After a choppy start, Indiana hit the gas and didn’t look back in their 2019-20 season opener against Western Illinois.
On a night when curious minds wanted to know who would step in and assume the scoring load, several veterans were up to the task. Even though Devonte Green, the player tagged by many to be the team’s leading scorer, sat out with a hamstring injury, there was no shortage of points as the Hoosiers flirted with the century mark.
The opponents will eventually get more difficult, but nevertheless this relatively young Hoosier squad showed some promise in convincing 98-65 rout of the Leathernecks.
The Hoosiers (1-0) will host Portland State on Saturday at 2 p.m. EST.
After falling behind 15-12 with 10:35 left in the first half, IU went on a 18-0 run and never looked back.
“Quicker lineup,” third year head coach Archie Miller said after the game about the sequence. “You had three veteran guys, and then you had your quickest lineup out there.”
Western Illinois started three guards while Indiana put three forwards on the floor. The Hoosier starting five was in large part influenced by the absence of Green. IU could struggle at times to play against smaller, quick lineups until they have their full complement of guards available.
Indiana had the trio of Rob Phinisee, Al Durham and Justin Smith on the floor for most of the big run, and their experience, quickness and year-over-year development quickly became the story of the game.
If the early portion of the first half brought back memories of 2018-19, you were not mistaken.
“In the first half it’s always a feel it out process, you’re always gauging how the team is going to guard you,” Miller said after the game. “I thought they sat back, they packed it in, they kind of wanted us to pass it around the perimeter a little bit. And we were unsure just in our movement.”
During the 18-0 run and into the second half, greater purpose and attention to the details in the half court made the difference on the offensive end.
“Second half we were much more aggressive,” Miller said. “Ball movement, quickness, cutting, our post guys were better in getting in a little bit tighter where we didn’t have to deal with as much crowd on the floor.”
Miller came to IU with a reputation for transition offense, but he hasn’t always been able to get his early Indiana teams to play downhill.
Durham, Phinisee and Armaan Franklin were very effective pushing the ball up the floor, and Miller spoke to why this edition of IU basketball might be better suited to play up tempo.
“You have front court depth,” Miller said. “You have the ability to not play guys 35 minutes inside. They can’t run you all day. You’re only as good as your front court can run.”
IU was able to push the pace without making a great deal of mistakes. The Hoosiers had 18 assists and 11 turnovers on the night.
“Not a very good defensive team right now, and that’s got to get shored up,” Miller said after the game.
While WIU’s field goal percentage (34.4%) looks impressive from an IU perspective, the Leathernecks had plenty of open looks and were able to get to the rim at times led by talented guard and Indianapolis native Kobe Webster.
Miller was particularly disappointed with the first segment of the game.
“We weren’t applying any heat defensively there in the first six to eight minutes,” Miller said. “It was very methodical and they were able to do what they wanted. We started to challenge some passing lanes, we were able to get some deflections, we got out in transition and got a cushion, and that lineup, having some quickness to it, I thought helped.”
On the game IU forced 12 turnovers, which doesn’t stand out against a team in WIU that was ranked No. 295 according to KenPom. The Hoosiers had six steals and six blocks on the night.
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) He had some challenges early on the offensive end with a couple turnovers, but Brunk had a night that shows how valuable he can be with an efficient 11 points and 7 rebounds while posing a threat on the other end.
- Justin Smith* (A) Smith played to his strengths — transition and defense — and showed that he can still put up big numbers without shooting perimeter shots as he tied a career high with 24 points. He was particularly strong on the defensive end with 3 steals and 2 blocks and he looks a step quicker.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (A-) Davis provides a combination of size and athleticism that Indiana hasn’t had in the post for a while. He was an efficient 4-for-5 scoring in the paint, blocked 4 shots, and also showed an ability to effectively hedge on ball screens.
- Armaan Franklin* (A-) The unheralded member of IU’s 2019 recruiting class, it was difficult to imagine 8 assists on no turnovers in his first college game. Franklin is uniquely skilled at probing and penetrating the defense, and he showed an ability to make good decisions while doing so. With only four scholarship guards, IU needs Franklin this year, and he looks more than ready to deliver.
- Al Durham* (A+) Are you kidding me? 7-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line? Durham missed tying his career high by a point. He is playing stronger, faster and more confident on both ends, and this game came after a 10 day layoff for a knee contusion.
- Rob Phinisee (B+) Another player that has been dealing with an injury, Phinisee was solid as well despite a three turnover night in a playing time restricted 18 minutes. Some rust was to be expected, but Phinisee looks ready to step in and take on more of a scoring role.
- De’Ron Davis (B) Limited duty for the senior on this night as roles get defined in the paint, but one thing seems clear — Davis is healthier and moving much better than he did last season.
- Damezi Anderson (B) In the exhibition and then again vs. WIU, Anderson has the look of a more confident player. These early minutes can help him establish a role for when things get real and the rotation shrinks.
- Jerome Hunter (B) Even from the exhibition to the season opener, you can see Hunter progressing after a year away from the game. Still on a minutes restriction, Hunter is a guy that can make big strides over the course of the season.
- Race Thompson (B+) Although he didn’t play much, Thompson earned a reputation as a rebounder last year. 6 rebounds and 4 points in 14 minutes is a great start.
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