Mike Woodson has completely reconstructed Indiana’s backcourt within two seasons on the job. Adding Jalen Hood-Schifino and Tamar Bates to the roster, both of whom were five-star recruits at various points per 247Sports, made the difference on Friday night, helping IU avoid a Christmas-time catastrophe.
Bates lit up the Assembly Hall floor with 19 points and a trio of threes, while Hood-Schifino tallied a career-high 18, as Indiana (10-3, 1-1 B1G) overcame an early seven-point deficit to defeat Kennesaw State (8-5), 69-55, in the non-conference finale.
IU did not start the game in impressive fashion. The Hoosiers did not manufacture many clean looks out of their half-court offense, while the Owls created numerous open opportunities from downtown.
Kennesaw State, who came into the game making nearly 40% of their threes this season, made their first two thanks to Kasen Jennings. Then, after the teams exchanged a plethora of misses from the field, the Owls landed the first punch of the game.
They nailed three straight triples, only one of which was contested, to flip a 9-6 IU lead into a 15-9 KSU advantage. The Owls’ first 15 points came from beyond the arc. Once again, Coach Woodson needed to resort to his bench to help the Hoosiers find their footing.
Bates would step up immediately. He scored six of IU’s next eight points, including two emphatic dunks. Bates didn’t miss a shot vs. Elon, and he had double-digit performances vs. Nebraska and Arizona. He would deliver for the Hoosiers against the Owls.
Trey Galloway chipped in as well. His consecutive three-point makes late in the first half brought IU even with KSU. Galloway had been in a bit of a scoring slump, so the baskets were a welcome sight. Galloway finished with two makes on two attempts, raising his three-point accuracy to 8/16 (50%) this season.
Indiana’s “small ball” lineup, featuring Miller Kopp playing the “4” and Race Thompson at the “5”, helped bring the Hoosiers even with the Owls at halftime. KSU missed their last four shots before the break.
After the intermission, Indiana immediately worked their way to a five-point lead, with Hood-Schifino playing a major role in propelling the offense. His desperation three late in the shot clock induced a loud cheer from the weather-affected Assembly Hall crowd, although those celebrations turned into groans shortly thereafter.
The Owls would counter with a run after JHS’ initial spurt. They scored eight straight, including multiple threes, to steer back in front of Indiana. Jennings hit his third of the game, and Chris Youngblood, KSU’s leading scorer this season, nailed another, and the upset watch was on full alert.
After Youngblood picked up his third foul with 13:15 left, the door opened for IU, specifically Bates, who put the team on his proverbial back.
One Bates three-pointer brought IU to within a point, then the next three-pointer gave IU the lead for good with 11:04 to go. Jordan Geronimo helped keep the scoreboard ticking along, while IU’s defense elevated their play. KSU possessions usually ended in Thompson rebounds. Thompson finished with 14 boards, tying a career-high.
The Owls had no answer for Bates’ marksmanship or Hood-Schifino’s multi-faceted offensive approach. IU’s five-star guards each scored in double digits after halftime alone, combining for 27 points on 9/12 (75%) shooting. They scored IU’s last nine points to seal the deal on Friday night.
With Xavier Johnson out for an extended time, IU will look to Hood-Schifino and Bates to provide more offense as the season progresses.
IU will take a long break before heading to Iowa City to play Fran McCaffrey’s Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday, January 5, at 9 PM ET on FS1. The Hoosier players will head home to spend time with their families over Christmas. IU lost both games to Iowa last season, by nine points in January and by three in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
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