INDIANAPOLIS — Less than 48 hours after its hard-fought 81-79 road victory against Xavier University, Indiana men’s basketball easily could have sleepwalked into its matchup against Miami University. For about five minutes, that appeared to be the case.
As you might have guessed, the following 35 minutes of the Hoosiers’ 86-56 victory over the Redhawks went slightly differently.
Early on, Indiana struggled to score, launching errant 3-pointers or floating ill-fated layups into a knot of Miami defenders. The Hoosiers had worse shot selection than a 21-year-old repeatedly ordering Jägermeister their first night out. Everything was fine in the end, but nothing went down particularly smoothly.
Then freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino knocked down a 3-pointer to put Indiana up 14-12. Then sophomore guard Tamar Bates did the same. The Hoosiers outscored the Redhawks 32-14 to close out the first half, swiftly erasing any lingering doubt.
Hood-Schifino bounced back from an underwhelming outing at Xavier, where he mustered just three points in 29 minutes. He had to weather another rough start against Miami, shooting 0-4 in his first five minutes on the court. After the fourth miss, my roommate texted me, “Why can’t Jalen score?”
“Is he cursed?” he asked. “Did someone curse him?”
Evidently, Hood-Schifino shook off whatever black magic plagued him, finishing the night with 12 points. He clearly needs some more minutes before he can reliably pose a threat to Big Ten opponents, but the potential is there.
Hood-Schifino was Indiana’s second-leading scorer, just behind — you’re never going to believe this — senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who logged 17 points and an absurd 16 rebounds.
Even with a wealth of young talent and experience around him, Jackson-Davis continues to be the Hoosier’s engine on both ends of the floor. When defenders gravitate toward him in the paint, they leave shooters, like Bates or graduate student forward Miller Kopp, open on the perimeter.
That let Indiana play a much more balanced game than it did against Xavier on Friday, when Jackson-Davis and graduate student guard Xavier Johnson accounted for 65% of the Hoosiers’ points. Against Miami, four Hoosiers scored in double figures, while forwards graduate student Race Thompson and junior Jordan Geronimo turned in overpowering defensive performances.
Beyond the ugly start, there truly wasn’t much to complain about. It’s not like I get paid to write exclusively positive things about Indiana — that said, iuhoosiers.com, you know where to find me if you’re hiring — but any criticisms feel like a reach given the 30-point margin of victory.
Nevertheless, head coach Mike Woodson certainly didn’t appear quite as pleased as the home crowd was throughout the evening.
When his Hoosiers had a 20-point lead midway through the second half, Woodson was still shouting at them to keep their hands up on defense and watch for cuts in the low post. At one point when Indiana surrendered a 3-point shot, Woodson put his hands to his forehead and cried out, “Why, why,” like an overly enthusiastic stage actor performing his first Shakespeare soliloquy.
In other words, the Hoosiers’ harshest critic definitely isn’t the columnist saying they didn’t take the smartest shots for a few minutes. Maybe it’s the coach who yelled at senior walk-on guard Michael Shipp to tuck in his jersey the second he stepped on the court during a 30-point blowout.
To be fair, the jersey was fully untucked.
Assuming Jackson-Davis keeps playing at his usual level, the freshmen continue improving and Woodson treats every game as seriously as he did this blowout against a Midwest Athletic Conference school, Indiana should build plenty of momentum before entering the thick of its schedule.
Sure, the Hoosiers initially looked a little hungover from the excitement of Friday night. But before long, they rallied and seized victory without embarrassing themselves.
A true inspiration for college students everywhere.
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