IU Coach Archie Miller knows nothing will be easy about IU's season opener Friday night.
Miller is leading the Hoosiers into an opening weekend in which they’ll play two games in three days and kick it off against an in-state opponent, which is a challenging task in itself. The Indiana State team coming to Bloomington for a 7 p.m. tipoff Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall has been tested plenty in the preseason.
With a closed scrimmage against Illinois and a charity exhibition game against Purdue already under Indiana State's belt, Miller doesn’t expect Indiana State to be overwhelmed by IU.
“They're not coming in afraid of us,” Miller said. “They're not coming in here ooing and awing. They're prepared to come in here and play, compete to win, just like they did in all their other games.”
Indiana State, playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, finished 11-20 last season and lost four of five starters. The Sycamores return senior guard and leading scorer Brenton Scott, who averaged 15.9 points per game as a junior.
Miller said Scott and sophomore guard Jordan Barnes should challenge IU as a sharpshooting, freewheeling backcourt. Along the front line, the Sycamores rely on a pair of complementary forwards in senior Brandon Murphy and junior Devin Thomas.
Murphy stands 6-foot-7 but weighs 275 pounds, while Thomas’ lanky frame allows him to be a stretch forward. Miller said that mix makes Indiana State the best frontcourt IU has seen so far, which is not surprising given the lack of size of IU’s two non-Division I exhibition opponents.
For IU, the matchup against a versatile set of forwards means the Hoosiers will have to play better team defense down low, Miller said. Sophomore forward De’Ron Davis, after looking at film from IU’s exhibition games, said he’s found some simple adjustments that he can make to perform better.
“Some of my screens I set were lazy, my post ups were lazy and my post defense was extremely lazy, so it’s just little things like that,” Davis said.
Injuries played a minor role in IU’s preseason contests, but Miller said he expects senior forward Collin Hartman and freshman guard Al Durham to be fully healthy for Friday night. Both played limited minutes against the University of Indianapolis on Sunday.
The rest of the Hoosiers have some minor nicks and bruises as with any team, Miller said. He’ll need his players to be healthy and energetic in the demanding start to the non-conference schedule, which will see IU play Howard on Sunday and then travel three days later to No. 23 Seton Hall.
“Playing two different opponents on the fly will give us a lot of information,” Miller said. “It's going to give us a lot of film study and the ability to show them more things specifically in game action.”
On the offensive end, Miller continues to echo the same sentiments he offered after IU’s exhibition games. Shot selection will be one of Miller's biggest focuses, and IU offense's ability to score in the half court will be one of his biggest concerns.
Junior forward Juwan Morgan, like Davis, put on muscle in the offseason with the aim of becoming more athletic in the post. In IU's second exhibition game, Morgan made his one shot attempt, but Miller said he prefers that performance over the multiple 3-pointers he missed in the Hoosier Hysteria scrimmage and first exhibition game.
For his part, Morgan showed confidence in his ability to score down low, provided the guards can find him with entry passes. To help ensure they get him the ball, Morgan said he could be more vocal on the court.
The exhibition games offered every Hoosier, from coach to players, a chance to identify areas for improvement. Friday will mark the first time they can put their adjustments to the test when it really counts.
After Fort Wayne pulled an upset against IU last November, the Hoosiers know other in-state schools, like Indiana State, will be eager to do the same.
“We're going to deal with a group that's very, very hungry to beat us,” Miller said. “I’m trying to get our players ready mentally to compete in what I think will be a 40-minute game.”
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