it in the game. I’ve always believed that. I thought the last two days our practice was tough because I wasn’t really happy about the Nebraska play and how we played. But he had two good days, man, and I thought he deserved to play. I thought he responded, which was kind of nice.”

Gunn only played six minutes in the 16-point loss to Nebraska, but tonight he played a season-high 24 minutes in the Indiana win.

“I came into the game with the attitude I was going to play [Gunn and Kaleb Banks],” Woodson said about his plan for tonight. “CJ stepped up and gave us some important minutes tonight.”

Gunn has never lacked the tools to be successful, but tonight he put it all together in what felt like his most complete performance as a Hoosier on both ends of the court.

“A lot of it is, the young guys, it’s the mental part of it, knowing exactly what we’re doing when we go into a game setting and putting the game plan together,” Woodson said about the lack of consistency from Gunn and other young guys. “It’s mentally — your mental approach has to be on par. If I don’t see that, then how can I have confidence in playing you? I thought these last two days he was right on par, man, in terms of what we wanted.”

Indiana basketball desperately needed a win against Ohio State, and Gunn’s effort was a big factor in the outcome tonight. Now Indiana basketball will need Gunn to build off the performance.

SEE ALSO: Coach Q&A: Mike Woodson reacts to the Indiana basketball’s 71-65 win against Ohio State

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew is a senior, studying Sports Media and will graduate from the Indiana University Media School in the spring of 2024.