Senior guard Parker Stewart opened the Indiana men’s basketball season with two-straight 3-pointers, putting them up 6-0 Tuesday night in front of a packed Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Stewart’s fast start from distance wasn’t a sign of things to come for the Hoosiers as they finished 4-24 from 3-point range. Stewart didn’t take a shot in the second half and finished with 6 points on 2-5 shooting.
Indiana also struggled from the free-throw line, hitting 12 of its 20 shots, although the team knocked down important free throws down the stretch to help win the game 68-62.
After the game, head coach Mike Woodson said getting the team’s jump shooters comfortable making shots in the game is a key moving forward.
"These same guys have been making them in practice,” Woodson said in the post-game press conference.
Senior guard Xavier Johnson, who finished with 14 points on 4-9 shooting, said after the game Indiana still has a lot of work to do shooting the ball. He said the team shot at the same 4-24 clip in its last scrimmage heading into its game with Eastern Michigan, but mentioned Stewart and senior forward Miller Kopp as players who can knock down shots.
“We have shooters,” Johnson said. “Everybody off the bench is a good shooter, we just gotta knock down shots.”
Kopp, a transfer from Northwestern, finished with just 3 points on 1-5 shooting. His only make came at the end of the first half on a mid-range jump shot, which he drew a foul on and converted the and-1.
Despite their shooting struggles, the Hoosiers took a 36-19 lead into the break and looked to be in control. Senior guard Rob Phinisee led the way in the first half, scoring all of his 7 points before the halftime break. They held a 21-point lead at one point, but long scoring droughts in the second half allowed the Eagles to cut into their lead.
Eastern Michigan outscored Indiana 43-32 and Indiana shot 0-9 from 3-point range in the second half. However, a strong 15-point, seven-rebound performance from junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis in the second half helped the team come away with a victory in its first game under Woodson.
The preseason All-American finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks while playing all 20 minutes in the second half to lead the Hoosiers to a victory.
Indiana started 6-15 from the field in the second half. Jackson-Davis was 5-5 and the rest of the team shot 1-10. Jackson-Davis said the home crowd helped Indiana by getting loud and throwing Eastern Michigan out of rhythm in important moments down the stretch.
“Dang near more than half our team has never experienced an Assembly Hall crowd,” Jackson-Davis said. “It’s something that’s going to help us. They’re our sixth man, so thank you to the fans, honestly.”
Woodson was happy with the team’s defensive foundation and that the team didn’t crack down the stretch, he said after the game, but Indiana is a team that’s still learning how to win.
Woodson said he thought the Hoosiers played soft in the second half and quit playing the way they did to build the lead, but he was happy they were able to get the win in the closing moments of the game.
"I was happy that we didn't crack down the stretch,” Woodson said. "Our guys stepped up and did what they needed to do."
Indiana will look to improve on its shooting accuracy and its 1-0 record under Woodson when it takes on Northern Illinois University at 7 p.m. Friday at Assembly Hall.