On a short turnaround following a blowout victory Sunday, Indiana men’s basketball took care of a winless Jackson State University on Tuesday with a second-straight win in the Hoosier Classic series. Indiana came out on top 70-35 to extend its unbeaten start to 5-0.
The two teams entered this matchup heading in opposite directions. Indiana was shooting an efficient 48.7% from the floor and came into the game first in the nation in defensive field goal percentage at 30.3%, while Jackson State allowed 74.5 points per game in its first four defeats.
After allowing a record-setting 19% defensive field goal percentage against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Indiana’s defense stood tall again and held Jackson State to 21% from the floor. Indiana suffocated Jackson State in the paint, giving up only nine field goals inside the arc. Through five games, Indiana is allowing just 19.7 points on average per first half and 52.8 points on average per game.
“I like everything about how we’re defending,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said. “We’re getting after it. We had to establish some kind of identity, and it had to start on the defensive end. They’ve held true to that.”
Even with a convincing lead that grew as large as 40 in the second half, the Hoosiers’ intensity on the defensive end didn’t die down in the closing stages. The Tigers’ second-half scoring total didn’t reach double-digits until the 2:57 mark.
With senior guard Rob Phinisee sidelined for a second-straight contest due to a leg injury, freshman guard Tamar Bates and sophomore guard Khristian Lander took control of backcourt duties in relief of starting senior guards Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart.
Although Indiana’s depth proved crucial with 32 bench points against Louisiana, it provided next to nothing offensively until the game was far out of reach for Jackson State. The bench unit’s first-made basket came with just over 10 minutes remaining on sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo’s dunk.
Those contributions weren’t needed, though, as the starters took control of the tempo and scored all but two of the Hoosiers’ first-half points to provide a comfortable 34-17 lead at the break.
“I thought when they came in in the first half they were kind of going through the motions,” Woodson said of the bench. “It’s no knock against them. I went with the unit I thought could get it done. In the second half they settled down.”
Johnson, who has struggled passing the ball and averaged three turnovers before Tuesday, was efficient and patient as Indiana’s primary ball-handler in its half-court offense. He led Indiana with 14 points on 5-6 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Johnson gave up just one turnover through his team-leading 25 minutes of play.
“The mindset for every game is to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “I just got to be composed.”
Coming off a season-high 16-point performance, Stewart led the way for the Hoosiers from long range with three 3-pointers. Junior forward Miller Kopp also knocked down a pair of shots from behind the arc and was one of three Hoosiers in double figures with 12 points. In the past two games, the Hoosiers have shot a combined 47% from deep.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who averaged 3.5 blocks in Indiana’s first four games, rejected four shots, all of which came in the first half. Jackson-Davis has 18 total blocks in five games to open the season, which puts him on pace to surpass the 38 blocks he posted in 27 games last season.
Woodson made ball security a point of emphasis after the Hoosiers committed a season-high 27 turnovers in the previous game. His players responded with a much more sophisticated effort on offense Tuesday with only 11 turnovers after stumbling out of the gate with eight in the opening 20 minutes.
“I was shaking at halftime,” Woodson said. “I complimented them on that after the game. That’s right where we need to be.”
Indiana will look to close out both the Hoosier Classic series and its season-opening six-game home stand —so far undefeated — when it faces Marshall University at 7 p.m. Saturday in Bloomington.