As delicate as things may be, we have basketball once again.
We can all be grateful for that on Thanksgiving.
Can we be thankful for what we saw from our first look at the 2020-21 edition of IU basketball? We’ll do our best to examine the results, but the real test comes next week.
Indiana (1-0) will travel to Asheville, N.C. for the Maui Invitational. The Hoosiers will play three games in three days, beginning with Providence at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller didn’t shy away from the reality that everything was different on Wednesday night.
It is easy to get excited when tens of thousands of fans are in the house. But AAU games have more energy than Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the season opener.
There was no real semblance of a home court advantage, and Miller believes his team will have to adjust.
“The energy level, the juice in the building, the crowd, it’s a different feeling for your team in terms of the energy level,” Miller said. “We are going to really have to find ways to rally this group throughout the course of the year. I think the road team has a distinctive advantage coming in here without our fans.”
Perhaps in part due to the environment, Indiana started slow and let Tennessee Tech hang around. IU led 20-17 after a Tech bucket with 10:13 remaining before the break.
But the Hoosiers went on a 20-0 run over a six minute stretch to break it open, and IU finished the half on a 28-2 run.
The slow start was quickly forgotten, and for context, the IU first half was measurably significant. The Hoosiers 29-point halftime lead bettered their 2019-20 season best advantage at the break.
Indiana opened the second half on a 10-2 run, taking a 60-21 lead, and the rest was academic.
With Tennessee Tech ranked outside of the KenPom top-300, missing key players, and their head coach — we won’t over analyze this one.
The real season starts next week.
For now, it was just good to see some basketball.
“We have some feedback now against somebody else,” Miller said. “Getting this out of the way now as we are getting ready to take on a Maui field that is really, really talented, we have our work cut out for us as we get down there.”
Don’t adjust your television. Those three-point and free throws shooting challenges that you’ve come to know? They were still apparent on Wednesday night.
Indiana was just 26.3 percent from the behind the arc and 45.5 percent from the free throw line.
Those are numbers that strike fear in the hearts of Hoosiers fans, and are concerning to the head coach too.
“I think that is going to make or break us here is eventually is our free-throw shooting and three-point shooting,” Miller said. “We have to be a better three-point shooting team and free-throw shooting team.
“We stress a lot of that and have worked hard at that. To go to the line tonight I think 10-of-22 and 5-of-19 from three, I think sometimes the first game jitters are in there, but other times it’s like, we have to step up and be better. From the foul line tonight, we spent a ton of time on that and shooting the ball, we have good shooters getting wide open shots, guys got to make them.”
A clear point of emphasis coming into the season was limiting turnovers.
Despite playing fast and moving the ball aggressively, Indiana mostly limited mistakes, although Miller was troubled by the start.
“I think we had about eight turnovers (for the game), but we started the game with Rob (Phinisee) and Al (Durham) the first two or three minutes and a couple turnovers right off the bat to start the game. That is disappointing,” he said.
The two early turnovers were by Armaan Franklin and Al Durham.
Indiana clearly emphasized pushing the tempo offensively at every opportunity and generated 19 fast break points. Miller said he believes that this can be his best transition offensive team at IU, but it all starts on the other end of the floor.
Will that transition offense translate to Maui?
“I think realistically it depends on how good we can be defensively, and how good we can be rebounding,” Miller said.
So let’s go there.
If Indiana wants to get out and run, they’ve got to force misses and get rebounds. Miller expressed concern coming into the game, and that didn’t change after seeing his team against another opponent for the first time since March 11.
“I think we are deficient on the glass right now. Trayce can rebound the ball, Race can rebound the ball, other than that I don’t know that we have a ton of guys going after the ball and rebound it,” Miller said.
Despite its significant size and athleticism advantage, Indiana only held a 36-33 overall rebounding advantage, and they allowed 8 Tech offensive rebounds.
Could defensive rebounding be a trouble area next week?
“That’s the biggest concern going to Asheville,” Miller said.
IU did force plenty of misses early in this one, as the Golden Eagles shot just 26 percent from the field during the decisive first half.
Whether by design or perhaps due to personnel, the Hoosiers looked more aggressive on defense, getting out into passing lanes a few times. IU had 9 steals and 4 blocks on the night.
Indiana forced 20 turnovers on the night, and scored 31 points off those Tech mistakes.
One thing that was clearly intentional was a switching defense. With a smaller, more versatile lineup, Miller felt that switching on screens was the right answer in this one, but it also comes at a cost that plays right into a perceived weakness.
“We are smaller and you can see we are switching more,” Miller said. “I think that switching puts our guards on the glass a lot more and that hurts. That is where the switching hurts you.”
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Miller, Jackson-Davis, Galloway post-game
- Freshmen show they belong
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It almost looked too easy out there at times for Trayce Jackson-Davis.
The sophomore had his 7th career 20-point effort and 13th career double-double, compiling 26 points and 11 rebounds on the night.
“Trayce is such an important part of what we are doing,” Miller said. “There is no question, when your best player is out there getting offensive rebounds and blocking shots or defending the ball screen the way he was at times, he definitely gives you an anchor out there.”
Jackson-Davis missed some early shots, but he showed an improved soft touch, more comfort with his off hand, and he knocked down a couple jump shots. He finished 10-of-16 from the field and added 3 assists.
Indiana was clearly emphasizing Jackson-Davis as a screener, with several sets for him off those looks with space to operate. It will be interesting to watch how that goes next week.
ALSO STANDING OUT
There was a lot of early buzz surrounding freshman guard Trey Galloway, and he showed everyone why on Wednesday night.
Galloway made 6-of-9 from the field for 13 points and added 2 rebounds and 2 assists on the night in 19 minutes of action.
“He got out in transition three or four times and made good plays,” Miller said. “He can really finish. He is good in the open floor. I think you got a chance to see what we see in in open floor how he attacks.”
Note: Redshirt senior center Joey Brunk was held out for “precautionary” reasons as he attends to back soreness. He could return next week.
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