BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana was a 24.5-point favorite before tip-off against Army on Sunday night. After 40 minutes, Hoosier Nation could finally exhale as IU avoided a catastrophic upset.
Thanks to a career-high 20 points from Kel’el Ware, and a productive all-around effort from Xavier Johnson, the Indiana Hoosiers (2-0) defeated the Army Black Knights (0-3), 72-64. Freshman Ryan Curry led Army with 20, knocking down four threes.
Mike Woodson started the night with Johnson, Trey Galloway, Mackenzie Mgbako, Malik Reneau, and Ware on the floor for a fourth straight game. After winning the tip, Johnson threw Ware an alley-oop to kick off the scoring.
Indiana played sloppy defense and ran a dysfunctional offense early. The Black Knights could not penetrate the Hoosier paint and instead relied on perimeter shooting. The Black Knights had five three-pointers through 10 minutes.
Indiana was down by as much as seven points halfway through the first. Woodson substituted most of the starters and gave Payton Sparks, Gabe Cupps, CJ Gunn, Kaleb Banks, and Anthony Walker floor time, even having all five reserves on the court at the same time. Nothing much changed.
The Hoosiers did not see a change of pace until 7-foot sophomore Ware re-entered. His presence was critical to Indiana’s offensive success. The Hoosiers simply tossed it to Ware who either dished for a bucket or drove in himself.
Indiana spent the half playing catch-up, trailing for nearly 14 minutes. Johnson contributed an and-one layup and a three-pointer to put the Hoosiers back on top before the half. IU led 32-31.
The Hoosiers extended their lead to start the second half, but the Black Knights kept it close. Ware paved the way for Indiana offensively, scoring 11 points in the first 8 minutes, making all five of his attempts. Reneau complemented Ware with 6 points of his own.
Indiana’s bugaboo from previous games this season continued to plague the team, as the defense continued to give up the three-point shot. Army sank four midway through the second half. Costly turnovers also contributed to the Black Knights’ successes on offense. Indiana had 18 giveaways in the game, significantly topping the five from the FGCU game.
As soon as Indiana started to pull away, the Black Knights started firing from deep to keep the game in range. With 3 minutes remaining, the score was knotted at 58.
The Hoosiers took the lead after Ware split his free throws and secured the rebound. Reneau was then fouled and knocked both of his shots down. On the next possession, Gabe Cupps hit a corner three to extend the Hoosier lead to 6 with 2 minutes left.
Army quickly fired a three to cut the lead down. However, the Hoosiers found a burst of energy and Galloway threw Ware an alley-oop on a fast break that electrified Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers pulled away late in what was expected to be a blowout victory.
Indiana stays at home for a third straight game as the Wright State Raiders will visit Assembly Hall. Wright St. was projected to finish 3rd in the Horizon League preseason poll, narrowly behind Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee. Trey Calvin, Tanner Holden, and Brandon Noel were all named to the preseason all-conference first or second team, with Calvin getting the nod as the Player of the Year. Tip is scheduled for 7p ET on BTN.
Featured Image: Army Men’s Basketball / Twitter