Merrimack College came out firing from 3-point range against Indiana men’s basketball Sunday afternoon, making its first three shots from long range and taking an early 9-6 lead at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Indiana would respond and take a lead into the halftime break, but Merrimack was able to hang around mostly thanks to its 3-point shooting. Of its 30 first-half points, Merrimack scored 18 from long range as Indiana’s defensive rotations struggled to keep up with its ball movement.
While the Warriors did their damage from long range, the Hoosiers dominated in the paint to come out on top 81-49. The Hoosiers outrebounded Merrimack 54-16 and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds in the game. They also scored 21 second-chance points compared to the Warriors’ 2 and held a 34-8 advantage on points in the paint.
“I like to think that we should outrebound this team,” head coach Mike Woodson said at the postgame press conference. “We played all of our bigs, and we were pounding the ball inside, trying to get it inside to take advantage of our length and height.”
Merrimack continued to let it fly from long range in the second half, but it couldn’t handle Indiana’s dominance inside the paint for 40 minutes.
Merrimack went 5-12 from 3-point range in the second half, which was better than its 6-17 mark in the first half, but it went 1-13 from 2-point range after halftime and was outscored 45-19 by Indiana. Indiana blocked four shots and outrebounded Merrimack 33-5 in the second half.
Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and senior forward Race Thompson led the charge down low, combining for 30 points and 16 rebounds through finding the holes in Merrimack’s zone.
“When you're in a 2-3 zone, it's hard to match up and rebound,” Thompson said. “We talked about it from the get-go.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Geronimo also put up career-highs with 13 points and 13 rebounds, securing his first double-double for the Hoosiers.
After the game, Geronimo said rebounding was important to him because it’s a necessary part of winning games and gives the team extra possessions. His 13 rebounds Sunday were a team-high for the Hoosiers.
“I feel like all these little things matter,” Geronimo said. “God gave me this body to get rebounds, you know what I mean? So I'm going to use it.”
Geronimo has improved both his scoring and rebounding averages from last season, putting up 4.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game after posting 2.2 and 1.8 averages last season. He and freshman guard Tamar Bates, who scored 7 points against Merrimack, are the only Indiana bench players to play in all 10 of the team’s games this season.
Freshman center Logan Duncomb played Sunday for the first time since Nov. 12 and scored his first points for Indiana with the game already in control. He finished with 4 points, an offensive rebound and the game-sealing block.
The Hoosier forwards and centers scored 60 of the team’s 81 points against the Warriors by taking advantage of their size advantage and dominating the paint.
“I expected that out of our team tonight because we’re a much bigger team than our opponent tonight,” Woodson said.
Indiana, which improved to 8-2 with the win, will look for a repeat effort from its big men when it faces Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.