IU Take-aways: Indiana 91, North Alabama 65

Perimeter defense lacking

You won’t hear Archie Miller say this IU squad can or should shoot its way to victory.

So the fact that the Hoosiers are putting themselves into some shootout-type situations early has to be concerning.

North Alabama hit six of its first seven 3-point shots Tuesday, finishing 7-of-14 from beyond the arc. That bumps opponents’ success rate from 3 to a robust 40.7 percent through three games.

It hasn’t come back to bite the Hoosiers yet, because there has been enough shooting from IU’s end to cushion victories. But that may not always be the case, and that’s exactly why Miller has stressed defense for this team.

There are reasons not to panic. IU is still trying to mesh multiple pieces that haven’t played together, including two freshmen, a grad transfer, and another two players, Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter, who had their 2018-19 campaigns cut short. Add an absent Devonte Green and a somewhat rusty Rob Phinisee to the mix, and it’s no wonder there is some discontinuity.

But the pace of progress isn’t what Miller would like to see. IU’s pack-line scheme has to find a way to guard better on the perimeter and take away the other team’s best shooters.

Free throw line good to IU

While the Hoosier defense has to be a concern, their performance at the free throw line was nearly a counterbalance in a positive direction.

Last year, IU’s 65.5 percent success rate from the line was a glaring weakness. Miller has said he wants this team to get to the free throw line as a means for creating offense, but there was a question of how many the Hoosiers could hit.

IU made it to the free throw line 45 times versus North Alabama. That’s good. And draining 37 is better. That pulls the Hoosiers’ success rate up to 76 percent for the season.

What’s particularly encouraging is who’s making them. Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, who wasn’t a great shooter in high school, drained 14-of-15 on the Lions. After the game, the 6-foot-9 forward talked about tweaking his form with assistant coach Tom Ostrom, holding the ball higher as he begins his follow-through, leaving less room for error.

The lefty is a player who could get fouled a lot, so his continued success at the line would be a boon for IU.

As a team, the Hoosiers have made it to the line 100 times in three games.

Thompson, Hunter show off their skills

Three games don’t mean everything, but they can reveal glimpses of what a player can be.

Both Hunter and Thompson, looking to rebound from injury-shortened seasons, have shown what they are about.

Hunter, a 6-7 forward, is averaging 9.3 points in 16.7 minutes per game. Thompson, the 6-8 forward, is pulling down 6.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game, second only to Jackson-Davis’ 8 boards per contest (and the freshman plays nearly eight additional minutes per outing).

They can each change a game with their respective toolboxes. Thompson has gone to the floor for rebounds, both offensive and defensive. Hunter’s timely shooting has given the Hoosiers a boost at times.

It’s been a good start for both. They just have to sustain it.

November basketball is wild.

Some of the loudest reactions from the crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday had nothing to do with what was occurring on IU’s court.

Fans were monitoring the progress of Evansville’s upset of No. 1 Kentucky, delighted by a rival’s suffering. But they were also, more subtlety, being reminded of the unpredictability of November basketball.

It’s early, and even teams with sparkling top 25 rankings are vulnerable on any given night. While the Hoosiers haven’t been perfect, and their woes on the defensive end are particularly concerning, they are still 3-0.

If the Hoosiers can take care of the mid-majors on their schedule, they can be 7-0 heading into a Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Florida State in early December. There’s time and room to grow. But IU can’t take a night off.

What’s next?

Troy, 8 p.m. Saturday, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

Be wary of the Trojans.

They have lost games to UAB and Chattanooga to start the year, but they were close. Troy lost to UAB by one point, 76-75, and by six to Chattanooga, 74-68.

IU’s next visitor is fully capable of testing a faltering perimeter defense. The Trojans have hit 22-of-54 from beyond the arc. Five players are connecting on better than 40 percent of their 3s.

Troy’s top four scorers from last year are gone, but junior Darian Adams is helping pick up the slack. The 6-3 guard is scoring 16 points per contest and has hit 8-of-14 from deep.

3 comments

  1. I do prefer the ‘Groot’ haircuts over the Grace Jones highrise flattop style of the last few years…

    70’s RULE!

  2. Here’s a take-away from the game: IU’s opponent wasn’t very good!

    Glad to see that for the season IU has made 76% of their FT attempts. If they sustain that average, or continue to improve it, it will make the difference between winning and losing two or three games this season. The team’s FT percentage really should be in the high 70’s throughout the season, and I’d like one of the guards to establish an average in the 90% range so that when the opponents are forced to foul late in games, we have a go-to guy that is almost automatic. Is there a Steve Alford on this roster?

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