Five takeaways from Indiana’s win against Morehead State

  • 12/20/2023 7:30 am in

Indiana survived a major scare Tuesday night to beat Morehead State 69-68 at Assembly Hall.

Here are five takeaways from the win against the Eagles:

Indiana was listless in the first half

After playing well and controlling the game against No. 2 Kansas for nearly 35 minutes on Saturday, Indiana was listless in the first half against Morehead State.

The result was an 11-point deficit against a team that had lost its first three road games to high-major opponents by an average of 28.3 points.

The Hoosiers shot poorly and allowed Morehead State’s Jordan Lathon to get in rhythm and gain confidence. Indiana shot a dismal 3-for-9 from the free throw line and 0-for-6 on 3s in the first half.

To end the half, Indiana made a lousy performance worse. The Hoosiers, holding for the final shot, turned the ball over, and the Eagles went the other way for a dunk to push their lead to double figures.

“Well, again, it wasn’t real pretty,” Mike Woodson said of his halftime conversation with his team. “Based on how we were playing. We were awful. You’ve got to give them credit because they competed the first half.”

Indiana’s struggles against an inferior opponent happened in the first three games against Florida Gulf Coast, Army and Wright State. But that was early November. As we approach the new year and the resumption of Big Ten play, time is running out to fix Indiana’s energy problem.

An MVP performance from Anthony Walker

Miami (FL) transfer Anthony Walker had easily his best game so far in an IU uniform and the Hoosiers needed every point he produced to win.

Walker scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the second half. He was 7-for-11 from the field and made his first 3-pointer in an IU uniform.

“Phenomenal. He deserves the MVP tonight,” Woodson said of Walker. “He played 22 minutes, had 18 points, nine rebounds. By far his best game since he’s been wearing an Indiana uniform. We needed every bit of it to win this game tonight.”

The nine rebounds were the result of hustle from Walker, who typically brings high energy when he enters the game.

In the preseason, Walker talked like a player who prided himself in playing hard and that’s precisely what he’s brought to this Indiana team.

“It gives me the utmost confidence,” Walker said postgame. “Just knowing that Woody trusts me down the stretch in specific games and just knowing that I always have to be ready.”

Jordan Lathon’s unbelievable shooting performance

Morehead State’s Jordan Lathon had three games of 21 or more points this season entering Tuesday’s contest, but the fifth-year guard from Missouri couldn’t be stopped for more than 30 minutes against the Hoosiers.

Poor defense in stretches on Lathon in the first half helped to get him going and he continued to shine early in the second half.

Even after Indiana tightened things up in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Lathon made contested shots. Trey Galloway couldn’t have guarded him any better on a couple of his 3-pointers, but his looks continued to splash.

Lathon made a difficult 3-pointer, was fouled by Malik Reneau, and made the free throw to put Morehead State up by 15 with 9:29 to play.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to Morehead because they played a great game,” Woodson said. “I’ve been preaching all year, you can be beaten by any team. Doesn’t matter who they are, if you don’t come to play.”

Mackenzie Mgbako struggles with his shooting, but is staying aggressive

Indiana’s ceiling as a team is in many ways tied to the development of freshman Mackenzie Mgbako.

The Hoosiers need 3-point shooting and a wing that can create offense. Mgbako is the best candidate to deliver on both of those fronts.

The Gladstone, New Jersey native’s struggles to start the season were well documented. But he’s now scored in double figures in six straight games.

Tuesday’s game wasn’t Mgbako’s best – he shot just 3-for-14 from the field – but he continues to convert at a high rate from the free throw line. He’s now 32-for-34 from the line this season, good for 94.1 percent.

More importantly, Mgbako continues to look for his offense and has ramped up his effort on the glass. He had three offensive rebounds on Tuesday and seven or more rebounds in three of the last six games.

Indiana deserves some credit for finding a way to win

There’s plenty to pick apart and plenty that was alarming from Tuesday’s narrow victory, but the Hoosiers deserve credit for finding a way to win.

Down 15 at home with under 10 minutes to play, it looked like Indiana would take a loss it couldn’t afford.

Despite a solid overall record, Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume lacks a marquee non-conference win. A loss to Morehead State at home would have been a glaring blemish.

But the Hoosiers figured out how to break through and salvage a victory. Indiana finished the game on a 20-4 run, including timely buckets and several defensive stops.

“At the end of the day, the guys made the plays that they needed to make to secure the win,” Woodson said. “And that’s what counts.”

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