Indiana Daily Student

Freshman guards exude confidence for No. 12 Indiana men’s basketball despite slow starts

<p>Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino shoots a three Nov. 3, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana faces Little Rock at home Nov. 23.</p>

Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino shoots a three Nov. 3, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana faces Little Rock at home Nov. 23.

Conditions like these are never easy.

A wire-to-wire win in Cincinnati, Ohio, Friday night. A bus ride to Indianapolis immediately thereafter. A day off with nowhere to practice other than an undersized hotel workout facility.

Even with the opportunity to play in an electric atmosphere —an NBA arena packed with Hoosier faithful — Indiana’s sluggish start against Miami University (Ohio) was almost inevitable.

The Hoosiers held a mere 8-6 lead at the first media timeout and then fell behind 11-12 with 11 minutes left in the first half. Indiana regained the lead but was unable to extend it to double digits until the two-minute mark displayed a score of 36-26.

Without junior guard Trey Galloway who was sidelined with a minor knee injury, the Hoosiers had a smaller batch of personnel to look to for a much-needed burst of energy. And, when freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino's first few shots didn’t fall, it appeared that the rookie’s early-season slump would continue throughout Indiana’s slow start.

Thankfully, the Hoosiers could mend both of those wounds.

Head coach Mike Woodson replaced Galloway’s rotational spot with the ultra-confident freshman guard CJ Gunn. Gunn made an immediate, well-rounded impact, recording one rebound, one assist, one block and two steals in his nine first-half minutes. He finished the half with a plus-minus of 17, second on the team only behind senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

“My big thing is always gonna be ‘next man up’ if someone gets hurt,” Woodson said. “When you’re called on, be ready to play.”

As for Hood-Schifino, his reluctance to get down on himself and ability to continue to be a positive facilitator and overall presence helped him snap out of a cold streak. After starting the regular season with only 18 points in three games, the freshman shot himself out of the slump and finished with 12.

“He made some shots tonight, had good looks,” Woodson said. “It’s just the other things he does on the floor: he defends, he rebounds, he assists, he runs your ballclub. He’s a freshman; I’m not concerned about the shot making. Jalen will be there when it counts. He’s capable of making big shots.”

Hood-Schifino's teammates know what he’s capable of, and they weren’t surprised when their young counterpart settled into the game to play a much more fluid second half after a slow start.

“It’s one of those things where... you put the work in, and it doesn’t show right when you want it to,” graduate guard Miller Kopp said. “It’s like marinating chicken: you need to let it sit maybe six, eight hours in the fridge and then you put it on the grill, and it tastes a lot better like that.”

Gunn continued his strong showing in the second half, scoring five points on a three-pointer and a monster dunk. The freshman has looked extremely sure of himself from the outset of the season, proving to be one of the Hoosiers’ purest shooters and most explosive guards on both the offensive and defensive ends.

“CJ is fine. He’s in a good place,” Woodson said. “If he’s called upon, I expect him to come out and play and give us positive minutes. I’m trying to win basketball games, and I’m gonna play the guys I think I can win with, and he’s been a part of us winning.”

Behind the freshman phenoms, a staple 17-point, 16-rebound performance from Jackson-Davis and an athleticism freak-show from junior forward Jordan Geronimo, who had five blocks in 19 minutes, the Hoosiers ended the night with a dominant 86-56 win.

What started off as a cause for concern — not knowing how Indiana would handle the Xavier hangover — ended up as an encouraging display for the tale of two freshman guards: the one who shook himself out of a funk to assert himself as a true leader and the one who proved just how high he can fly when given the chance.

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 
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