It may not have been the homecoming that Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosier faithful hoped for to start the 2021-22 season as IU welcomed Eastern Michigan University to Assembly Hall, but the Hoosiers walked away with a 68-62 victory behind stellar defense and an offense that would seem foreign if you watched the last four years of IU basketball.
Woodson started the same five that he did in the Bahamas with Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Three transfers, two returning starters, five upperclassman and veterans.
To get things going, Pitt transfer Parker Stewart knocked down back-to-back threes to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead that had Assembly Hall rocking.
The offense looked completely different. Indiana attempted 15 three-point shots in the first half and hit four, two of which came from Stewart.
With just over seven minutes remaining IU was shooting 41% from the field and 30% from behind the arc and led 21-10.
IU’s defense played at an elite level in the first half holding Eastern Michigan to just 23% (7-31) from the field and forced eight turnovers. EMU did not get their first basket until the 12:39 mark in the first half.
At half Indiana led 36-19 behind seven points from senior point guard Rob Phinisee.
The second half belonged to Jackson-Davis. Between the emphatic blocks on one end leading to rim-rattling dunks on the other, the low post dominance, and his ability to switch on the pick-and-roll, Eastern Michigan had no answer to the preseason All-American.
TJD finished with (enter stats) and recorded his 23rd career double-double.
The rest of the offense however came out of the locker room particularly slow and the results were sloppy turnovers and one shot possessions.
“Trayce is gonna be double-teamed and we know that. When it comes out of there that first time, that shot is going to be open,” said Woodson. “When we got those looks. …. we just didn’t knock them down.”
Eastern Michigan cut Indiana’s lead to 11 points with eleven minutes remaining in the game, 48-37.
Indiana’s inability to play defense without fouling kept Eastern Michigan in the ballgame. At one point in the second, the lead was cut to one point behind EMU attacking and getting to the foul line.
How did IU respond? By attacking the rim and getting to the line themselves. The only difference was IU had trouble knocking down their free throws.
Indiana’s second half defense compared to their first half defense was like looking at night and day. Giving up wide open three point shot attempts, giving up second chance points, and allowing lane penetration is not a recipe for success in the Big Ten.
“Our switching was pretty good for the most part but you still have to challenge shots,” said Woodson. “I think they pulled the trigger on a few where we just didn’t contest well enough. … We got soft. We were comfortable with the lead.”
With just under three minutes remaining EMU cut the Hoosiers lead to just one point, 59-58, behind once 5-star recruit from IMG Academy Noah Farrakhan who led Eastern Michigan with 18 points after not scoring a single point in the first half.
Indiana would go on to win a nail-biter 68-62 with Jackson-Davis leading the way and help from Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson who pitched in 14 points and three assists.
“This is the first test with this team,” said Woodson. “I was happy we didn’t crack down the stretch and we made winning basketball plays in the end.”
The Indiana Hoosiers (1-0, 0-0 B1G) host Northern Illinois to Assembly Hall on Friday, Nov. 12 at 7:00 PM EST as Mike Woodson looks to pick up his second win as his career as head coach.