Coming off a close game against St. John’s University, Indiana men’s basketball’s defense dominated the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Sunday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in a 76-44 win.
Indiana held Louisiana to 19.2% shooting and 14 first-half points, its best marks in those areas since 2018 and 2013, respectively. Louisiana missed 25-straight shots in the first half and went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal over that stretch.
The defensive end has been a point of emphasis for the Hoosiers, sophomore guard Khristian Lander said after the game. He also pointed out there is room for improvement moving forward.
“I feel like we value defense really heavily,” Lander said at the postgame press conference. “Tonight, we had 27 turnovers, so that's pretty unacceptable. We definitely need to get better on the offensive end.”
Senior guard Parker Stewart came into the game averaging 3 points per game but led the Hoosiers with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range after missing his last shot of the night. Stewart and the Hoosiers shot 10-19 total from beyond the arc.
After the game, head coach Mike Woodson said he’s seen Stewart have similar performances in exhibitions and practice. Stewart said it was awesome to see the ball go through the hoop after not shooting well through Indiana’s first three games, and Woodson said he didn’t see any hesitation from him shooting the ball Tuesday.
“He was ready to shoot tonight,” Woodson said. “As we move down the road he's going to have to do that for us, along with Miller (Kopp) and guys who do get wide open looks.”
Lander stepped up in the absence of senior guard Rob Phinisee, who was out with a leg injury, playing the back-up point guard role behind senior guard Xavier Johnson. Lander finished with 9 points, six rebounds and a career-high six assists in 24 minutes. Johnson, who got into foul trouble early in the first half, only scored 2 points but tallied six second-half assists.
Lander and Johnson accounted for eight of Indiana’s 27 turnovers — four each — but also tied for the team-lead with six assists each. Lander finished with two of Indiana’s five steals as well.
Woodson said Lander had positives on both ends of the floor, but he needs to take more pride to not turn the ball over and run the team a little better when he’s in the game.
“I've always said next man up,” Woodson said. “Yeah, he hasn't played a lot, but he was ready to play.”
Lander said his maturity and defensive footwork have improved this season, and Woodson’s free-flowing offensive style has helped him. In three appearances Lander has averaged 6 points per game in 12.3 minutes after averaging 2.1 points in 10.2 minutes per game last season.
He’s also shooting 46.2% this season, a jump of more than 20% from his 25.7% clip last season. Lander said his confidence has improved, thanks in part to his support system this season.
“I just think it's a whole lot more positivity around me this year, a lot more teammates, coaches encouraging me, just people around me in general that's encouraging me,” Lander said. “I feel like that's just bringing me up more, and then the work that I put in is paying off.”
Lander and freshman guard Tamar Bates each played Indiana’s second-most minutes with 24 each, behind senior forward Miller Kopp with 30. Other than Kopp, none of Indiana’s starters played more than 19 minutes. Bates finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and led Indiana in first-half scoring in each of the last two games.
In addition to its 27 turnovers, Indiana allowed 21 offensive rebounds and committed 25 fouls, but ultimately, the team’s defensive effort was too much for Louisiana to overcome.
Indiana will look to carry that effort into its next game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Jackson State University at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.