What a way to kick off a college basketball season.
Indiana men’s basketball did not disappoint in its season opener, defeating Eastern Michigan University 68-62 in a close game Tuesday while having momentum on both ends of the floor. Indiana played with pace while spacing the floor extremely well, finding opportunities to get high-quality shots.
The Hoosiers played impressively on defense for the first eight minutes of the game. The players were communicating, beating people to spots on the floor and forcing turnovers that made Eastern Michigan uncomfortable on most of its possessions.
Indiana vs Eastern Michigan: Indiana men’s basketball struggles from long range, free-throw line in win against EMU
The defense was going to be the highest priority this season for Indiana under head coach Mike Woodson. The main problem last season under former head coach Archie Miller was defense, but Indiana made a tremendous effort adjusting to Woodson’s defensive style Tuesday.
The Hoosiers starting five played gritty, not allowing the Eagles to score at the start and taking an 8-0 lead before the first timeout. Everyone was involved, kept moving without the ball and remained aggressive when they needed to the most, making a 16-3 run in the first half.
Junior forward Trayce-Jackson Davis was a huge presence on the floor, making it easier for players like University of Tennessee at Martin transfer Parker Stewart and University of Pittsburgh transfer Xavier Johnson to get open looks. Jackson-Davis is on the Naismith Trophy watch list for college player of the year for a reason, dropping 21 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, a steal and three assists to finish the game.
Senior forward Race Thompson was dominant for Indiana. Now I understand why there were comparaisons made with him and NBA player Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.
Thompson was by far my favorite player to watch Tuesday night. He was a major threat on both ends of the floor. If he can remain aggressive and continue to perform like he did tonight, it will be a scary sight for the Hoosiers with him starting in the frontcourt.
Even though the Hoosiers played well last night, it was clear they are still figuring out how to play with each other. They were stagnant at times, forcing 3-pointers without enough rotation to find a high-percentage inside shot.
Indiana has a new roster with a new coaching structure, but extra movement has to be present if it wants to advance during tournament time. Indiana struggled at the free throw line, making just eight of 15 attempts in the second half and 12 of 20 for the game, making it easy for Eastern Michigan to stick around.
It was a close call seeing Eastern Michigan create a run in the second half. Freshman guard Noah Farrakhan was lights out finishing with 18 points, all in the second half, nearly bringing the Eagles all the way back himself.
The Hoosiers have to learn how to close out games better. If they compete how they did in the first half, there is no doubt in my mind that Indiana will be a force to be reckoned with this season.