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‘It’s really not that hard to stay ready if you do the right things’: Anthony Leal steps up in big win for Indiana basketball

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Indiana's Anthony Leal (3) celebrates an Iowa turnover during the first half of the Indiana versus Iowa men's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. © Rich Janzaruk/Herald Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Bloomington native and senior guard Anthony Leal starred as Indiana basketball earned a much-needed win over Iowa snapping a three-game losing streak.

Leal set a new career-high with 13 points while shooting 4-6 from the field and 3-4 from beyond the arc. He also added 7 rebounds and made a pair of clutch free throws to seal the game for the Hoosiers.

Leal who has played inconsistent minutes throughout the year, has been gaining more trust from head coach Mike Woodson over the past few games.

“It was a nice carry-over because I thought he played well in the Illinois game,” Woodson said about Leal’s performance. “That’s why we elected him to come in early and play him and he responded for us which was kind of nice.”

Against Illinois, Leal played 16 minutes, but only took one shot in the loss. His defense against Terrence Shannon is what stood out from his performance, as Illinois’ leading scorer shot 2-10 from the field.

Woodson shared that he gave Leal the game ball and praised his performance on both ends of the court saying that he “defended his ass off.”

Woodson praised Leal for his commitment to the program even when he wasn’t playing consistent minutes.

“Where I come from in the NBA, you call that a true pro. And Anthony is the ultimate teammate,” Woodson said about Leal. “… I’ve coached him and he’s come to practice every day and has done what’s asked of him and never complained, not once.”

Throughout the season, Woodson has praised Leal’s leadership even when he wasn’t seeing the court.

“He’s been a true, true teammate. And guys like that, it’s easy to coach,” Woodson said about Leal. “It’s easy to throw them in the game and feel good about it because you know what you’re going to get based on how he performs in practice. And he’s earned the right to play, and that’s why I’m playing him.”

Leal’s commitment has led to his increased role for Indiana basketball, but what he does behind the scenes is what leads to a night like the one had.

“It’s really not that hard to stay ready if you do the right things,” Leal said postgame.

It can be hard for a player to have the confidence to take big shots when they are playing inconsistent minutes, which is what makes Leal’s performance even more impressive. Leal came out firing with no hesitation from the moment he checked in, which is a testament to the belief he has in himself.

“I think just overall my teammates give me confidence. They trust me,” Leal said about his confidence. “They know I put in the work to be able to reap what I sow. I think just staying committed to it and having confidence in myself and the work that I put in.”

Leal who was Indiana Mr. Basketball, had a lot of expectations on his shoulders when he committed to play for Indiana, but has dealt with his share of adversity. He shared how another former Hoosier and Bloomington native has played a big role for him.

“I work out with Coach (Jordan) Hulls almost every day,” Leal said postgame. “He’s someone I’ve always looked up to. He’s been good for me in my corner.”

Like Leal, Hulls came to Indiana with high expectations and can relate to Leal’s experience with the program.

Through all the adversity and struggles, Leal’s love of the university and the program were big reasons he stayed committed to the program during a time when many players in a similar position would have transferred.

“This is a dream come true whether I’m playing 1 minute or 40 minutes,” Leal said about battling adversity while at IU. “Just to be able to put on this jersey is kind of my mindset and just the love for IU.”

SEE ALSO: Toughness. Energy. Emotion. Kel’el Ware retuned for Indiana basketball doing everything and more in its win: ‘We needed him back in the worst way’

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for HoosierIllustrated.com and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.

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