Fresh off a narrow yet uninspiring 72-64 win over Army West Point on Nov. 12, Indiana men’s basketball has a chance to refine its perimeter defense and second unit scoring when it takes on Wright State University on Thursday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers, though 2-0 on the season, have endured some criticism due to stretches of stagnant offensive play and at times lackadaisical defensive efforts. With the Empire Classic — and a matchup with No. 5 University of Connecticut — looming, Indiana can’t afford for the mistakes that plagued it the past two games to persist.
While Thursday night’s clash with the Raiders (0-2) doesn’t present the most daunting challenge, the Hoosiers’ first two outings have shown there is no game they can overlook. Here’s some key things to watch when Indiana and Wright State take the floor:
Indiana holds the ever-slightest edge in shot-making beyond the arc. The Hoosiers have shot 33% from deep on 24 attempts and averaged just four made triples a game. It’s a small sample size, but it may be cause for concern.
Head coach Mike Woodson has emphasized floor spacing and gradually attempted to infuse more 3-point shooting, but it hasn’t come to fruition quite yet. Players like sophomore center Kel’el Ware and senior guard Trey Galloway have considerable potential to light it up from range, but the Hoosiers simply haven’t taken those shots.
Wright State possesses similar 3-point shooting numbers. The Raiders have knocked down 10 of their 31 attempts, good for five makes a game at a roughly 32% clip. Graduate guard Trey Calvin, who posted over 20 points per game last season, has made six of his team’s threes and is averaging a staggering 27.5 points through two games.
Like the Hoosiers, the Raiders just haven’t taken a significant volume of 3-point shots. Still, with Indiana surrendering 13 made 3-point shots per game on solid efficiency, Wright State, and especially Calvin, could conceivably see an uptick in their production from beyond the arc.
Second unit comparisons
Despite Woodson’s preseason notion the Hoosiers could functionally operate with a 10-player rotation, the first two games have shown otherwise. Indiana’s second unit, marred by the absence of a go-to scoring option, has failed to take the weight off the starters.
Sophomore guards CJ Gunn and Kaleb Banks, junior forward Payton Sparks and fifth-year senior forward Anthony Walker have proven to lack cohesion on the offensive end, and they’ve frequently been bested on the glass.
While freshman guard Gabe Cupps offers pesky on-ball defending and lead-guard abilities, he too hasn’t provided the explosive scoring the Hoosiers crave off the bench. In the last two games, Indiana’s second unit has provided just 7 and 12 points, respectively.
While the starters have largely kept the team afloat, and should be able to against the Raiders, the Hoosiers will require more from the bench to compete against the likes of UConn.
Luckily for Indiana, Wright State too has been heavily reliant on its starting unit. In their 105-77 loss to Colorado State University on Nov. 10, the Raiders’ bench tallied a measly 6 points. Wright State’s starters all played at least 25 minutes, with three of whom being on the floor for at least 32 minutes.
Against the University of Toledo on Nov. 14, Wright State’s second unit scored 10 points. If Indiana can start to utilize its transition quickness and high tempo, it could force a long night for the Raiders’ starters.
Again, the sample size doesn’t provide the most accurate outlook, but Ken Pomeroy’s rankings are generally an effective way to evaluate teams. After defeating Army, Indiana slotted in at No. 60 on the rankings.
The Hoosiers rank 73rd in adjusted offense and 61st in adjusted defense. Through two games, Wright State comes in at No. 169 on the list, considerably ahead of Army and 31 spots lower than Florida Gulf Coast University.
Unlike Indiana, the Raiders have a marked discrepancy in their offensive and defensive rankings. Wright State’s 106.6 adjusted offense ranks 90th in the nation, while its 106.3 adjusted defensive rating lags well behind at 262nd.
Thursday night’s game tips off at 7 p.m. with viewing available on Big Ten Network.