Following a heartbreaking loss in Madison, Wisconsin earlier in the week, the Hoosiers welcomed the Merrimack Warriors to Assembly Hall to help round out their non-conference schedule for the 2021-22 season.
It was not pretty at first, but what was once a six point lead at halftime turned in to a 32-point victory behind second half adjustments an improved defensive intensity as Indiana picked up their eighth victory of the year, 81-49
Head coach Mike Woodson was asked about the position his team was in at the moment and said, “We are learning how to win but we are still a work in progress.”
Mike Woodson kept things the same with the starting five following a poor performance on the road against the Badgers as Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis took the floor first for the Hoosiers.
The Hoosiers got off to a slow start in this one on both sides of the ball.
Merrimack’s ability to move the ball from sideline to sideline gave the Cream and Crimson fits throughout the first half. The Warriors drained their first three three-point attempts. The three ball became a point of emphasis for Merrimack’s offense for the entire game.
Indiana trailed 9-8 at the under-16 media timeout.
Defensively, they came out in a 3-2 zone and forced Indiana to play inside-out. The problem? Indiana’s inability to shoot the ball at a high percentage in the first half. The Hoosiers shot just 2-of-7 in the first half from three but did find some success attacking the rim.
IU did get to the free throw line early and often in this one. Going 10-for-13 in the first half, which helped them grab the halftime lead.
At half IU lead 36-30. Sloppy turnovers, missed opportunities at the rim, and the inability to hit the open jump shot kept Merrimack alive and well going in to the second half of the ball game. The Hoosiers were led by Jackson-Davis with 12 points and Rob Phinisee with three first half assists.
The second half started rather similar to the first. A missed dunk by Jackson-Davis, followed up by a Parker Stewart turnover saw their six point halftime lead cut to four.
A nagging issue the Hoosiers have struggled with all year has been turnovers. That did not change this game and was evident early on in the second half. The Hoosiers finished with 17 turnovers for the game.
When asked about the turnovers Woodson said, “We had 17 turnovers tonight against zone play…those are things we have to clean up and figure out.”
The Cream and Crimson responded by finding their first bit of success from three point range. Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp drilled back-to-back corner threes to push Indiana’s lead to 15-points.
The second half belonged to the second unit. Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo, and Michael Durr all found success in the second half and helped push Indiana’s lead to 25-points.
It was a much needed bounce back game for Indiana as they were able to pull away late after some halftime adjustments from coach Mike Woodson and his staff.
The Hoosiers shot 52 percent from the field, from 31 percent distance, and made 69 percent of their free throws. All of which propelled Indiana to a 81-49 victory over Merrimack. Indiana outrebounded Merrimack 54-17.
Indiana was led by Jackson-Davis with 16 points and nine rebounds while Xavier Johnson and Rob Phinisee both finished with four assists. Jordan Geronimo finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, both of which are career-highs.
Up next for Indiana (8-2, 1-1B1G) is a trip to Indianapolis to face off against Notre Dame (4-4) in the Crossroads Classic. The Fighting Irish are coming off a top ten victory against No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 11.
Photo by Indiana Athletics