Following a season-opening victory against Eastern Michigan University on Tuesday that went down to the wire, Indiana men’s basketball head coach Mike Woodson said his team became too comfortable after almost blowing a 17-point halftime lead.
In Indiana’s blowout 85-49 victory over Northern Illinois University Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Woodson’s players responded as well as he could’ve hoped.
The Hoosiers’ performance in Friday’s first half was similar to how their opening period played out a few nights before. Against the Eagles, they went into the break ahead 36-19. After 20 minutes of play against the Huskies, they held an advantage at 47-20.
Having a game under its belt was all the difference for Indiana, as it was able to clean up those mistakes this time around. In the second half against Northern Illinois, Indiana shut down the idea that the defensive breakdown in the opener might become a pattern.
“I told them we can’t have that letdown,” Woodson said. “We played 28 minutes the other night, but tonight we sustained it all the way through.”
Northern Illinois held the University of Washington to 16.7% from behind the arc and 26.7% from the field in its season-opening win. Indiana had similar struggles against Eastern Michigan, shooting the same percentage from 3-point range.
Indiana flipped that narrative on Northern Illinois, holding its opponent to just 18.2% from deep and allowing only 14 field goals.
Huskies senior guard Trendon Hankerson, who posted a career-high 28 points with six 3-pointers in his team’s first game, went just 1-8 from the field against the Hoosiers.
“One thing coach says is ‘No layups, don’t give them easy shots. If you’re in a position where you can’t really contest a shot, show effort at least,’” sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo said.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior guard Xavier Johnson had efficient nights on offense. Jackson-Davis posted 19 points on 6-9 shooting and Johnson scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting, but it was their defensive contributions that stole the show.
Jackson-Davis had seven blocks, six of which came in the first half, which set the tone for the Hoosiers. His seven blocks are tied for the fourth-highest total in a single game in the program’s history. Johnson recorded two steals and a block of his own.
“He’s our leader, so he knows what he’s gotta do,” sophomore guard Trey Galloway said about Jackson-Davis. “One thing he’s focused on this year is just bringing it everyday in practice. If he brings that everyday, we’re gonna bring it.”
The Hoosiers exceeded last season’s single-game record of eight blocks by combining for nine against the Huskies. The Hoosiers forced 23 turnovers total.
Geronimo said the Hoosiers have been practicing scrambling in their defensive schemes and getting in the faces of who they’re guarding. Galloway said communication on defense has been a focal point not only in preparation for Friday’s game but the entire season.
“They were poised, and from a defensive standpoint, they stayed the course in terms of our coverages,” Woodson said. “When you do that it lets me know you’re listening and doing all the necessary things.”
With the game put away early in the second half, Woodson fit in more minutes for bench players and those who hadn’t seen the court in the Eastern Michigan opener, like senior center Michael Durr, freshman center Logan Duncomb, sophomore guard Khristian Lander and sophomore guard Anthony Leal.
Woodson praised all of his players for contributing and keeping their focus defensively, as Indiana looked to keep cruising until the buzzer sounded.
“When you’re coaching young players, they think they play hard,” Woodson said. “I’ve always thought there’s another level that a player can get to. I’m going to continue pushing these guys to play at a high level.”
Indiana will look to stay consistent on the defensive end and improve on its 2-0 record against St. John’s University at 9 p.m. Nov. 17 at Assembly Hall.