What to Expect: Indiana vs. North Alabama

  • 12/21/2023 7:36 am in

Indiana returns to action Thursday night against North Alabama at Assembly Hall. It’s the third meeting between the two schools, all of which have come since 2019. The Lions are 6-6 and are coming off a 70-67 loss at Tennessee Tech on Dec. 16.

Thursday’s game will tip at 8:30 p.m. on BTN:

Indiana has little time to diagnose what went wrong Tuesday night when it narrowly escaped against Morehead State.

The Hoosiers play for the second time in three days and the third time in six days against ASUN opponent North Alabama tonight in Bloomington.

It’s the last game before a holiday break for Indiana, which will play again on Dec. 29, its final non-conference game against Kennesaw State.


North Alabama finished last season 18-15, its best record in five seasons as a Division I program. The Lions were picked to finish seventh in the 12-team ASUN, a one-bid league for the NCAA tournament.

Two of North Alabama’s six wins have come against non-Division I competition and three of their other wins were against sub-300 teams in KenPom.

Tony Pujol’s team has just two players averaging in double figures – guards KJ Johnson and Jacari Lane.

Johnson started the team’s first seven games, missed the next three and has come off the bench the last two contests after returning. The fifth-year guard began his career at Lipscomb, where he played three seasons before transferring to North Alabama for his final two seasons. The 6-foot-3 guard averages 13.9 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field in 22.9 minutes per game.

Lane, a preseason All-ASUN team selection, has started all 12 games and averages a team-high 4.4 assists to go along with his 13.4 points per game. He’s an 83.6 percent free throw shooter and is making 36.8 percent of his 3s. He also has a team-best 14 steals.

Fourth-year junior Detalian Brown has started the last five games and is 16-for-37 on 3s, good for 43.2 percent. The 6-foot-2 guard from Chicago averages 7.9 points.

Another junior, 6-foot-6 wing, Will Soucie, starts at the three and averages 5.3 points in 19.4 minutes per game. Soucie is a low-efficiency option who shoots just 37.3 percent from the field.

The starters in the frontcourt are Tim Smith Jr. and Damian Forrest, who have started every game at the four and the five.

The 6-foot-7 Smith can stretch the floor. He’s made a team-high 17 3-pointers and is connecting at a 43.6 percent clip from deep. Forrest is 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds and is the team’s leading rebounder with 8.5 per game.

Marco Foster, a 6-foot-2 junior who started his career at New Hampshire before playing at Blinn College last season, is another capable 3-point shooter off the bench. Foster is 15-for-42 from deep, good for 35.7 percent. Freshman guard Canin Jefferson could also see minutes off the bench. Jefferson averages 3.5 points in 13.1 minutes.


All stats are via KenPom.com and are updated through Tuesday’s games.

North Alabama is the lowest-ranked KenPom opponent remaining on the Indiana schedule and the third-worst opponent this season (ahead of Florida Gulf Coast and Army). But the level of the opponent hasn’t mattered, as Indiana has just two double-figure wins all season.

Style-wise, North Alabama makes a solid percentage of 3s (36.2 percent) but ranks 286th nationally in 3PA/FGA (33.1 percent), per KenPom.

The Lions struggle to keep opponents off the free throw line, ranking 322nd in opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at 42.2 percent. This plays into one of Indiana’s biggest strengths: getting to the line. The Hoosiers still rank in the top 10 nationally in free throw rate at 46.6 percent.

North Alabama is also a poor offensive rebounding team, ranking just 285th in offensive rebounding percentage. The Hoosiers are slowly moving in a better direction on the defensive glass. IU now ranks 150th in defensive rebounding percentage and hasn’t allowed an opponent to grab over 30 percent of its missed shots since the first four games of the season.


The KenPom projection is Indiana by 13 with an 87 percent chance of a Hoosier victory. But as we’ve seen against guarantee game opponents, the projections have meant little.

Indiana has a short prep for North Alabama, a team that plays a deep bench but lacks the interior players to compete with Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau. The Hoosiers will go to the line a lot on Thursday and must improve on Tuesday’s 16-for-28 performance from the stripe.

More importantly, Indiana has to regain its focus after a nearly disastrous loss against Morehead State. The Hoosiers weren’t ready to play and it’s too late in the season for that type of effort. If Indiana aspires to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament, it’s running out of time to figure things out.

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