Indiana opened its season with the program’s third worst home loss in the history of Assembly Hall. After that 90-69 loss to Indiana State the Hoosiers just needed a win. In a game against Howard, who is one of the lower rated teams in the country, Indiana did in fact get that win, 86-77. It wasn’t always pretty and this team has a long way to go, but this was, if nothing more, a step in the right direction.
Overall – C+ The bottom line here is that Howard, at least on paper, is not a team that should be staying within 10 points of a program like Indiana. The main challenge the Hoosiers have had through 2 games is defending the 3 point shot. Sure, both Indiana State and Howard have hit some amazing shots, but 2 games starts to suggest a trend rather than a fluke.
Coaching – B- Congratulations to Coach Miller for getting his first win as the Indiana coach. He still has a ways to go to truly capture the hearts and minds of these kids, but there are signs of change. The offense has more fluidity to it, especially against a zone defense. He also has shown vision to get an unheralded freshman like Al Durham, Jr. out on the floor. His insertion of Durham, Jr. into the lineup in the first half might have been the difference in the game. We also cannot blame him for missed free throws, which in large part is why this game was closer than it should have been.
Offense – B Hoosier fans know the feeling of watching their team dribble and pass around the perimeter against a zone until they force up a bad shot as the shot clock runs done. That wasn’t the case tonight. The Hoosiers continued to feed the high and low post, got some backdoor cuts, and there were some nice kick-out passes. The Hoosiers shot 54% for the game.
Defense – C- There is just no reason to give up 13 three pointers, especially against a team like Howard. Sure, many of them were wild shots, but Indiana needs to do a much better job getting out on shooters. The transition defense is still suspect as well. Howard only shot 35% for the game overall, but that had more to do with Howard than Indiana.
- Curtis Jones: C+ He hit a 3 and had a couple assists, but we just haven’t seen much out of CuJo yet. The talent is clearly there, just waiting for the breakout.
- Al Durham, Jr.: A He hit 3 huge 3-pointers that might have been the difference in the game, as they gave Indiana their first separation. Had a couple nice dribble drives as well. Seems to recognize when to attack in transition. Took a charge when things started getting tight in 2nd half.
- Josh Newkirk: B- He continues to struggle with his shot, but the 7 assists on 2 turnovers were the key.
- Justin Smith: A Had an eye catching stat line with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Very impressive freshman physique, composure and athleticism. Did a nice job finishing around the basket at times. Needs to build a little better awareness of shot blockers. Also made a big pass to Jones for a 3 when Howard had pulled back to within 10.
- Robert Johnson: B+ Still struggling with his shot, including 2 missed technical foul free throws and 2-6 overall at the stripe. However, overall, this game was encouraging for RJ who had 14 points on 5-8 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and only 1 turnover.
- Devonte Green: B- Was important at the opening of the game, scoring the first 7 points. That would be all he scored and he had 3 turnovers, including 2 charges.
- Juwan Morgan: No grade. Was injured early and did not return.
- De’Ron Davis: A- Missed first 4 free throws and didn’t have a big impact in the first half. Ended up with 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks and was just a force in the second half.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: B+ Came in and had an immediate impact with strength and rebounds. 7 rebounds for the game. Clearly a player that has improved in the offseason. Free throws continue to be an issue.
- Clifton Moore: B Not a real big presence in the game, but did have an offensive rebound and kick-out sequence for an assist, and a block that started a fast break layup for RJ. Good to see him get an expanded role which will likely continue if Morgan misses time.
Photo credit – Jamie Owens