Exhibition games aren’t a time to reach conclusions, but they do provide clues.
Here are six insights we gained from Indiana’s 78-42 exhibition win over Marian on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, along with one fun Mike Woodson moment.
The Hoosiers return to the floor on Thursday for their second and final exhibition when they host St. Francis.
Elite freshmen on point. Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino tossed his first pass into the hands of a Marian defender, but that was about the extent of the freshmen moments for him and fellow first-year Montverde Academy product Malik Reneau. With 14 and 11 points from Reneau and Hood-Schifino, the pair were two of four Hoosiers who scored in double figures.
Hood-Schifino was solid in the mid-range and he got to the rim and added four assists. He appears to have locked-down a starting role in the backcourt to open this season.
“Jalen earned the right to start,” Woodson said. “He’s put in the work.”
Reneau led IU in scoring in fill-in duty for Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has a right thumb injury. Reneau made 7-of-10 shots and flashed his repertoire of footwork:
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“Malik is a great man with a great touch, and he can do everything,” Jordan Geronimo said on Saturday. “As you’ve seen, he can bring the ball up himself. He can shoot the ball. He can work in the post as you all saw tonight. Malik, he can do everything, at I believe like 6-9, I think he’s like 235. He’s a monster down there.”
Duncomb shows promise. Indiana veterans Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson got our attention last month when they praised sophomore center Logan Duncomb for his improvement. It wasn’t high major competition by any stretch, especially not for a big man, but Duncomb’s 11 point, 11 rebound effort at least supported the notion that he can contribute to a crowded frontcourt rotation this year.
On one play that illustrated several skills, he caught the ball at the elbow, attacked off the dribble to his right, spun, and made a sweeping left-handed shot off the board.
Duncomb was fighting back a smile in the post-game press conference.
“It felt awesome,” he said. “It’s super rewarding because I felt like I put in a lot more effort this year, over the summer, trying to get better to be able to go out there and play and contribute. So super rewarding, super exciting. I had a giant smile on my face after the game.”
Woodson praised Duncomb in front of the team after the game.
“I told him after the game and in front of everybody, I was just so proud of him because he’s hung in there with me and he’s caught a lot of hell, and he responded,” Woodson said.
Woodson likes the defense. Indiana’s strength a year ago was its defense, and they could end up being better on that end in 2022-23. You’d expect the Hoosiers to lock down an NAIA program like Marian, and they did, limiting the Knights to 24.6 percent shooting from the field and .656 points per possession.
Johnson had some rust. If there was one player who seemed to struggle it was fifth-year point guard Xavier Johnson. It wasn’t just that he missed his first seven shots of the game — but a couple of them were blocked, he had a couple turnovers, and he was 0-of-3 from long range. The high expectations for the No. 13 Hoosiers have the Xavier Johnson who played at an All-Big Ten level last March baked in. The Hoosiers have some cushion with Hood-Schifino, but they’ll need Johnson to be much sharper.
Race’s Range. Sixth-year power forward Race Thompson connected on 3-of-4 from long range, including his first three attempts. Thompson has a good-looking shot, he appeared confident, and the high-arcing makes all dropped in dead center. He showed progress a year ago from behind-the-arc, and if he can carry Saturday’s effort into the regular season, we’ll have a significant story to track.
“I was told he couldn’t shoot 3s,” Woodson said. “You didn’t want him shooting 3s. You didn’t want him handling the basketball. And now, hell, he’s a player. He’s a basketball player now.”
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As a team IU shot 8-of-19, or 42.1 percent from three.
Rotations. The game definitely provided insight into the rotations that have emerged during October practices. Reneau starting for Jackson-Davis further substantiates what we already knew — he’ll play a lot. Jordan Geronimo and Trey Galloway were the first players off the bench in both halves, and you’d have to expect Tamar Bates to be one of the first four when he’s healthy.
Woodson said he expects Bates and Galloway to be on the floor together in three guard lineups along with either Johnson or Hood-Schifino. That lineup will give Indiana several players who can attack off the bounce, something that was missing at times a year ago.
So that leaves four more — Duncomb, C.J. Gunn, Anthony Leal and Kaleb Banks to fight for minutes. Right now, Duncomb and Gunn appear to be ahead of Leal and Banks. Gunn made a couple threes and he moves like he’s confident despite his lack of experience. There will likely be moments during the long season when Gunn is called upon to contribute.
Woodson thrilled to host Downing. I asked Woodson about the pros and cons of playing a public exhibition against a lower-tier opponent vs. a closed scrimmage against a better team. I think he was really just looking for a chance to talk about IU 1973 Big Ten MVP Steve Downing, now the athletic director at Marian. There’s no insight into the team here, but instead just another reminder — Woodson is comfortable with who he is.
“Steve Downing, who is the AD there is a great, great friend of mine for many, many years. I talk about it all the time — In ’76 when IU was playing for the national title, I sat at his house. His wife cooked a big-ass pot of chili and man, I probably eight four, five, six bowls of that chili, man. I’ve been starving ever since. So I’m going to see her here in a few and I’m going to tell her, she’s going to get that chili going again.
“But no, Steve and I have been friends for a long time, and I’m proud of the job he’s done as an AD at Marian and giving them an opportunity. I’m going to do it every year that I’m here; that they can come in here and play.”
Downing and the 1973 Final Four Hoosiers were honored at halftime.
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