BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Hoosiers move to 5-0 for the first time since the 2013-2014 with tonight’s victory against the visiting Princeton Tigers. After a rough start on both sides of the court for the Hoosiers, the coaching staff made proper adjustments to lock down defensively, which ultimately led Indiana to a 25 point victory over Princeton. Joey Brunk led the Hoosiers in rebounding with eight rebounds and tied Devonte Green as the scoring leader with 16 points. Junior forward Justin Smith earned the most minutes with his versatility on defense, and he added another 14 to the scoring column for the Hoosiers.
Following a strong start against Troy, the Hoosiers reverted back to older tendencies against Princeton early on. Indiana struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm in the first half. Between layups in the interior and perimeter shooting, everything seemed to draw iron and on some shots couldn’t even do that.
Indiana’s offensive transition was noticeably neutralized by Princeton’s ability to get back into position on the defensive end. The Tigers clogged up passing lanes and quickly matched up man-to-man. Indiana’s guards sloppily ran into walls of defenders, and their wings and posts were not able to break free to receive the clean pass. We did not see the same unselfishness on the fastbreak that was present last game. Indiana finished with just 13 points on the run.
Defensively, the quick-passing Princeton offense found gaps within the Indiana packline, which were exposed primarily by Princeton’s sophomore guard Jaelin Llewellyn in the first half. Llewellyn led all players with 13 points on 50% shooting from the field going into halftime. Even with defensive specialists Rob Phinisee and Al Durham on the assignment, Indiana still had trouble keeping in front of the quick guard.
Indiana was also slow in taking advantage of the all-important free throws in the first half of tonight’s contest. Free throws have been a core staple of the Indiana offense through their first four games. Despite averaging 32.5 attempts at the charity stripe coming into tonight’s matchup, the first free throws for Indiana were take nearly nine minutes in. Green, who was fouled behind the arc, could only convert one of three.
After a passionate timeout, Indiana got back into their groove shooting 7 of 8 free throws to close out the half. Even with the rough start, Archie Miller and the Hoosiers were thankful to nurse a 35 to 31 lead that they carried into the intermission.
Play for the Hoosiers tightened up in the second half, but Indiana had to slowly build into a comfortable lead. Credit to Princeton, they managed to stick around for most of the second half and never made things easy for the home team.
The Tigers also targeted Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had been playing extremely well in his first four games of the season. Flustered by Princeton’s double-team, Jackson-Davis did not command the paint as he did in his past performances. The positive for Jackson-Davis was that he held his own against arguably Princeton’s toughest assignment Richmond Aririguzoh. Aririguzoh only had four points this evening even though he was averaging 17.3 points coming into the day. He sat out for extended minutes tonight due to foul trouble.
Archie Miller elected to instead go heavier with his graduate transfer Brunk, who muscled his way around the paint. Brunk, who is not particularly good at finishing around the rim, had enough post-moves and footwork to draw fouls and earn his real-estate underneath the rim. More importantly he led Indiana in rebounds on the way to his best game so far in an Indiana jersey. Brunk finished the game as Indiana’s leading scorer with 16 points and he was two shy of his first double-double as a Hoosier.
Since the increased tempo was not working this evening, Archie Miller began to slow down the offense. The Hoosiers moved to a more methodical half-court offense that flowed through either Jackson-Davis or Brunk at the top of the elbow. Motion of the offball players helped the Hoosiers get the much needed separation that they could not find in the first segment.
Princeton’s last ditch effort to stop the Hoosiers included a full court press against Indiana’s 17-point lead, but that would not be enough to stop a veteran group of guards that include Green and Durham. Indiana had no problem breaking the press given their experience against that scheme from teams earlier this season.
The extra energy expended on defense for the Tigers caused them to become sloppier in the offense. Indiana actually picked up the most offensive momentum during this period of the game, earning a quick 7-0 run enabled by the three back-to-back turnovers against Mitch Henderson’s ball club.
In the end, Indiana’s improved second half defense (and the resulting “defense-to-offense”) was too much for Princeton to overcome. The Hoosiers close out with their largest lead of the game at 25 points and get their fifth win of the season.
Next Up for the Hoosiers
The next team in the Indiana Challenge will be Louisiana Tech who visit Bloomington next Monday. The 3-1 Bulldogs out of the Conference USA will be the toughest opponent Indiana has faced to date according to KenPom. They are currently ranked 90th overall, 82nd in adjusted offense, and 104th in adjusted defense. Catch that game Monday, November 25 at 8:30 pm on BTN.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ