Hoosiers best North Alabama, 91-65

Offensively, the highlights from Indiana’s 91-65 win over North Alabama were many.

Damezi Anderson was lobbing a sky-high alley-oop to Trayce Jackson-Davis, the 6-foot-9 forward rapidly descending for a two-handed jam.

Anderson, Al Durham, Rob Phinisee, and Jerome Hunter were launching deep shots with perfect arc, keeping the Hoosiers (3-0) in the driver’s seat for most of Tuesday’s contest at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Not to mention there was a seemingly continuous march to the free throw line for IU, as the Hoosiers totaled an astounding 37-of-45 from the charity stripe.

But when IU coach Archie Miller sat down to review the contents of the Hoosiers’ third non-conference win, one worrying aspect was held in his mind.

“Defensively, we’re not there yet,” Miller said. “Can we get there? Yeah. We have a lot of inexperience.”

On the positive end, the freshman Jackson-Davis led five scorers in double figures with 20 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. But the growing pains of a young basketball team continued, particularly in the first half.

As was the case versus Portland State, the Hoosiers were unable to lock down on their opponent’s best shooters, helping the Lions to a 7-of-10 mark from 3-point distance in the first 20 minutes.

North Alabama (1-2) cooled off in the second half, missing on all four of its 3-point attempts. But the way the Lions were able to break through the Hoosiers’ perimeter defense, kicking out for open looks, continues an existing concern.

Jamari Blackmon, the Lions’ top guard, led his team with 19 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep.

“I thought the ball was moving fast for them, I thought our rotations were slow,” Miller said. “Felt like ball pressure, in general, couldn’t stifle them. They got good looks. It’s a little bit frustrating, because coming into the game, we knew what we had to do, but second half a little better.

“But nowhere near where we need to be.”

Miller reiterated his belief that the return of senior Devonte Green, who remains out with a hamstring injury, will benefit the Hoosiers’ backcourt rotation on both ends. For now, IU remains a man short on the perimeter.

But luckily for IU, there’s a surplus of shooters on its side. Ahead just 31-30 with 6 minutes left in the first half, the ever-reliable Durham hit a pair of 3s to spur an 8-0 burst. It was nearly the spark the Hoosiers needed, as their lead climbed as high as 46-33 before slipping back to 47-40 heading into the break.

Shooting was far from a concern. Phinisee, working his way back from an abdominal injury and an inactive October, hit a pair of first-half 3s on his way to 13 points. Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter drained a 3, as well, which displayed his building confidence coming back from a missed season and the lower-leg condition that created it.

Hunter finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, but a couple of his misses rattled in the rim before popping out. They were close, and Hunter is playing like he’s back in the swing of things.

“You get into games and you play it safe, and then there’s playing tentative. He’s neither,” Miller said. “He’s coming into the game and he wants to be himself.”

Anderson, who sat out the Hoosiers’ last game with a sore leg, returned to score 10 points, including two makes from 3-point range.

His lob to Jackson-Davis was also a highlight, showing off the freshman’s length and athleticism.

“When you see Trayce, you just got to throw it and he going to go get it,” Anderson said. “No matter if it’s on top of the backboard or not, he’s just going to go get it.”

The way Jackson-Davis attacked the rim was to Miller’s liking, even if it didn’t result in many field goal attempts.

Jackson-Davis was just 3-of-4 from the field, but the left-hander drew a ton of fouls, getting to the line 15 times. He knocked down 14 of those, a rate of success that bodes well for his scoring potential.

“He’s a unique player. I’ve been telling him this since 10th grade. He’s going to get fouled a ton,” Miller said. “Left-hander, mobile, athletic, awkward, turns into you a lot kinda because he is left-handed. But he’s always drawing contact around the basket.

“When you are that gifted around the rim, rebounding, driving, quickness, off the ground, it’s good. But he can draw fouls.”

Jackson-Davis’ versatility as either a four or a five on the defensive end only enhances his value.

But, as a team, the Hoosiers are still trying to put all the pieces together.

“Good win for us, we keep learning a lot about ourselves,” Miller said. “Big picture, defensively, we’re not there. I thought we made some strides leading into the game, but perimeter defense, guarding the 3-point line, being able to execute with great intensity — it wasn’t there.

“But we’re 3-0. They are not easy to get. It doesn’t really matter who you play. It’s hard, it’s early in the year. For us, we’ll take it. Gotta find a way to get better for Saturday night.”

15 comments

  1. Pretty nasty first half, even though we shot the ball well. But Indiana isn’t going to be beating teams hitting threes in the B1G. The defense looked like it was coached by James Blackmon Jr. No help, couldn’t close out on the perimeter. Our big guys sans TJD were looking really soft.

    Second half was a whole different team. They came out hard, played hard and corrected a lot of their defensive issues. Nice to see the adjustment in attitude and performance in the 2nd half.

    TJD is going to be a really special player for us. I really like what I see from this kid.

    I feel like we said this a lot last year, but there’s a maddening inconsistency about how these guys get ready to start a game. The always start so flat. I don’t get it.

  2. Hey my peeps… for those of you still kickin. One of the only benefits of the frustration of the end of the Crean years is that my expectations dropped to the point where I can now just enjoy watching these kids play and develop. There’s a lot of pieces to like and I think we’re on the verge of what I envisioned when we hired Archie. Guys like Phin, Race, Hunter, TJD, and Armaan… who play on both ends and have some grit (gumption, etc HfH)…
    I think we’ll give teams fits all year… I’m ok with the occasional lulls in results because it looks and feels like the program is forming an identity.
    Nice to see us shoot FTs well, especially from our bigs. Really encouraging to see how comfortable Hunter looked on the offensive end… he’s smooth with a gorgeous stroke, and seems like he’s got a chance to be pretty special before his time here is up.

    1. What’s up Double D!
      Doing great really… had a rough patch a couple years back but family got me through it, and enjoying life more than ever. Parenting is a challenge, but for some reason the kid loves me. Probably the biggest change since my last stint on the Scoop is coaching… I’m coaching kids year round between my sons teams and Basketball at the HS. I love it! The basketball part is great, but trying to have a positive impact on the kids, in what I determine to be a bizarre era, is most fulfilling.

      On the IU offense, I think we’re in store for the widest variety of looks we’ve seen in a long time once we’re healthy and the newer guys get a few games under their belts… haven’t seen a traditional 3-out, 2-in in quite a while, and with 4 legit bigs I’ll think we’ll see it quite a bit, but Hunter and Smith really allow us to play spread out and fast as well… glad Armaan has fit in this well this early, hopefully he’ll stay steady when we see the big boys, because we need depth at that position.

      Excited for the season and my life is pretty much wall-to-wall ball, which is the way I like it.

      Hope all is good with you too… is Clarion still kickin?

      1. Geoff,
        Still enjoying life, immensely. You enjoy your Son every minute. Don’t worry about making mistakes. If you can’t fix em at least you’ll learn from them. It’s lots worse to leave things unaddressed. Our 3 grew up way to fast. But grown up, cutting a wide swath of their own sure makes parents proud. In our case I give all the credit to a stay at home MOM. Enjoyed HSFB as still enjoying CFB and now all set for round ball. Only in America. Always enjoyed your posts. Particularly when you were wrestling with ‘auto correct’ and ‘spell check’. Sorry way long.

  3. DEPTH! A precious asset.
    I seriously doubt No. Bama shoots 70% regularly from 3 land even in practice. Not many Alfords around.
    I’ll bet a $k boy Hunter has Smith’s starting spot by mid-January. Race is tough as nails and Rob makes things happen. He and Green together will make perimeter D formidable. Sure like all the pieces available on the chessboard and the way Miller is working them. Like the strategy of the early schedule.

  4. Clarion..I agree with you about Smith. He seems to be operating like he did last year…2 very good games then this game he disappeared. Last year we may have lost this game because of his disappearance; this year the win was due in a large part to depth we didn’t have last year. I think shooting will improve. Franklin, RP, Al , and Hunter have demonstrated that their shots do in fact have a chance to “go in”. Add DD to the mix a more hopeful group of scorers. The defense will come around .the TEAM seems to be more connected. on last note; I would love to see Garcia at other forward position and running the floor with TJD.

  5. I’m not sure what to make of this team yet. One thing from last night which is really encouraging is the FT shooting. That’s been a major concern for CAM teams. Can’t ask for much better from TJD at the line.

    The potential for the outside shot should open up JS’ game if the defenses can’t collapse into the paint. I was a little concerned about the difficulty in the first 3 games until I saw KY take it at home. We tend to forget the importance of teams hanging together for 3-4 years in this age of 1 and done. On any given night an experienced team can give a young, talented team fits, and we saw that in several games last night and so far this season.

    Very much interested to see what this team looks like in late December with hopefully DB back, and JH a little more up to speed. If this team is what I hope it is, the later in the season the better they will be.

    1. Clutch shooting doesn’t happen vs. Southern Alabama anymore for a Hoosier than a Southern Alabama kid.

      I’ll be interested to see our “improved” shooting once we face some equal ..or near equal competition in games where outcomes aren’t so heavily favored/probable for the home team.

      Right now this squad looks like a lot of disjointed pieces….Archie often has a very frustrated look on his face. I’ll never be fully comfortable with seeing a cohesive product until Archie has a team constructed solely of his own recruits/own design. “Bad apple” may be the wrong descriptor, but all it takes is one bad apple to ruin a lot of chemistry. And I don’t mean bad apple as a bad person…It simply means a bad or disruptive mindset more set at displaying individual gifts(the “next level” audition at the forefront) than the one pursuant heavily in team goals and smart basketball.

      I’ll not forget the image of of watching a handful of guys in candy stripes (some still on our team) chuckling and grinning on the bench at the conclusion of last year’s NIT loss. There seemed to be little irritation or concern about a season ending ….

      Bright spots on the roster have emerged. I am pleasantly surprised by Hunter…I would get Brunk on the floor. Certainly not the most skilled but I don’t think he’s going to ever be laughing it up on the bench during a postseason loss. This team needs leaders. Not sure if we’re going to get that from our freshmen…Hoping someone wants to be the vocal leader.

      Yogi was a great floor leader…We need that sort of hustle and fearless motor in our backcourt. It’s early but now is the time to start building chemistry and unison of mindset.

  6. Personally, I don’t like the “strategy” of the early super-soft “don’t squeeze the Charmin” schedule.

    I like to see leaders and clutch players evolve by fire rather than by feather.

    I want top defenders and size in the faces of our newbies. I want them humbled and their egos tested. It’s o.k. to toss a few cupcakes into the mix of an early schedule….but six or seven in a row is sort of sad. You can’t protect guys from injury no matter what level of competition…They can just as likely get injured in practice while scrimmaging against our own superior talent.
    “Load management” and coddling isn’t my idea of building strength and chemistry. You’ve got to get hit on the chin and prove you like to get up off the floor more than stand on podiums.

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