If Indiana wanted to be tested right out of the gate, they got it.
The Hoosiers were never able to pull out to more than a six point lead through the first 29 minutes on Tuesday evening against Florida Gulf Coast in the 2023-24 season opener. They led by just two at halftime (28-26), and an 8-0 FGCU run put the Eagles up 48-42 with 10:54 left in the contest. But IU responded immediately with a 14-0 run, and although things got interesting in the final minute, they’d never trail again.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers won 69-63 with the season’s first edition of The Report Card.
Indiana (1-0) will next play Army on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. ET.
So far Indiana’s offense looks a lot like last year, at least when it comes to shot selection and where the production is coming from.
The Hoosiers went with some unique sets, with starting big men Malik Reneau and Kel’el Ware both away from the paint at times, but when push came to shove and IU needed a bucket, the default setting seemed to be feeding the post, or driving to the rim.
19 of Indiana’s 23 field goals came via 2-pointers, and just 13 of their 45 field goal attempts were threes.
Indiana can win without taking a bunch of threes, but they’ll probably need their defense to create turnovers so they can score in transition. IU got 10 points off turnovers in the second half, and that helped produce 1.37 points per possession after the break, compared to .933 before.
IU lived at the free throw line. Their 66 percent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) was higher than any game last season. And while they made only 19-of-30, that’s still a 1.26 points per possession rate, which is a winning formula.
Against an aggressive defense, IU took reasonably good care of the ball with just 11 turnovers, and they were reasonably efficient.
But this wasn’t a dynamic offense by any stretch. That’s not necessarily a surprise given the personnel, but it could portend some frustrating nights.
Indiana’s inability to defend the 3-point arc is officially concerning. We saw the same mistakes that happened in the exhibition against Marian repeated in the season opener.
Both coach Mike Woodson and Trey Galloway offered after the game that backside coverage breakdowns resulted in open shooters. Woodson says it’s going to take a lot of reps to work out the issues.
Or will it just take a different lineup?
IU did find answers, at least temporarily. Over the seven minute span when the Hoosiers went from down eight to up 11, FGCU made no threes. That was the stretch when IU had three guards on the floor. The Eagles made 13 threes over the other 33 minutes.
FGCU made just 39 percent of their 2-pointers and they committed 13 turnovers. But better opponents won’t miss that many twos and won’t turn it over as much.
Also a carryover theme from the exhibitions, IU allowed too many offensive rebounds (13), but they did keep FGCU off the free throw line with just six attempts for the game.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- When IU men’s basketball needed winning plays against Florida Gulf Coast, its main returners stepped up
- Watch: Woodson, Galloway and Ware discuss win over Florida Gulf Coast
- IU basketball: Indiana 69 FGCU 63 — Three keys, highlights, final stats
- Long form highlights:
*Trey Galloway (B) The senior guard made all six of his 2-point shots including a couple floaters — a shot he struggled to convert a year ago. He did have three turnovers. While Galloway wasn’t necessarily central to the defensive struggles, it’s his job to make sure his teammates know what they need to be doing.
*Malik Reneau (B) Reneau showed really good touch with his off hand and put together a solid second half for the Hoosiers. He’ll need to be much more of a factor on the glass, and with two first half fouls, Reneau showed he still his some defensive techniques to clean up.
*Kel’el Ware (B+) If there are any questions about Ware’s motor, there were no signs of trouble on this night. He was very active on both ends, patient with the ball, made good passes, and was aggressive as a shot blocker.
*Xavier Johnson (B-) After a shaky start, Johnson improved over the course of the game. Could have been rust. He’ll need to improve as a facilitator, something he’s shown in the past he’s fully capable of. Same goes for free throws.
*Mackenzie Mgbako (D) The freshman really has to figure his defensive assignments because he looks lost at times. There are things to like about his game especially as a versatile shooter, but it may take some time for things to start clicking.
Gabe Cupps (B+) Cupps gave the team a spark with his defensive awareness, and he gave IU its biggest lead with a three. It was a solid debut for the freshman guard who appears ready for a significant role.
C.J. Gunn (D) Gunn didn’t seem ready for the rugged style of this game, and was involved in some of the defensive coverage lapses. And he seems to have developed a habit of shot faking his way out of open threes.
Anthony Walker (C) In a bit of a surprise move, Walker was first off the bench. He was active on the glass but didn’t pose much of an offensive threat.
Kaleb Banks (D) For whatever reason, Banks didn’t look ready to go and got a quick hook.
Payton Sparks was out with a lower leg injury, and Jakai Newton (knee) is out long-term.
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