The Minute After: Army

  • 11/12/2023 10:23 pm in

Thoughts on a 72-64 win against the Black Knights:

The work in progress continues.

This was a poor performance from Indiana. The Hoosiers entered as 26.5-point favorites against Army. The Black Knights entered as the No. 338 team in the country on KenPom with an offensive efficiency sitting at 359th. Indiana should have won this game easily.

But instead, for much of the first half, the Hoosiers were losing. The offense remains without an identity, no one in the right place, a team with way more athleticism and size not making it easy on itself against an inferior opponent. Turnovers made things even worse. In the second half, Army kept pace. A Blake Barker bucket tied it at 58-all with 3:46 to go. The Black Knights then trailed by just three with 1:47 left before the Hoosiers were able to get some breathing room to close out the contest. Indiana needed to dictate this game more for the level of opponent it faced.

On defense, communication continues to be lacking. And Mike Woodson’s philosophy of having help defense at the nail against ball screen coverage to stop the ball continues to let teams feast from distance. Florida Gulf Coast took 34 3-pointers in Indiana’s opener. Army took 38 tonight. Each team made 13 for a total of 26. Indiana, meanwhile, has only attempted 24 itself through two contents. Indiana could get away with that at times last season because it had an All-American down low in Trayce Jackson-Davis, who could paper over concerns. But if the Hoosiers continue to have such a vast 3-point volume discrepancy going forward this season, teams running modern offense may bury them if they’re not careful.

Army coach Kevin Kuwik also didn’t allow Xavier Johnson and Gabe Cupps to full-court pressure his guards, instead having his forward Josh Scovens bring up the ball on several possessions. The Hoosiers mustered just four fastbreak points for the evening.

It’s now back-to-back games where 5-star freshman Mackenzie Mgbako has sat on the bench for most of the second half. Mgbako came out at the 15:12 mark and never returned to the contest.

“Well, he has to play harder and do the things that we want done on both ends of the floor,” Woodson said after the game. “That might keep him in the game.”

The Hoosiers eventually found something on offense by feeding Kel’el Ware in the second half. During one stretch, he scored 11 straight for the Hoosiers en route to a team-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting. The Hoosiers also fed Malik Reneau as well. He had 10 of his 14 points after the break. Xavier Johnson chipped in 19 points and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the line. Indiana was much better from the charity stripe tonight than against FGCU, shooting 18-of-22 (81.8 percent). In a game it never decisively owned, that was key.

It’s still early, but this team isn’t instilling much confidence through two games. The Hoosiers have barely eeked out two home wins. And if they keep playing this way? Some tough losses are on the horizon.

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