What was that? Indiana fans will spend the next week wondering if they just experienced an overnight sensation, or a brief illusion never to be seen again.
The Hoosiers jumped on North Alabama early, had a double-digit lead seven minutes into the game, and for the most part were able to continue to expand their margin. IU led by as much as 25 on multiple occasions in the second half.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the Hoosiers won 83-66 with another edition of The Report Card.
Indiana (9-3, 2-0) will next face Kennesaw State a week from today — Friday, Dec. 29.
Everything looks better when three-pointers are falling like this.
Indiana made 12-of-24 (50%) from long distance, easily achieving season highs in both attempts and makes. The previous highs were six makes and 17 attempts. Perhaps left with no choice against aggressive post-doubles, IU has attempted 18.3 threes per game over the last four contests after taking just 12.1 over the first eight.
Many of the threes were timely as well. At least three times the Hoosiers made one on a possession immediately after Northern Alabama had done so.
North Alabama wasn’t going to have it any other way, aggressively trapping every post entry with two and three defenders. Rather than settle for kick-outs from those doubles, Indiana went to a lot of high ball screen and dribble hand-off actions to get their big men involved. Those sets included a lot of clear-outs where only Trey Galloway and Kel’el Ware occupied a side, mitigating the help.
Those actions, along with transition, screening away from the ball, post-double recognition, and a lot more passing than dribbling led to a season-high 25 assists.
It was the second straight game where Indiana had ten turnovers or less. And all of those numbers produced results you’d expect — season best points per possession (1.24) and effective field goal percentage (63.8 percent).
North Alabama was the team they appeared to be on paper. They shot a lot of threes but weren’t particularly efficient doing so (9-of-32, 28.1 percent). If they make a couple more of those and Indiana is a bit more true to form on the other end this game probably looks like most of the other too close for comfort mid-major games.
Whether it’s scheme or miscues, Indiana continues to seem to over help on the perimeter, and that along with missed rotation assignments and a lack of impactful pressure on the ball is creating most of the open threes.
The undersized Lions did make 53 percent from two, they grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, and overall there’s still a sense that teams can get the looks they want — it’s just a matter of whether or not the shots fall.
The Hoosiers gave up .98 points per possession, which isn’t bad, but still a fairly concerning number against a team of this caliber.
With their big lineup, Indiana is probably never going to be a really good defensive team against small ball teams. But we’ll see if the Hoosiers can find answers on this end when Xavier Johnson returns and perhaps they’re able to achieve better pressure on the ball.
MORE GAME COVERAGE
- Indiana men’s basketball flipped the script with strong 3-point performance against North Alabama
- Watch: Mike Woodson and Malik Reneau discuss win over North Alabama
- IU basketball: Indiana 83 North Alabama 66 — Three keys, highlights, final stats
- Extended highlights:
*Trey Galloway (A-) The senior guard was exceptional in the two man game with Kel’el Ware, and that helped lead to a career high nine assists against just one turnover. He sliced up the Lions all night with his vision. IU was +27 with him on the floor despite never leading by that much. Galloway also made multiple threes for a third straight game, and he’s 6-of-12 from long range over that span. Struggles from the free throw line continue, however.
*Kel’el Ware (C+) It seems fairly clear the big man doesn’t like double teams and physicality. Through the first half, Ware had just two points and one rebound. He looked like a different player when IU got him rolling to the rim away from the help.
*Mackenzie Mgbako (B) The freshman is unafraid when it comes to looking to score — and that’s a good thing. Indiana needs players with a shooting mentality, and he’s made multiple threes in three of four games. Mgbako needs to improve his scoring package in the paint, as he continues to struggle against strong contests, and there were the defensive lapses that we’ve seen all season.
*Malik Reneau (A-) If you’re looking for developments that can change the course of Indiana’s season, Reneau’s ability to make threes would be at the top of the list. Already highly efficient from two, the offense opens up when defenses have to respect the four-man’s ability to make the long ball, and he’s made seven of his last 11 attempts. The only nit in this game is some suspect passing — usually a strength of the sophomore forward.
*Gabe Cupps (B-) A year ahead of schedule, Cupps has been doing the best he can. But he rarely is able to get past his man and break down the defense with paint touches, and his defensive presence on the ball isn’t quite where it needs to be. His value to this year’s team will be much higher as a reserve, and he’s gotten a lot of valuable experience.
Anthony Walker (A-) Walker has solidified his role as Indiana’s most valuable player off the bench. He plays a steady floor game, gets to his spots when he attacks, and Walker is effective at closing out on 3-point shooters.
Kaleb Banks (D) The sophomore forward looks sped up and uncertain at times. He continues to foul unnecessarily and over help on defense.
C.J. Gunn (C) Gunn got what he needed more than anything — an extended run on the floor to gain rhythm and comfort. Did you know — he has a 5.9 percent steal rate, and the next closest teammate is Cupps at 2.4.
Peyton Sparks (C) Sparks rebounded the ball effectively, but he forces his offense too much.
Anthony Leal (B) We probably won’t see a lot of Leal if Xavier Johnson returns and the backcourt remains healthy. But if in his spot duty he can stretch the defense with threes, that’s just what the doctor ordered. Leal made his first three in 22 months.
Xavier Johnson was out with a lower leg/foot injury. Jakai Newton (knee) is out long-term.
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