New stars of Indiana basketball were among us during Indiana men’s basketball’s 76-44 win over the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Sunday night in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Head coach Mike Woodson switched the lineup, which was surprising to see. I figured freshman guard Khristian Lander would receive more playing time considering the energy he brought coming off the bench last game against St. John’s.
But Woodson gave Lander an opportunity to earn the minutes he deserves when he came off the bench, and he may have earned a few more Sunday night.
Lander, along with freshman guard Tamar Bates, were the spark for the Hoosiers coming off the bench. Both of these players were ready to ball tonight and made key plays down the stretch.
The freshmen standouts combined for 19 points and 9 assists being the boost Indiana needed to push the lead further.
If these young guys keep playing with the same intensity they played with Sunday night, it would not be surprising if one of them earns their way into the starting lineup.
Everyone was in sync Sunday night, leading to a dominant win and setting the tone early for everyone to make contributions. Indiana was gritty, playing hard-nosed defense and getting into the heads of Louisiana to throw off their game plan.
Junior Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior Race Thompson, to no surprise, had an outstanding performance on both ends of the floor both combining for 15 rebounds. Jackson-Davis and Thompson remained aggressive, making the Ragin’ Cajuns uncomfortable every possession.
It was amazing to the shooting performance senior guard Parker Stewart put on, scoring 16 points while shooting 4-5 from three-point range. It was inevitable for Stewart to have the performance he had against Louisiana. It was only a matter of time before he was comfortable enough shooting lights out for Indiana. Woodson said Sunday he believes in Stewart’s shooting ability wholeheartedly.
It was a treat to see Stewart find his confidence in shooting again while remaining efficient throughout the game. It is time for him to show up now.
Indiana’s defense was like swarming bees collapsing on every rebound, dead ball and loose ball there was Sunday. Louisiana was bothered by Indiana’s defensive presence, making it very hard for them to score in the first half.
Indiana held Louisiana to 4-of-34 in shooting and forced 12 turnovers, including eight in the first half. Seeing its defensive effort tonight was a convincing argument Indiana will work its way into the March Madness conversation if it keeps up.
As long as Indiana can continue the defensive effort throughout the rest of this season, this team will be a force to reckon with come March.