Indiana faced trials against a worthy opponent in a game where they showed signs of progress even if they weren’t completely convincing.
The Hoosiers went on an 18-7 first half run to take a 36-31 lead, only to see Harvard respond with a 14-5 run of their own that spanned halftime and gave the Crimson a 45-41 lead. But it was an immediate 22-6 IU response early in the second half that gave Indiana same breathing room they wouldn’t relinquish.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers won 89-76 with another edition of The Report Card.
Indiana (5-1) will next open Big Ten play on Friday evening when they host Maryland at 7 p.m. ET.
The question remains for Indiana — how well will this paint domination translate against Big Ten and legitimate high major opponents? And is this is a good or bad thing: The IU frontcourt outscored their backcourt 78-11 for the game.
Whatever the details or long-term consequences, it worked on Sunday.
The Hoosiers scored a season high 1.23 points per possession, and they supercharged their efficiency on the offensive end with a 39.3 percent offensive rebounding rate. The combination of Indiana making 57.1 percent of their shots overall and then rebounding their misses at that high of a rate was too much for Harvard.
And while the stat sheet says the Hoosiers made just 4-of-15 from three, Indiana made at least three twos with their feet on the 3-point line. IU showed an encouraging ability to knock down long-range shots as a complement to their inside game.
Starting wing Mackenzie Mgbako was 3-of-7 on shots with his feet on the line or beyond. Kel’el Ware, who made 12-of-13 shots, noticed.
“It helps open up the floor,” Ware said of Mgbako’s shooting. “The defenders have to get out there to the 3-ball, especially when we have guys that can make the shots.”
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker noticed as well, after Indiana was able to score from the outside against a zone intended to take away Indiana’s size advantage.
“They have a very talented team and are going to be hard to beat, especially if they are getting the perimeter shooting like they were getting here this afternoon,” Amaker said.
IU allowed 1.05 points per possession, the most they’ve given up thus far to a non-high major opponent.
But Indiana’s defense improved considerably in the second half despite losing their best cover on dynamic Harvard guard Malik Mack.
The main improvement came covering the 3-point arc. The Crimson made 7-of-18 in the first half from deep, and just 1-of-9 in the second. IU’s four second half blocks suggest there was some degree of not overhelping, and instead allowing the big men to clean up drives to the rim. Overall, Harvard shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the second half after a 50 percent first.
IU coach Mike Woodson thought his team made a better effort taking away space from the Harvard shooters in the second half.
“I was disappointed because we never got on the floor for loose balls (in the first half),” Woodson said. “We lost four balls in the first half, and that can’t happen. Two of those threes were made behind them, and the other threes that they made we just weren’t up to touch. I thought we did a better job in the second half in getting up to touch.”
But playing without starting point guard Xavier Johnson in the second half, Mack got 10 free throws, and the Hoosiers weren’t nearly as disruptive on the ball. They forced nine turnovers in the first half and just four in the second.
There were still plenty of missed assignments in transition and miscommunications on rotations that the Hoosiers need to clean up.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- Mackenzie Mgbako takes a big step in the right direction for IU men’s basketball
- Watch: Woodson, Ware and Mgbako discuss win over Harvard
- IU basketball: Indiana 89 Harvard 76 — Three keys, highlights, final stats
- Long form highlights:
*Trey Galloway (C) Make no mistake, Galloway is in a shooting funk. After an 0-for-4 effort from three, he’s now just 3-for-18 on the season from long range and 0-of-8 over his last two games. It’s hard to take issue with anything else he’s doing, including 36 minutes without a turnover.
*Malik Reneau (B) Reneau has shown his ability to score in the paint translates against everyone, and he had another nice game scoring the ball inside. He’s still got a way to go when it comes to recognizing double teams, and he led the team with four turnovers. One thing seems clear, Reneau’s motor is always in high gear.
*Kel’el Ware (A) The thing that stood out about Ware’s 12-of-13 effort from the field was that his makes weren’t all dunks. Four were, but his other eight field goals came in many forms — a three, midrange, post moves, off hand, you name it. He was dynamic. And Ware was solid on the glass, protecting the rim, finding his teammates, and playing with defensive awareness.
*Xavier Johnson (B) In his 13 minutes, Johnson was solid on Harvard guard Malik Mack, who didn’t score in the first 13 minutes but ended up with 27. But all eyes will be on Johnson this week after he was injured late in the first half and didn’t return.
*Mackenzie Mgbako (B+) This game was a clear step forward in offensive confidence and overall aggressiveness for Mgbako. His ability to rise and fire from the perimeter is exactly what IU needs to round out their offense. But his eight rebounds and diving on the floor a couple times stood out just as much.
Gabe Cupps (B) No one expects Cupps to be Xavier Johnson on the defensive end. He had his share of trouble with Mack. But Cupps seemed to stay composed, and delivered three assists and no turnovers while leading the offense.
Anthony Walker (B) It was a second straight encouraging effort by Walker, who seems to have figured out his role is to rebound and look for scoring opportunities in the paint. He was aggressive on his defensive close-outs.
Kaleb Banks (B) Banks has started the season 3-of-6 from three, which is needed and encouraging. He was solid on the defensive glass.
C.J. Gunn, Payton Sparks, and Anthony Leal also appeared in the game.
Jakai Newton (knee) is out long-term.
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