After a full eight months of waiting, Indiana basketball is back. The Hoosiers tipped off with an exhibition against Southern Indiana on Thursday night. IU won the contest by a score of 96-62.
Indiana will kickoff the regular season next Tuesday at home against Chicago State.
More than the final score, exhibitions are about learning through live game action about a team that we have been talking about ad nauseam during this long and arduous off-season. Below we summarize some of our more significant observations from the game.
IT’S A GOOD THING IU HAS DEPTH
Because it is already being tested. As expected, Devonte Green and Race Thompson didn’t play due to relatively minor nagging injuries. Joining the infirmary was Jerome Hunter, who didn’t suit up due to what is reportedly a foot injury. He was walking around without a noticeable limp and was not in a boot. But wait, there’s more. Al Durham had his hand in a wrap and walked to the locker room with a limp in the first half. He returned to the bench but did not play again.
DE’RON DAVIS IS STILL WORKING HIS WAY BACK
Miller said earlier this week that it might not be until after Christmas that junior forward De’Ron Davis was back to full strength. That was apparent. He physically looked like he has work to do to get his body where he needs it to be. Also, when running the floor it was clear that Davis is nowhere near the speed that he’ll need to be. None of this is a criticism of Davis. He suffered a serious injury and had a setback on his road to recovery. Just don’t expect much until January.
ROMEO LANGFORD A LITTLE NERVOUS?
It would be hard to imagine that anything would get to this young man at this point, but he did seem a little tentative. Langford shot just 4 of 12 from the field and committed five turnovers. Even in warm-ups he looked a little uncomfortable.
He nearly accounted for all five turnovers with four steals on defense. Whether it was jitters or just the realities of a new level of play, Langford will see better nights.
THE OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES ARE REAL
If you simply look at the stats, you may not see it. IU scored 96 points and shot 55% from the field. Who could find fault with that?
But IU got very few points in the flow of its offense, especially early. Instead, the Hoosiers’ dominant size and length allowed it to impose its will against an outmatched Southern Indiana squad. IU got 42 points in the paint. The Screaming Eagles were feisty, but when push came to shove down low they couldn’t get stops.
The Hoosiers had just 14 assists against 11 turnovers. That isn’t anywhere good enough, especially when considering that this was a Division II opponent. Beyond points in the paint, IU also got a lot of points off turnovers — 32 for the game.
On the bright side, IU knocked down 11 of 22 three-pointers. More on that below. Also, head coach Archie Miller saw improvements in the second half with the ball movement and overall efficiency of the offense.
Miller summed it up as “we have to develop a better chemistry and establish an identity and get these guys in a situation where they can be successful.”
THE DEFENSE GIVETH, AND THE DEFENSE TAKETH AWAY
Miller spoke glowingly early in the week about the team’s progress with defense, including in their closed scrimmage against Loyola. The Hoosiers forced 19 turnovers against USI, and there is no doubt that IU is ahead of where it was last year. Added length and quickness vs. last year certainly helps too.
Having said that, some old issues were still apparent including transition defense and struggling with ball screen actions in the second half. IU gave up 42 second half points after allowing just 20 in the first. Miller said that “the second half will have a lot to talk about in terms of transition defense.”
Perhaps the players lost focus and started to coast, but the competition is going to get much more difficult than Southern Indiana.
POTENTIAL THREE POINT SHOOTERS EMERGE
Did you have Damezi Anderson and Zach McRoberts penciled in as your top three-point shooters for this team? Perhaps you should have. McRoberts led last year’s team in three-point percentage and Anderson came to IU with a reputation as a specialist from long distance.
Anderson led all IU scorers with 14 points including 4 of 7 from long range. McRoberts added 2 of 3 from distance.
Another perhaps more expected efficient shooter was senior graduate transfer Evan Fitzner. He also knocked down 2 of 3 on the night.
You can read more about Anderson and his fellow in-state freshman Rob Phinisee’s night here, including what Miller and their teammates had to say about the newcomers.
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