Final out of Bloomington: Kennesaw State Owls 55 – Your Indiana Hoosiers 69.
The Indiana Hoosiers came into Assembly Hall with very little gas on the offensive end. Unable to get the lid off the bucket initially, the Hoosiers decided to take their slow start and extend it well through to halftime in this game. With no Xavier Johnson, who had foot surgery this week, and no Trayce Jackson-Davis, out on precautionary measures, the Hoosiers knew it would be a big day in which the deeper rotational guys would get some minutes again.
The Kennesaw State Owls came out in this one ready and willing to shoot the long range in order to keep themselves in contention. The Owls ran backcourt option plays to find wide open threes and opened the game 5 for 9 from 3 point to get out to the early lead. While the Hoosiers were able to ultimately pull away with the victory after clamping down on the perimeter, Kason Jennings stood out for the Owls. He went 3 for 4 from 3 point range.
Malik’s size advantage was apparent from the the jump in this game, quite literally. While taking position to take the tip, Malik’s imposing frame compared to the built for shooting size of Kennesaw State gave me hope that Malik would be able to have himself a day. Unfortunately, his woes continued a bit on the offensive side. In his 14 minutes, prior to Mike Woodson going smaller to adjust for Indiana’s slow start, Malik was able to get 5 points. Mike Woodson is going to give Malik time to figure out the college game, and I think Malik is fully capable of coming out stronger than he has been. Here’s hoping this holiday break does him some good in coming back for blood in Big Ten play.
Mike Woodson was quick to utilize the bench, even when trailing the Owls 15-11 with about 10 minutes left in the first. CJ Gunn and Logan Duncomb both started their nights at around this mark. I was excited to see what both of these Hoosiers, who had the first double digit games of their careers against Elon, could do to follow up their last performances. Unfortunately, Kennesaw was able to keep this a contest too long for them to get much shine. CJ Gunn got 2 rebounds in his 5 minutes. I don’t know what it is about his game, but I will push for us to try to fast track this kid’s development every day. Indiana needs backcourt ball handling and shooting. If he’s got even a glimpse of those (which I think he’s flashed), let’s nurture them.
Great to see Jordan Geronimo back on the floor against Kennesaw State. He got a bit of time in this one, despite having come off that finger injury. In his 13 minutes on the floor Jordan was able to contribute 7 points in his usual bruising fashion, getting to the line towards the end. After starting the season with a lot of his offseason development on display, he has hit a stride of rough performances. This performance is promising to build upon.
While Indiana was waiting to get it started, Trey Galloway took it up himself to deliver the Hoosiers some momentum to take into the half, finally bringing the Hoosiers to the 25-25 tie with his 2nd big 3 pointer in the half. He didn’t get many opportunities in this one, but I am happy to see that Trey has found a reliable shot from beyond the arc. All the changes to his release have paid off in spades. After shooting the worst from 3 for the Indiana Hoosiers last season, he has become a reliable spot up option. Excited to see what else he can add to his game.
Race was a monster on the boards in this game! With 14 rebounds, he was making the conscious effort on the defensive end necessary to win the battle on the boards. While it was a stellar night rebounding for the seasoned veteran, he looked less than confident in what he was bringing on the offensive end. Usually a true bruiser for the Hoosiers, he was playing as timid as anyone else today. There were multiple times tonight where Race was backed up against a defender he may have had legitimately 10 inches and 50 pounds on, and he was never looking to back down the smaller Kennesaw State team. At times in this one, a fan could sit and wonder what he was doing… why wasn’t he taking on one and one matchups with much smaller defenders? I get they were coming backside to try to sneak a steal frequently, but I really would have liked to see Race impose his strength offensively. The same strength he already was utilizing on the boards. He’s shown the ability to do it. I have confidence he can find it consistently.
While the Hoosier offense wasn’t setting the world on fire in this one, Tamar Bates and Jalen Hood-Schifino really contributed and put up some impressive numbers. Tamar continued to show why he may be the most valuable player off the bench in college basketball. Leading the scoring in this one with 19 points Tamar continues to make his case as quite possibly the best offensive player Indiana has. While I love seeing him come off the bench and contribute, if he continues to be the most reliable offensive option, do you have any choice but to start him? With 31 minutes played, he may as well have. As for Jalen, he had a great night scoring, with 18 points. Including one 3 pointer taken from Evansville. Jalen showed an ability to shoulder the load today. With Xavier out, he’s going to need some strong shoulders this season. His distribution really began to gain its legs down the stretch in this one. We need that out of the gate. He’s fully capable of bringing it from the top. Get healthy and get after it in 2023.
The Hoosiers looked largely flat in a majority of this one. While one could knit pick at this one all day, I’m going to once again choose to appreciate this game for its worth. The Hoosier defense really stepped up in the second half. The backcourt defense was still stout, even without the presence of our possibly the Hoosiers’ best backcourt defender this season in Xavier Johnson. After trailing 22-15, the Hoosiers came back to win this one in commanding fashion to end it. Ending with a 33-15 run, the Hoosiers showed an ability to outlast adversity today. We were down our two largest veteran presences. That is going to be felt. The Hoosiers did well to respond and end up taking home the result. While one could see that slow start and yet again be disheartened, you should notice the changes that Mike Woodson was able to make, going smaller and trusting the Hoosiers to make their shots. Yes, those slow starts are disheartening, but key tactical adjustments being made for the better is an aspect of Mike Woodson’s leadership many of the haters have been questioning and he showed an ability to react in this one.
Enjoy the win Hoosiers. More so, enjoy your holiday season! I hope you and yours have an awesome time. I’m going to take the gift that is a Hoosier victory and cherish it. If you want to give me a listen for a few more of my thoughts on this one check out the latest episode of OFTEN DAUNTED. Available wherever you get your podcasts!
Happy Holidays! LUX ET VERITAS!