Five takeaways from Indiana’s win against North Alabama

  • 12/22/2023 8:55 am in

Indiana won for the ninth time this season Thursday night as the Hoosiers rolled past North Alabama, 83-66.

Here are five takeaways from the win against the Lions:

Malik Reneau’s career night

Indiana’s 3-point shooting woes have been well-documented. On Thursday, the Hoosiers got perimeter production from an unlikely source: Malik Reneau.

Entering the game, just 10.3 percent of Reneau’s field goal attempts this season had been 3-pointers. And given Reneau’s dominance in the paint, he had little reason to hunt 3-pointers.

But in Thursday’s win, Reneau found himself on the perimeter with just over 15 minutes to play in the first half on a fast break situation. As the trailer on the play, Reneau caught the ball in rhythm, set his feet and splashed in a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

It was the first of four 3-pointers for Reneau, who scored a career-high 25 points in 27 minutes. He was also Indiana’s leading rebounder with seven.

“I’ve been working out with Coach Cheaney a lot,” Reneau said postgame. “Just understanding how he played the game, how he was able to work around the court, be able to get his shot wherever he wanted on the court. Just getting reps up, man, being confident when you go out there, not being scared to shoot the ball. I think that was the main part for me.”

If defenses are going to give Reneau clean perimeter looks, he should continue to take them. His shot mechanics are sound, he’s confident in his shot, and most importantly, he’s proven he can make them.

Indiana makes 12 3-pointers, six more than any previous game

Mike Woodson has repeatedly stated that Indiana is taking enough 3-pointers. According to Woodson, the Hoosiers need to make more of them.

Indiana took more 3-pointers than usual against North Alabama and made six more than their previous season-high.

The 24 attempts from distance topped the previous high of 17, which came in a 28-point blowout loss to Auburn on Dec. 9.

Most of the makes on Thursday came from good ball movement. The Hoosiers finished with 25 assists, also a season-high.

A prime example was a triple from Gabe Cupps from the left wing in the second half. Mackenzie Mgbako drove towards the paint, drawing Cupps’ defender and then found his fellow freshman to put the Hoosiers up 19 with 13:23 remaining.

“The ball has moved some all year,” Woodson said. “Just got to stick the ball in the hole when you have the shots. I thought tonight guys were comfortable, they shot it. When they had the shoot they took it and they made it.”

Anthony Walker continues to shine off the bench

Most of Indiana’s bench has been inconsistent this season. Woodson has tried to develop the bench by giving guys like Anthony Walker, CJ Gunn and Kaleb Banks a healthy amount of minutes.

Walker, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Miami (FL), appears to be hitting his stride.

He followed up his 18-point outburst against Morehead State with another double-figure scoring effort against North Alabama.

Walker scored 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting in 21 minutes. He also made four of his five free throw attempts. Walker is shooting 60.9 percent on 2s and 77.1 percent from the free throw line through 12 games.

Walker’s confidence is growing, too, as he’s aggressively driving the ball and finding spots where he can score quickly upon entering the game.

Walker entered Thursday’s game at the 11:44 mark. Less than a minute later, he drove the ball to the middle of the lane for a short jumper. On IU’s next possession, he found Banks on a back cut for a dunk.

With Big Ten play looming, counting on Walker will be key for IU’s bench.

Kel’el Ware fails to reach double figures for the first time

After 11 straight games of reaching double figures, Kel’el Ware finished with less than 10 points for the first time this season.

Ware shot a combined 5-for-20 from the field in losses to Auburn and Kansas and has looked tentative in the post recently.

Defenses are coming more aggressively at Ware when he catches the ball, and he’s struggled with the physicality and decision-making when the pressure comes.

After Ware struggled with his back to the basket in the first half against North Alabama, Woodson wisely put him on the move in the second half and got him lobs for some easy buckets.

Fatigue could also be a factor, as Ware logged 39 minutes against Kansas on Saturday. He’s playing double the minutes he played last season at Oregon, a major jump for a 7-footer who put on weight in the offseason.

Overall, there’s little to complain about regarding Ware’s performance this season. He’s Indiana’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker through 12 games. For a player who had his motor questioned relentlessly, Ware has silenced the critics.

Indiana gets a comfortable win against an inferior opponent

After close calls in Assembly Hall against Florida Gulf Coast, Army, Wright State and Morehead State, Indiana finally did what it was expected to do against a guarantee game opponent: it won comfortably.

The Hoosiers quickly built a double-figure lead and the game never got closer than six the rest of the way. Indiana led by double figures for the final 17:46.

That’s not to say Indiana didn’t gain value from playing close games early and finding a way to win, but it’s also a confidence builder to dominate a lesser opponent.

“Tonight, I thought we came out ready,” Woodson said. “We consistently played well throughout the course of the game. The result was a win.”

Indiana now has an extended break – eight days around Christmas – before it wraps up non-conference play on Dec. 29 against Kennesaw State.

Filed to: