Indiana continues to navigate the must-win portion of its schedule successfully with another victory over a sub-250 KenPom opponent on Tuesday night.
Once again IU relied on a size and quickness advantage to take care of business against North Alabama.
Hailing from the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Lions hung around early and played a physical brand of basketball, but IU’s depth and improved play over the course of the game proved to be too much.
After a tight first half, Indiana pulled away with a sold 91-65 win.
The Hoosiers (3-0) will host Troy on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.
Indiana’s depth is starting to emerge as a strength of this team. Prior to the season, Archie Miller spoke about having 11 guys that could play at a Big Ten level, and that is becoming apparent.
The Hoosier head coach mentioned IU’s depth again on Tuesday night after the game after five players scored in double figures including three off the bench.
“Right now, when Devonte comes back we have 11 guys that as a coaching staff that I feel like we’re good if we’re in a game right now,” Miller said. “If we put a guy in the game right now, we feel like they got to execute.”
Once again Indiana let a lower tier team hang around too long. The Hoosiers led 31-30 with 6:02 remaining in the first half as IU struggled on the defensive end early. An 11-0 second half run gave IU a 65-45 lead and put the Lions away.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller took the long view after the game.
“We’re 3-0, and they’re not easy to get. Doesn’t really matter who you play. It’s hard. It’s early in the year, Miller said. “For us, we’ll take it, and we got to find a way to get better for Saturday night.”
The outlier stat of the game was Indiana’s ability to get to the free throw line. The Hoosiers had 45 attempts from the stripe on the night, and perhaps more important, they converted 37 times (82.2 percent). The attempts were the most for IU in a game since a March 2017 contest at Iowa.
“Overwhelming the free throw line continues to be an advantage for us. We’re finding ways to get there,” Miller said.
IU hasn’t been a strong free throw or three-point shooting team during Miller’s tenure, but it appears that he is much more confident in the shooting ability of this team.
North Alabama came into the game with a reputation for full court, high pressure defense. Like many opponents last season, UNA instead opted to pack in their defense and let IU shoot over the top.
Miller doesn’t believe that will be a successful way to defend his squad this year.
“We saw much more of a go under, pack it in. We’re not that team that we were a year ago where you can just put five guys in the paint and say, Let them shoot. We’re not that team,” Miller said.
The Lions came into the game forcing 23.5 turnovers per contest. IU had just 13 on the night, although that was at least in part influenced by the pack-it-in style that North Alabama elected to go with.
60 of IU’s 91 points came from either free throws or points off of turnovers. That is in line with the kind of identity Miller is looking to develop.
The glaring concern with this 2019-20 edition of the Hoosiers continues to be on the defensive end.
With point guard Rob Phinisee coming off the bench early in the season as he recovers from an injury and Devonte Green still out, the Hoosier perimeter defense was not good early in this game.
“I didn’t see them take very many tough ones in the first five, six minutes of the game, eight minutes of the game,” Miller said. “I felt the ball was moving fast for them; our rotations were slow. Felt like just ball pressure in general couldn’t stifle them and they got good looks.”
Miller expressed concern about IU’s inability to set the tone defensively, and the numbers seem to bear that out. North Alabama shot 53.8 percent overall in the first half, including 7-of-10 from long range.
The third year head coach noted that the second half defensive performance was “better but not where we need to be.” The Lions shot just 27.8 percent in the second half, with just five made field goals and misses on all four of their three-point attempts.
“Big picture defensively we’re not there. I thought we made some strides leading into the game, but perimeter defense, guarding three-point line, being able to execute just with, you know, with great intensity, just wasn’t there,” Miller said.
Indiana committed 23 fouls on the game but did force 22 UNA turnovers.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Three quick takeaways
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (B-) As IU continues to face smaller teams early on Brunk’s role has been diminished, but he continues to give a sturdy effort on both ends. He did have underwhelming rebounding numbers in this one.
- Justin Smith* (B-) A quiet night after a couple big games to open the season. Miller noted his positive attitude despite a diminished role. Smith played within his strengths but you’d like to see more production on the glass if nothing else.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (A) What stands out perhaps more than anything is how few minutes Jackson-Davis played (22) and put up numbers like this: 14 free throw makes, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The true freshman is showing that he can be a force on both ends.
- Armaan Franklin* (C+) Mixed results for the true freshman, but he continues to show that he can be a factor this season, especially if he can pick up the shooting numbers.
- Al Durham* (B-) Despite a slow start, IU was at their best with Durham on the floor. He is now 6-for-13 from three on the season. 3 turnovers on no assists was concerning, but there is no questioning the effort.
- Rob Phinisee (A-) It has to be just a matter of time before Phinisee returns to the starting lineup. His immediate impact scoring the ball by pushing the pace got the IU offense going. A three to one assist to turnover night is just what IU needs from their sophomore point guard.
- Jerome Hunter (B+) This story is getting good. Now playing with a bounce in his step and a confident look in his eye, Hunter could be on pace for a big season. With 2 steals and a block, his defense might be underestimated.
- Race Thompson (A-) Another feel good story, Thompson continues to be a stat sheet stuffer. 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals in just 17 minutes. The guy just comes in and gets to work.
- Damezi Anderson (A-) Positive vibes, take three. Anderson’s shot mechanics are much improved with a quicker release and more fluid motion. Along with Hunter, Anderson is a reason why defenses might need to respect the perimeter this year. A 4-of-5 night from the field was truly special after an at times brutal freshman year.
- De’Ron Davis (B-) Like Brunk, Davis’ role is limited right now. He used his size to his advantage and drew fouls, but he also had a couple turnovers in just 13 minutes.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no additional cost to you.