A final tune-up game may have served a valuable purpose.
Indiana’s struggles from the perimeter have been well documented, but several players knocked down shots from long range as the Hoosiers attacked early and often from behind the arc in a 87-52 win over North Alabama.
The combination of an effective day shooting the ball along with a stout defensive effort allowed all of the available scholarship players to see meaningful minutes as the Hoosiers moved to 4-2 on the season.
Up next is the first of 21 straight games against high major competition. IU is scheduled to play Butler at the Crossroads Classic on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET.
The Hoosiers never trailed in this one, and it wasn’t until the 7:11 mark of the first half that North Alabama reached double figures. That came on the heels of an 11-0 run by IU to pull out to a 23-7 lead before the Lions scored 4 unanswered.
In the second half, IU turned a 22-point lead into a 39-point lead on a 17-0 run over a four-minute span. Indiana connected on three 3-pointers during the run.
All of the available scholarship players saw at least 14 minutes of action, as IU balanced out the rotation to provide the freshmen with valuable minutes.
While Trey Galloway has seen significant action throughout the young season, the other three newcomers — Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal and Jordan Geronimo have had more limited roles.
In an ordinary season there would be several games like this to give all of the young players substantial time on the floor.
And there will be moments throughout the next 21 games where one or more of the three are needed in key spots.
That’s why head coach Archie Miller made sure they all saw the floor extensively on Sunday.
“Our schedule hasn’t permitted the luxury of just playing long stretches of time with young guys,” Miller said. “It hasn’t given us the opportunity to see what type of rotation works out a little bit better. Today, as we built a lead, it was definitely a point of emphasis to get more playing time for those guys, because we’re going to need them as the season continues to go.”
It was a tale of two halves on the offensive end, as IU committed 11 turnovers, had just 5 assists, and shot 4-of-13 from three-point range before the halftime break.
“Offensively we just didn’t take good care of the ball,” Miller said of the first half play. “We were very methodical against the zone. Also, in transition we didn’t take care of the ball. I was disappointed about that. Second half much better.”
Indeed things were much better in the second half.
“Coach got into us,” sophomore guard Armaan Franklin said. “11 turnovers in a half is unacceptable. I think we were only averaging 11 in a whole game coming into this one. So, I think he just lit a fire under us and made a big emphasis to just take care of the ball. Once we take care of the ball, we will get easy looks.”
The pep talk worked, as the numbers flipped in the second half.
IU had 12 assists against 7 turnovers in the second stanza, and the Hoosiers shot 9-of-20 (45 percent) from long range.
What was the key to Indiana knocking down its perimeter shots?
“I think the big key was rhythm,” Miller said. “I think the shots were in rhythm. The attacking, the zone, the ball was getting to the right spots and it was coming out, our movement as the ball came out was good.”
While the Hoosiers struggled out of the gate this season and in this game shooting three-pointers, Miller believes that can change over the course of this 2020-21 campaign.
“Overall, if we get better quality shots, we continue to become a good passing team, guys continue to be dialed in on where they are getting shots, and the rhythm catches, we can be pretty good shooting team,” Miller said.
The 33 three-point attempts were the most in a game for IU since 2014. The 13 makes, the most since a February of 2018 win at Iowa.
“The volume of threes doesn’t concern me at all. It’s the quality of shots, and we have to continue to take them,” Miller said.
While the offense needed a half to clean things up, the defense was locked in from the jump.
The Indiana defense blocked a season-best seven North Alabama shots, had 10 steals, and held the Lions to 33.3% (21-of-63) shooting from the floor, including 17.4% (4-of-23) shooting from the 3-point line.
“Our guys did a good job defensively, especially early,” Miller said. “We were very dialed in. We got loose balls and made hard plays.”
The effort propelled IU to No. 11 nationally in the KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency rankings as of this writing. That’s an early 15 spot jump over last season’s impressive No. 26.
Miller sees a significantly improved defensive team due to greater experience, improved quickness, and better help side support.
“We are a better defensive team at this point in the season than we were a year ago,” Miller said. “That is not close. Our perimeter quickness is better and we are much more disciplined off the ball. I think that is a big part here early in the year. We have been a better off ball defensive team with our help. We have more versatility as well. We are able to, in my opinion guard the ball better.”
But none of that is to say that IU is perfect on the defensive end.
Miller still sees issues that could potentially be exposed when the competition level ramps back up.
“We still are not near good enough defensive rebounding and not anywhere good enough in transition being organized,” he said.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Miller and players post-game
- Big second half propels IU
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin has now put together enough strong games in this young 2020-21 season to establish a trend. The Indianapolis product has made big strides in year two.
On Sunday, Franklin tossed in a career-high 19 points, adding 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in 35 minutes of action.
The 6-foot-4 Franklin made 5-of-7 three-pointers on the day, leading a much needed strong effort by IU from beyond the arc.
“I give Armaan a lot of credit,” Miller said. “He continues to evolve as a player for us. I was really happy for him to see the ball go through the net. He has worked hard on it and I think that is going to be the Armaan we get used to seeing, consistently knocking the open ones in. When he has that, with the way he is defending and the way he is creating, he is turning into a terrific player early in the year for us.”
For Franklin, the impressive day from long range was simple.
Get open, and knock one down, repeat.
“I think it was just open looks, getting the rhythm, stepping into it with confidence,” Franklin said. “I think if you ask basketball player, when you see one go in, it gets you going for the next one and the next one. So, really just stepping in and getting a rhythm you know. Following through and knocking it down.”
Player of the game tracker: Jackson-Davis (3), Thompson (1), Durham (1), Franklin (1).
Note: Redshirt senior center Joey Brunk did not play due to a sore back. The injury at this point appears to be a longer term situation.
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