NASSAU PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – When Indiana faced off with BC Mega in their first exhibition game on Aug. 13, Indiana was more aggressive, tougher, faster, and just seemed to want it more.
The same can be said for the second and final exhibition game in the Bahamas.
Head coach Mike Woodson must have liked what he saw from his starting lineup in the first exhibition as he rolled out the same starting five for game two. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, and Miller Kopp filled up the frontcourt while Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart controlled the backcourt.
Indiana came out and picked up right where they left off in the first exhibition game.
IU’s first two shots were three-point attempts by Race Thompson and Miller Kopp that both found the bottom of the basket.
Shortly after hitting his three, Kopp attacked the offensive glass and came down awkwardly on his ankle with 16:23 remaining in the first half. He would head to the locker room and return to the bench later with ice around his right foot and ankle.
Defensive intensity also carried over from game 1.
IU led 12-2 at the first timeout in the half. The Cream and Crimson were outrebounding BC Mega early and forced two turnovers to propel their lead to 10.
Miller Kopp’s ankle injury forced players to step up in the first half with scoring the basketball.
Insert Xavier Johnson.
Johnson was aggressive throughout the entire first half. The transfer from Pitt was able to attack the basket downhill to get easy layups and free throws. Johnson led IU at the half with eight points.
“He really made an emphasis on getting downhill,” said TJD. “It started in the first half…and then in the second half he came back and knocked a few jumpers down and our team was good to go. He was running the show.”
BC Mega was not going to go away easy. They got back in the game after hitting four consecutive three-point baskets to make it 18-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The professional team from Serbia also turned the pressure up on defense and forced Indiana to turn the ball over a handful of times during a near three-minute stretch. IU was able to make their way to the foul line to keep their lead throughout the half.
After a near two-and-a-half-minute drought of no field goals, 5-star freshman Tamar Bates hit a step-back three from the top of the key.
At the halftime break Indiana led BC Mega 37-30. Johnson led IU with eight points and the defense held Mega to 27% shooting in the first half.
5-star freshman Tamar Bates started the second half for the Hoosiers in place of the injured Kopp.
Just like the first half, Xavier Johnson came out for the second half looking to score. Johnson was able to knock down a three-point shot after shaking his defender to give him 11 points in the game.
For most of the second half the offense was slow but that was by design.
Indiana did a great job at slowing the pace of the game thus limiting possessions for BC Mega. This prevented any sort of comeback the Mega had hope to make in the second half of the exhibition.
The defense continued to impress in the second half. Indiana was able to force 13 turnovers (a small number when looking at the 24 that were forced in game one) and made every shot difficult for the opposition.
“I thought we defended. I mean they had 30 points at halftime,” said coach Woodson. “Our defense was solid and I think the beauty about this game is…our guys never wavered in terms of our defense and that’s what kept us where we needed to be.”
If there was a loose ball, rebound, or shot being taken there was an IU player ready to dive on the ball or contest the shot.
“We had a couple of mental lapses but we will be better by November,” said Xavier Johnson. “The main thing for us to win is always defense. If we go away from our strengths coach makes sure we are always going back to them.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the second half belonged to Tamar “Scoop” Bates.
The 5-star freshman and IMG product made his presence felt on all three levels of scoring. Bates was able to knock down threes, hit mid-range jump shots, and attack the rim. Something IU fans should get used to seeing out of the freshman.
Indiana will return to the United States 2-0 after winning Sunday’s contest 64-53.
Photo Credits to Indiana University Athletics