Following a nail-biting 69-63 season-opening win over Florida Gulf Coast University on Nov. 7, Indiana men’s basketball looks to improve its record to 2-0 against Army West Point on Sunday night.
The Hoosiers’ first meaningful action of the season left a lot to be desired — especially considering FGCU was missing its leading scorer from last year due to injury — but they will attempt to provide a reassuring performance against a subpar Army team that started its season 0-2.
While allowing a tolerable 63 points in the win, it was defensive rotations and poor rebounding which were the cause of Indiana’s defensive concerns. The Hoosiers allowed 13 3-pointers from the Eagles and gave up 13 offensive rebounds.
Offensively, Indiana shot an efficient 51.1% from the field but only made four 3-pointers on 30.8% and repped a poor mark of 63.3% from the free throw line, going 19-of-30. On a positive note, the Hoosiers spread the wealth with four double-digit scorers, led by senior guard Trey Galloway with 16 points in the contest.
Indiana’s new-look front court excelled down low, with sophomores forward Malik Reneau and center Kel’el Ware providing solid performances. Reneau scored 15 on 60% shooting and Ware stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.
Army enters Sunday’s contest with losses to Marist College and Stonehill College, both by double digits. The Black Knights field a roster which lacks in size and has exemplified poor offensive outputs thus far.
Army’s starting lineup consists of three guards and two forwards standing at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9. In comparison, Indiana looks gargantuan, especially considering the tandem of 6-foot-9 Reneau and 7-foot Ware.
The Black Knights’ offensive production of 49.5 points per game ranks 348th of 350 eligible teams in Division I as of Nov. 10, though the premature season provides a small sample size. Additionally, their field goal percentage of 30.97% ranks 344th of 350.
Army’s offense has shown its fair share of struggles to start the year, but it has shown a willingness to launch the deep ball, something Indiana’s defense hasn’t been able to contain. In its two games, Army attempted 21 and 31 3-pointers, converting a total of 13 to own a 25% clip. Whether Indiana will show improvement on rotations or allow an unexpected barrage will be a test of its defensive adjustments.
The Black Knights also showed an ability to create second chances, another issue of Indiana’s to be monitored. Army collected 20 offensive rebounds against Stonehill and converted those into 16 second-chance points.
Indiana will be anticipating a stronger performance from its bench unit Sunday after a rough go-around against Florida Gulf Coast. Freshman guard Gabe Cupps made a strong contribution with 5 points, two rebounds and two steals in a stout defensive performance, but the remainder of the second unit scored just 2 points — a bucket from senior forward Anthony Walker — and struggled to find an offensive rhythm or defensive cohesiveness.
A missing piece from the bench was Ball State University transfer junior forward Payton Sparks, who didn’t play due to a lower body injury he suffered in Indiana’s exhibition against the University of Indianapolis on Oct. 29. Not only did Sparks’ absence take away from a potential positive performance, like he flashed in his minimal exhibition minutes, but also forced Ware to play 36 minutes and Reneau to play 30 minutes due to a lack of post depth. Sparks’ availability has yet to be announced.
Indiana and Army tip off at 7 p.m. Sunday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The game will be available to watch on Big Ten Network.