The tune-up games are over, but Indiana is still very much a work-in-progress. Shorthanded in the backcourt, some might even argue that the Hoosiers are headed in the wrong direction.
Indiana (7-0) opened the 2019-20 season with a perfect November. That’s the good news. IU capped off the month with a 64-50 win over South Dakota State on Saturday.
A perfect start, yes, but Indiana was also never really challenged. That’s about to change as a menu of 24 straight high major contests awaits. Ready or not, here they come.
We’re about to find out who these Hoosiers really are. Indiana will host KenPom No. 14 Florida State on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET in connection with the Big Ten / ACC Challenge.
IU used an 11-0 run to take a 31-20 first half lead, and the Hoosiers were able to maintain at least an eight point margin the rest of the way.
But Indiana was never really able to put their foot on the gas in this one. With SDSU slowing down and for the most part dictating the tempo, the game was played at the Jackrabbits’ preferred pace and the Hoosiers biggest lead was 16.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller knows that there are going to be headaches down the road as the schedule becomes more difficult if his team doesn’t improve in short order.
“Without question, there’s just a little bit of that funny feeling that we’re not playing as well as we need to, we’re not as sharp as we need to and we got to take care of the ball a little bit better,” Miller said after the game.
The Jackrabbits got back on defense, packed it in, and tried to turn IU into a perimeter shooting team. That’s the formula that sent the Hoosiers reeling last year in the Big Ten, and likely a preview of things to come.
“South Dakota State completely took the air out of the ball,” Miller said. “When you put five guys in the paint on defense you’re going to make some shots. We made enough. Our percentages weren’t terrible at halftime, but clearly when you’re 15 feet off your man at five positions, you’re basically saying, hey, look, we’re just going to let these guys shoot and hopefully they miss.”
Indiana was much better in the first half both shooting and taking care of the ball, and they are no doubt hamstrung without point guard Rob Phinisee who missed his second game in a row.
But IU is going to sink or swim in just these kind of games against high major competiton.
“We have to figure out those grinder games and be able to play without turning it over and get some quality possessions,” Miller added.
A saving grace early in the season has been the free throws line, but IU only took 18 shots from the stripe, and made just half of those attempts.
“I thought the free-throw line was a bugaboo tonight, Miller said. “I thought we had four pair or at least three pair (where they missed both). You can pretty much equate those to turnovers. When you go to the line and have you a pair and you miss two, that’s an empty possession. So I think we had three or four of those, which was a little uncharacteristic for us tonight, which kept that lead right around where it was instead of 15, 16, 17.”
Unable to draw fouls, unable to get out in transition, and unwilling to become a perimeter shooting team, IU grew impatient and committed a season high 19 turnovers on just 12 assists. The 19 turnovers came on the heels of 18 against Louisiana Tech.
A point of emphasis all season in practice, IU made some strides on Saturday on the defensive end.
Indiana held the Jackrabbits to 18-of-48 (37.5 percent) shooting, which marks the fourth time this season the Hoosiers have held an opponent under 40.0 percent from the floor.
“Yeah, we were better tonight defensively, in particular we didn’t get it spread out, and we were a little better defensively in transition at times, Miller said.
“And looking at the stat sheet I thought our team did a really nice job against their best two guys of holding that down and really the difference in the game.”
Indiana forced the SDSU offense later into possessions and forced a couple shot clock violations.
“I thought they methodically ran their offense,” Miller said. “They tried to get good looks. But for our guys I thought we did a nice job of taking away the easy ones. We didn’t get to spread out. We didn’t give as much of a pick and roll game up.”
The Hoosier defense forced 11 first-half turnovers, which helped lead to 11 fast-break points. Indiana forced a total of 17 turnovers and have forced double-digit turnovers in all seven games to begin the season.
Still a point of concern, opponents are getting to the rim, and still not meeting enough assistance when they arrive. Without Phinisee, IU’s top on the ball defender, the Hoosiers haven’t been effective against the dribble.
“We still got to do a better job guarding the ball,” Miller said. “And for a big team we don’t play big around the rim. There’s not enough shot blocking, there’s not enough hard plays at the basket.”
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Four quick takeaways
- Jackson-Davis and Smith dominant
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (B-) Brunk’s quietest game of the year, but like all of his fellow bigs, more minutes and better matchups should be coming against bigger competition.
- Justin Smith* (A-) Smith has had a strong start to the season playing to his strengths, and there is probably no one more interesting to watch as the competition improves. Five offensive rebounds highlighted a strong night.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (A) The double-doubles are becoming routine. The true freshman is now nearly averaging a double-double with 15.6 and 9.6 per game on the season. An amazing 9 offensive rebounds and 4 blocks made this a truly special game.
- Armaan Franklin* (B-) If Franklin’s shots were falling we’d be talking about a breakout freshman campaign, because he is doing a lot of other things well. Improved defense and 4 assists for Franklin in this one.
- Al Durham* (B-) Durham’s shot was not falling, and he had too many turnovers, but Miller was pleased with his defense on SDSU’s Brandon Key who had 6 turnovers and shot 1-of-6 on from the field.
- Devonte Green (C+) Green had 4 turnovers and for the second straight game faded in the second half offensively. IU will need him to be much steadier, especially without Phinisee.
- Jerome Hunter (C+) 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in 13 minutes, and 0-for-2 from the field. IU is going to need more from Hunter as bigger teams loom.
- Race Thompson (B) Thompson continues to be a productive rebounder. His offensive production will be interesting to monitor in more halfcourt oriented games.
- Damezi Anderson (B) Anderson was better last year early in the season. He has been strong this year thus far, and could be a very valuable and a much needed shot maker if he can keep it going.
- De’Ron Davis (C) Struggling to find a rhythm with limited minutes, Davis is shooting a stunning 18% from the field this year.
Note: Sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee was not in uniform for the second straight game.
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