Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Michigan

  • 12/06/2023 9:00 am in

On Tuesday night, Indiana won its first road game, knocking off Michigan 78-75 at the Crisler Center.

Here are five takeaways from the win against the Wolverines:

Michigan had no answer for Indiana in the paint

There’s no secret what Indiana wants to do offensively. The Hoosiers want to get the ball into the paint and do so relentlessly. Michigan knew that but still couldn’t stop it.

Indiana won the points in the paint battle 52 to 28, resulting from strong play from Malik Reneau and Kel’el Ware and a Michigan team that is inept defensively in the post.

The Wolverines have legit size with Tarris Reed Jr., but he only played 18 minutes and was benched for most of the second half in favor of Will Tschetter, who is better offensively. Indiana took advantage of that, repeatedly going at Tschetter and Olivier Nkamhoua in the post with Ware and Reneau.

And as Michigan failed to make perimeter shots in the second half, Indiana’s advantage in the paint became more relevant. Down the stretch, the Hoosiers were getting the ball to the rim repeatedly and either finishing or drawing fouls. It was enough to push Indiana to a 2-0 start in conference play.

CJ Gunn’s best performance as a Hoosier

CJ Gunn has struggled to make perimeter shots for the entirety of his time in an IU uniform.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Gunn was 2-for-28 (7 percent) from distance in his career.

Gunn, to his credit, continues to shoot the ball confidently and against Michigan, he was rewarded. The Lawrence North product made two 3-pointers in the narrow win, finishing with eight points.

But his impact defensively was equally important.

Gunn’s length and awareness had him in the passing lanes all night. He finished with four steals and was in the game in the closing minutes because of his defense. It was a performance Gunn could draw confidence from, as Indiana’s guard depth could use a consistent contributor off the bench.

Kel’el Ware closes out the win for Indiana

Kel’el Ware is typically the most talented player on the floor. Tuesday night was no exception.

The second-year big man made two key plays late in Tuesday’s win to push the Hoosiers to a victory.

With just under a minute to play, Ware caught the ball on the left block and came across the lane with a sweeping right hook shot. It found the bottom of the net, giving Indiana a 75-73 advantage and the lead for good.

Ware also thwarted Michigan’s chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.

Out of a timeout and trailing by three, the Wolverines had Tschetter take the ball out and attempt a deep pass for one last look to tie the game. Ware, however, perfectly timed his jump, deflected the ball and secured it as time expired.

It was the latest example of how Ware’s tremendous talent can impact the game on both ends. It won’t be the last.

Indiana cleans up turnover issues in the second half

Indiana built a 7-point lead in the first half of Tuesday’s win, but the Hoosiers trailed by two at intermission. The main reason for that was carelessness with the ball.

IU turned it over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes. Each time it looked like the Hoosiers might create more separation, an errant pass gave the ball to Michigan and flipped momentum. Against a Michigan defense that isn’t known for its ball pressure or ability to create turnovers, 10 giveaways was far too many.

But Indiana cleaned things up with its sloppiness in the final 20 minutes.

The Hoosiers only committed three second-half turnovers and finished with 13 turnovers, just one over Woodson’s goal of 12 or fewer per game.

Through eight games, Indiana’s turnover percentage of 18.2 is still too high, but the second half was a step in the right direction.

Michigan looks like a program with no clear direction

From the outside, the direction of the Michigan basketball program seems unclear.

The Wolverines suffered their fifth loss in six tries on Tuesday. The crowd at the Crisler Center was sparse, with empty seats all over the lower bowl. And Juwan Howard, in his fifth season, was on the bench but not in the head coaching role. That seat is currently occupied by Phil Martelli, who is acting head coach as Howard works his way back from an offseason heart procedure.

In the transfer portal era, where programs are forced to rebuild a roster each offseason, Michigan’s roster doesn’t appear to have the correct pieces to win in the Big Ten. The program didn’t adequately replace the wing offense vacated by Jett Howard or Kobe Bufkin’s departures to the NBA.

The result is a team dependent on Dug McDaniel, a 5-foot-9 point guard, to score 20 points a game and play 35 minutes a night. McDaniel had an off night and Michigan struggled as a result.

The bigger picture: Michigan basketball looks like it’s heading toward a crossroads. The Wolverines missed the NCAA tournament last season and this group appears to be ahead towards the same fate.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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