Ahead of Big Ten play, Indiana has a few key areas to improve upon
The start of Big Ten play is near and Indiana is preparing for its first conference game this Friday.
Indiana will take on Maryland Friday in Bloomington before turning its attention to Michigan on Dec. 5. Through six games, Indiana has shown a lot of good. Still, there’s plenty to work on.
Indiana’s 3-point shooting woes have been well-documented. Last year, Indiana was a solid but low-volume, 3-point shooting team. That team, led by Tamar Bates, Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp from the perimeter, shot 36.8 percent on 3s. Two of those three are now gone and it’s clear that this year’s team is struggling to replace their production.
The Hoosiers rank near the bottom nationally in 3-point shooting through six games. Indiana is currently shooting 24.1 percent from distance. That ranks 348th out of 362 Division I teams.
The most 3s Indiana has made in a game is four, which happened in three different instances (FGCU, Army, and Harvard). But on their trip to the Big Apple, Indiana shot 1-for-11 from three against Louisville. Mike Woodson isn’t denying it’s an issue for his team.
“We are taking about 15 three’s a night, somewhere in that neighborhood we’re just not making them,” Woodson said. “My thing is we gotta keep working on it until we start to make them… We are going to keep working in practice and I hope in the near future, we start making them.”
Guarding the 3-point line has also been a problem on the other end of the floor. Indiana has often struggled defensively due to late switches and some miscommunication.
The season’s first three games saw Indiana give up double-digit 3-pointers (13 vs. FGCU, 13 vs. Army, and 11 vs. Wright State). Most recently, against Harvard, the Crimson made eight 3-pointers in the first half.
“My thing is, if we are struggling to make the three, we gotta make sure our opponent is struggling to make threes,” Woodson said. “That’s what’s been lopsided. We were really good in that area the last two years, not allowing a lot of threes made. That’s been the difference in our team this year and I gotta fix it.”
Alongside the 3-point struggles, Indiana is still looking to get more out of its guards. Guard play is pivotal and last year was a perfect example. Xavier Johnson went down against Kansas in the middle of December last year, an injury that was a clear setback for the Hoosiers. But Jalen Hood-Schifino emerged in Johnson’s absence. He took on the role of ball handling and his NBA-ready talent helped guide the team throughout significant points in the season.
Hood-Schifino is now in the NBA, which means that the roles of Johnson and Galloway took a step up in importance this season. The veteran duo – named team captains before the season – were expected to lead on and off the floor. But the consistency hasn’t been there thus far.
Johnson has gone down multiple times with foot injuries and did not play in the second half against Harvard. His status moving forward is still being determined. Galloway and CJ Gunn have gotten off to a very slow start. Freshman Mackenzie Mgbako, who also has started off the season slowly, is coming off a promising performance.
“Xavier is a big piece to the puzzle but my theme has always been, next man up,” Woodson said. “Guys gotta stay ready to play and whoever is called upon has got to step up and be ready to play.”
There’s a level of uncertainty with this group, and as the Hoosiers get into the meat of the schedule, the guard play, 3-point shooting, and guarding the perimeter must improve for Indiana to succeed.