Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: IU men's basketball played in an actual game, and that’s kind of all that matters

<p>Junior guard Rob Phinisee rushes past Tennessee Tech to score Nov. 25 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU led Tennessee Tech 48-19 at halftime.</p>

Junior guard Rob Phinisee rushes past Tennessee Tech to score Nov. 25 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU led Tennessee Tech 48-19 at halftime.

Well, I think we can all agree that was definitely a game of basketball between a Big Ten school and an Ohio Valley Conference school. Beyond that, your evaluation of IU’s 89-59 defeat of Tennessee Tech just depends on how cynical you are.

When college athletics returned from its extended hiatuses, teams in certain sports could appear better than they actually were by beating up on less talented adversaries. In basketball, however, it’s much harder to mask sloppiness — the ball still has to go through the hoop. 

Who cares if your opponent comes out flat? The basket sure didn’t lose its edge over the summer. 

In terms of showing rust, IU wasn’t exactly stainless steel in the contest’s opening minutes. 

The Hoosiers brought some much-needed familiarity to the nearly vacant Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall by committing two of IU’s beloved turnovers in under five minutes of play.

Unforced errors were exacerbated by a lackluster shooting performance. IU’s jump shots were a barrage of rim-seeking missiles, resulting in an underwhelming 5-19 on 3-point shots. 

There’s something undeniably fun about a unit that generates the majority of its points from dunks. It will probably be a lot less fun when IU is slamming and jamming its way to a 70-40 blowout against Iowa or Michigan State, but I’ll enjoy the moment while I can.

It feels more than a little gross to criticize stellar athletes for not being unstoppable forces of nature after barely playing with one another all offseason. 

I’ve spent the last eight months staring at various screens and developing a posture roughly akin to the shape of a candy cane, so maybe I’m not in a position to pass judgment. Still, some blemishes are too unsightly to go unnoticed. 

IU’s foul shots evidently came with a shipping and handling fee, because there was nothing free about its free throws. The Hoosiers shot a pitiful 45.5% from the charity stripe, showing little improvement from last year.

Despite this perpetually frustrating flaw, IU acquitted itself as well as you would expect from a Big Ten squad. 

After an underwhelming start, the Hoosiers erupted for a 20-0 run. Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis seemed to score at will, bullying past defenders in the paint and making baskets through contact. Junior guard Rob Phinisee provided some desperately needed accuracy from beyond the arc, and freshman guard Trey Galloway snaked through gaps in the Golden Eagle defense to find open looks. 

IU’s defense was a strong point all night, stifling Tennessee Tech to a measly 19 points in the first half. Fine, the Golden Eagles’ own sneakers may have knocked as many dribbles loose as did the Hoosier defenders, but the scoreboard speaks for itself. 

If you can’t put the ball through the net very often, it helps to prevent your opponent from doing the same.

Anything short of absolute dominance by IU would have left some viewers unsatisfied. Furthermore, there’s nothing I could say that wouldn’t come across as baseless praise, forced critique or just pointing out the obvious. 

A pessimist might say there are no real winners in a college basketball season opener, but that simply isn’t true. 

Think of the fans eagerly watching their favorite team from the relative safety of their own homes the night before Thanksgiving. Think of the referees who got to go a whole two hours without fielding verbal abuse from rows of enraged spectators. 

Most importantly, think of the college kids who stayed healthy and were able to compete in the sport they love. Now, we can set aside our complaints, savor victory and stave off the looming anxiety that the season will collapse on itself at any moment.

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