Sophomore forward Race Thompson stood still and held his follow through in the air as he watched the ball soar toward the basket. He was left wide open behind the arc, so he took his chance.
For a team where three-point shooting is far from a forte, and certainly not for the sophomore forward who came in 0-5 career from deep, when Thompson broke off his screen from the elbow and stepped outside, Louisiana Tech University didn’t have a need to guard him.
The ball swished through. His first career three.
Thompson’s three was emblematic of a night, or at least a first half, where everything was falling. And it was a first half emblematic of the steps IU head coach Archie Miller’s team has taken on the offensive side of the ball in his third year.
IU entered its sixth game of the season already second nationally in first-half scoring. On Monday night, the Hoosiers did even better, producing their best offensive half of the season.
IU scored 52 points in the first half in its 88-75 win over Louisiana Tech. Take away its first possession and the offense was near-perfect in the first few minutes. It quickly jumped out to a lead. It started 4-6 from three and shot 71% from the field. It had a 23 point lead barely a quarter of the way into the game.
Take away a few outliers, such as a blowout win over Marquette University last season, and Miller’s tenure has seen struggling offenses. In his first season, IU’s scoring offense was 228th in the country and 11th in the Big Ten. With Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan leading the group in Miller’s second year, the offense improved, barely. All the way up to 204th.
Even with a gifted scorer in Langford, IU's offense relied so much on the freshman and a senior leader in Morgan. It lacked movement, so often a shot not coming until IU was forced at the end of the shot clock, no space having materialized.
“The less this team dribbles, the better off this team is going to be,” Miller said of this year’s team, the same sentiment that applies to his first two groups.
IU tried to slow down the game in Miller’s first two seasons, relying on a defense that wasn’t always trustworthy.
Until everything began to click in year three.
Throughout the lead up to the season, both Miller and his players preached the improved chemistry of this year’s team compared to that of years past. They talked about how there was no one go-to guy, that it was much more of a team than the individuals leading Miller’s previous teams.
That's exactly how the first games have panned out as IU’s offense has been the best it's been in Miller’s tenure. By far.
Before IU took the floor and had its sharp-shooting first half, it already had the nation’s fourth-best scoring offense, averaging just over 90 points per game. Just a summer after failing to crack the top 200. Against the best defense, let alone the best teams it has faced this season, IU put up 88.
In fact, IU has four players averaging double-digit points for the season: junior guard Al Durham, senior guard Devonte Green, freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and junior forward Justin Smith. Junior center Joey Brunk and sophomore guard Rob Phinisee aren’t too far away, averaging 9.7 and 9.0 points respectively before facing the Bulldogs on Monday. As the coaches and players said before the season, it’s a team effort.
“I think we have a lot of different types of guys that can contribute,” Miller said. “It doesn't surprise me that there’s different guys in the box score able to score. We have a lot of guys.”
After two years of offense being the downfall, Miller’s revamped team has discovered it as a strength.
Miller still isn’t happy with his defense. He said it's the one thing that isn’t a strength. So far that hasn’t mattered.
IU is just out-scoring everyone.
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