This was the game the Hoosier faithful were hoping for when sharpshooter Miller Kopp transferred to IU.
The Northwestern transfer hit four threes and had a career-high with 28 points on Tuesday at Syracuse. Kopp also nailed all three of his free throws to tie the game after being fouled in the second overtime, capping off his best performance as a Hoosier. In the past two games, Kopp is shooting 5-of-10 from three for 50 percent, and his confidence is starting to show.
“If I make a lot of shots a game, or don’t, I always have a lot of confidence in my shot and myself. But it was good just to see them go in and make a couple. Just finally kind of have a game like that. So, it felt good,” said Kopp on Friday.
The senior wasn’t the only shooter who was able to find his rhythm last game. Parker Stewart hit six threes and had a season-high 20 points. They both contributed to make all but one of the Hoosiers’ 11 three-pointers.
The two have been getting comfortable with each other both on the court and off of it. The presence of another shooter has been beneficial for both of them as they push each other to succeed and allow each other more room.
“You know how he can really shoot the ball,” Kopp said of Stewart. “Having a guy like that on the court, and in practice and the locker room, makes me want to raise my level of play and shooting as well.”
“It’s great and when he makes a shot, I feel like I made a shot too, so it’s great having him out there for sure.”
Heading into the matchup against Nebraska, both players have to be ready to make shots. Stewart leads the team with 18 made three-pointers while shooting 47.4 percent on the season. Kopp is the only other player who has made double-digit three-pointers with 10 and he is shooting 38.5 percent on the season. The next highest is Tamar Bates with six made threes.
Both Stewart and Kopp will be relied on heavily to carry the three-point burden.
“I mean, as we go into this Big Ten run, they’ve got to make shots. It’s just — that’s why we put them in the position. They both are starters, and we brought Miller here for that reason. I thought really the last three games he’s starting to find his range.” coach Mike Woodson said.
As a team IU has made 37.6 percent of their threes on the season, good for No. 55 in the country. If they maintained that rate it would be their best since the 2016-17 campaign.
Hoosiers looking to play cleaner basketball
26 turnovers plagued the Indiana offense from completing the 16-point halftime comeback against Syracuse.
In the first half alone the Hoosiers had 13 turnovers. Over the past two games, the Hoosiers have combined for 41 turnovers to bring their season average up to 16.9 a game. Many of the turnovers were due to miscommunication between players that are still learning how to play with each other under a new head coach with a new offensive philosophy. Other times it was simply from players trying to force plays and passes with the ball.
“I think we were trying to make like the right pass, but it’s the next pass. I mean, they cover up so quickly that it’s the skip pass or — it ain’t the pass where we kind of talk about buddy ball, where our bigs play together outside of our zone, and then when they draw defenders, they kick the ball out,” Woodson said.
Against the zone, the majority of the turnovers came from the frontcourt. The duo of Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis combined for 13 miscues as they struggled with traps.
“They’ve just got to realize a lot of times the double-team came down on them, and they threw the ball away. They lost balls trying to make plays after getting an offensive rebound or when it was actually thrown to them in the middle of the zone.
Despite the high amount of turnovers, Woodson thinks that the turnover issue is easily fixable. Especially as the team plays more games and gets more comfortable with each other.
“Well, again, I thought most of the turnovers were really unforced. I mean, they were within the zone, and we were trying to make passes that weren’t there. I mean, things that we can clean up,” Woodson said.
Indiana’s 22.2 percent turnover rate is No. 293 nationally and would be their worst season since the 2009-10 campaign if it held up for the full year.
Trayce Jackson-Davis’ aggressiveness has unlocked his true potential
When Mike Woodson came to Indiana, his first task was to retain star player Trayce Jackson-Davis. He did so by showing him what he needed to improve on to be an NBA-caliber player.
“I just thought he didn’t play with the fire that he’s playing with now. There were possessions that he took off a lot of times last year,” Woodson said of Jackson-Davis.
“So when I put the tape together and I showed him the things that I thought he could be better, the areas where he could be better in, he’s picked up in those areas.”
On top of a re-energized motor, the Greenwood, Ind. native has worked on multiple aspects of his game. Jackson-Davis rarely attempted jump shots, used his right hand, or was as big as a factor defensively as he is now. He’s changed all of that while entering his name in the race for the Wooden Award for college basketball’s best player.
“I think he should win them,” Miller Kopp said of the potential accolades of his teammate. “At the same time he’s playing really aggressive, and getting to the foul line and making free throws, and just doing a good job on the boards and protecting the rim as well.”
The work that the preseason AP First-Team All-American has paid dividends. He is averaging career-highs in points with 22 per game, assists with 2.1, and blocks with 3.7. The junior also recorded a new career-high in points and broke the record for most points in a game at Assembly Hall with 43 points. He followed it up with a 31 point game against Syracuse to become the first back-to-back 30-point game scorer for a Hoosier since Eric Gordon.
Just as important, Jackson-Davis has been an active voice in the locker room for the Hoosiers. Ahead of the season, he was named captain by the coaching staff.
“He’s trying to lead, man. That’s, I think, a big part,” Woodson said of the junior captain. “Here’s a young man that’s, … he’s trying to be a leader. That’s nice to see because if he’s the best player on the team, he’s got to lead, and he’s doing a great job, I think, in that area.”
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