Final out of Bloomington, Little Rock 68 – Indiana 87.
Well… I have to admit I was surely bummed that Trayce was a precautionary inactive in this one. While I was bummed, I get it. The Hoosiers looked to utilize the bench in their matchup with the Trojans following their taxing weekend of high caliber ball. Luckily, the weaker opponents that a non-conference schedule can consist of aided the Hoosiers greatly as they were able to let the bench work, and allow Trayce some invaluable rest. Along with Trayce as an inactive was Trey Galloway.
I consistently point to Trayce as this team’s North Star, setting the attitude and rhythm of this team on the offensive and defensive ends. So with him out in this one, who was due to step up and fill the void of on-court leadership? Xavier Johnson put it upon himself to deliver that leadership. Following the slower first half, Xavier came out and led the Hoosiers’ as his seniority would lend one to expect. In the second half Xavier Johnson was able to acquire 7 points while leading the offense and distributing a stellar 8 assists. AGAIN IN THE SECOND HALF ALONE!
This game was won in the paint (to no one’s surprise). The Indiana Hoosiers absolutely dominated the points in the paint, outscoring the Little Rock Trojans 52-22. Contributing to that offensive paint domination was the Hoosiers’ defensive ability as well. The Hoosiers were able to amass an incredible 11 blocks. The Hoosiers front court was able to dictate the paint without their most valuable and dangerous weapon, I’d say that’s a pretty great day.
Sporting the headband, Race was able to have a very productive night. There is only one ball folks. Race is still very good at getting the ball in the rim, he just isn’t asked to often when Trayce tearing it up. Race was asked to shoulder a lot of the leadership today with Trayce out. He led the game in minutes, totaling 30. In that time he was able to put up a game leading 20 points, and hauled in 8 boards. Race is an exceptionally capable, and exceptionally experienced forward. Never let him offering up stat lines and being a true team player let you get that fact twisted.
While Indiana was 30 point favorites, this one may have seen closer in the box score than those that watched it knew it to be. Love Logan Duncomb’s game and think if he added a few things he could play some truly meaningful minutes down the line in his Indiana career, but if he is getting into the game in the first half you know Indiana’s all but written off this opponent. While many would say that is ill form or you should never overlook an opponent, I’m sorry but here… you’re flat out wrong. The best programs in the nation should be more than comfortable sending out the depth of their rotation against the likes of teams such as Little Rock. No offense to their side (they all got to play competitively in Assembly Hall, more than I can claim) but Indiana should never feel against the wall in this situation. If we intend to compete with the likes of Kansas, Gonzaga, and the other title contenders, we need to start acting like one. I loved the confidence Mike Woodson showed in this squad today. Even when at 80%, the Hoosiers now have options.
Sure, Indiana’s shooting today was definitely subpar. Going 6 for 17 from 3 doesn’t usually spell success in today’s game. That being said, we are finding shooters. Xavier Johnson has taken four 3 pointers this season. Xavier Johnson has drained four 3 pointers this season. The shooting is coming. These guys have worked on it. Indiana doesn’t need the best 3 point shooting in the Big Ten. We just need A SHOOTER. Someone we can turn to in order to get the lid off the bucket. I am confident our shooters are beginning to make themselves known.
Jordan continues to display his strength in each and every minute on the court. I can’t help but sit up in my seat when he’s on the floor. He ended the game with 11 points within 17 minutes. There will come a time this season that Jordan delivers Indiana an unexpected, game winning performance. I just feel it.
Tamar was able to play some significantly staunch defense. A big addition to his game seems to be the due diligence of research. Tamar seemed to even know his Little Rock opponents, shifting the lanes he offered to ball handlers. He was looking to force the opposition towards their less dominant hand. Just a sign of maturity out of the young man. He ended the night with 8 points.
My current favorite deep rotational player (based on my personal and unprofessional evaluation of potential after developing in the program) CJ Gunn got 11 minutes in this one. This kid plays with an uninhibited energy. He makes shots. I just love his game. He had a quieter night with 2 points, but I still look forward to him being a key piece of this program’s future. He could be earning substantial minutes elsewhere, but is putting in the time and will be better for it. Love to see him get on court experience.
This paragraph is my obligatory Malik/Jalen thoughts. These guys continue to produce beyond their years. The bill of sale was so true on Jalen Hood-Schifino and in regards to Malik… we thought we got an Audi, and were delivered a Porsche. This kid is gifted, so disciplined in the fundamentals. Just an insane talent that the Hoosiers get to call their own. Jalen ended the night with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Malik ended with 10 points and 6 boards.
No surprise, Indiana was able to be absolutely dominant defensively down the line. The Little Rock Trojans were held to just 33% shooting for the night. Defense is the identity of this team. It is also an identity that keeps championship contenders in games. While the new offensive additions are more than welcomed, defense is what got us in this position, it is what will keep us trending towards the illusive Banner #6.
All in all, those not familiar with the roster may think that this was a slow game by the Hoosiers. I say it was a great show of confidence by Mike Woodson. CJ, Kaleb, Logan all got more than 7 minutes, with plenty coming in the first half. Expect big things from this squad come the return of Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Thanks for taking the time to read these short thoughts of one Hoosier fanboy. Give me a listen on the OFTEN DAUNTED podcast (I know… another sports podcast. But I like doing it so it’s whatever). Episode 3 recapping this one is out now. Have a great day Hoosier fans! Happy thanksgiving to you and yours!
LUX ET VERITAS!