From day one, Mike Woodson established defensive play as a point of emphasis for Indiana. On Sunday night, the Hoosiers carried out his message.
Indiana (4-0) eliminated any thought of a letdown with a comprehensive, dominant 76-44 victory over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1). IU’s defense controlled the contest from start to finish against an overwhelmed, but capable, Sun Belt opponent.
Some unexpected news came down before the game. While Trey Galloway had already been ruled out indefinitely with his wrist injury, Indiana also deemed Rob Phinisee and Logan Duncomb unavailable for the contest.
Mike Woodson stuck to his tried-and-true lineup of Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis to begin the game. IU mixed up the looks on defense, offering different challengers against Louisiana’s best players, Greg Williams and Jordan Brown.
Jackson-Davis, IU’s preseason All-American, ensured IU started off on the right foot. After a missed shot, Jackson-Davis the rebound, scored a basket, drew the foul, and made the free throw. Jackson-Davis took five of IU’s first eight shots, propping the Hoosiers up to a 10-4 lead.
Tamar Bates was the first player off the bench, and entering the game soon after were Khristian Lander and Jordan Geronimo. Moments after their entry into the game, a minor flashpoint occurred between the teams.
During a dead ball scenario, Johnson and Jalen Dalcourt came together and exchanged words. Both players received double technicals after the officials reviewed the disagreement. Johnson picked up his second foul less than a minute later, opening a major opportunity for Lander.
Two words can summarize the first half for the Hoosiers: Lander and defense. Lander influenced the game as a dynamic playmaker on both sides of the court, on and off the ball.
Meanwhile, IU’s defense stifled the Ragin’ Cajuns all night, but the performance especially stood out when the game was on the line in the first 20 minutes. Louisiana’s best players, Brown and Williams, combined for seven points on 2-13 shooting. Everyone else on the visitors’ team shot 2-for-21. IU led 37-14 at the intermission.
Turnovers continued to serve as Indiana’s main bugaboo, as the Hoosiers gave it away 12 times in the first half and showed even less discretion after halftime, giving it away 15 more times. The 27 turnovers tonight marked the most for Indiana in at least the last ten years. Woodson identified the issue after the game.
Stewart was a lethal threat for Indiana from deep all night. IU came into the contest shooting just 27.7% from deep, and Stewart ensured the numbers would look better after Sunday. He recorded a new season-high in the first half alone, tallying seven points, but after the break, he found another level.
Stewart made three triples in a three-minute stretch in the second half, bringing some of the loudest cheers out of the crowd at Assembly Hall. His final make drove IU’s lead up to 31 points with 14 minutes to go. Indiana had an exceptional shooting night overall, making 53.8% FG, 52.6% threes, and 76.9% free throws.
Walk-on Nathan Childress (Zionsville HS) provided the proverbial “cherry on top” for IU tonight, coming into the game and drilling a three in the closing moments of the affair. His basket secured the fact that all Hoosiers that played tonight scored in the game.
IU continues its stretch of easier home non-conference games, facing the Jackson State Tigers on Tuesday night. The action starts at 7 PM ET on BTN. Jackson St., out of the SWAC, is 0-4 on the season, with an opening night 71-47 defeat at Illinois earlier in the year. Forward Jayveous McKinnis is the Tigers’ leading scorer and rebounder, at 13.7 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Fun fact: NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders coaches the Jackson State football team.
Featured photo: IU Athletics