Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Minnesota

  • 03/07/2024 8:44 am in

Indiana won its second straight road game Wednesday night, beating Minnesota 70-58 at Williams Arena. The victory improved the Hoosiers to 17-13 overall and 9-10 in Big Ten play.

Here are five takeaways from the win against the Golden Gophers:

The Hoosiers were connected on offense

It wasn’t a flawless performance, but Wednesday’s game was a connected effort offensive for the Hoosiers.

Indiana shot close to 55 percent from the field and 62.5 percent on 3s. The ball moved well and the Hoosiers displayed unselfishness. Some of IU’s turnovers resulted from overpassing or trying to force plays that weren’t there, particularly in the first half. But once Indiana cleaned up those issues – the Hoosiers turned it over just six times in the second half – the offense was humming.

While IU’s 1.02 points per possession were below its season average in Big Ten play, the Hoosiers assisted 93.3 percent of their field goals in the win. Indiana made 30 field goals and 28 of them were assisted.

IU scored 1.29 points per possession in the second half and shot 64 percent from the field.

Trey Galloway led the way with 11 assists, but it was a total team effort in sharing the ball. Xavier Johnson had five assists, Anthony Leal had four and Kel’el Ware had three.

Indiana made timely 3-pointers

After only attempting one 3-pointer in the first half, Indiana came alive from the perimeter in the second half at Williams Arena.

Mackenzie Mgbako scored all nine of his second half points from the perimeter, splashing in three of his four attempts from distance. And Kel’el Ware added two 3-pointers of his own.

Indiana was 5-for-7 on 3s in the second half, good for 71.4 percent.

When the Hoosiers make 3s within the flow of the offense, it makes them much harder to defend. Indiana has often looked stagnant offensively this season when it forces the ball into the post and often never finds its way back out.

But on Wednesday, Indiana played with pace and hit shots in rhythm.

“We’re playing faster, and guys are making shots behind the offense, and that helps,” Mike Woodson said postgame.

Another dominant effort from Kel’el Ware

Despite playing most of his 34 minutes in foul trouble, Kel’el Ware was the best player on the floor in Wednesday’s win.

Ware’s shot-making and touch as a 7-footer is special, and he had things going from the opening tip against the Gophers. Ware scored Indiana’s first bucket on a turnaround jumper and a few minutes later, his steal and dunk in transition gave the Hoosiers an 8-0 lead.

He never stopped impacting the game and finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in 34 minutes. Ware was 12-for-16 from the field.

It was Ware’s third straight game with 11 or more rebounds.

Over Indiana’s last three games – all wins – Ware is averaging 20.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 37 minutes per game. He’s currently third in the Big Ten in 2-point field goal percentage (64.4) and fourth in block percentage (6.7).

Indiana’s defense made Minnesota uncomfortable all game

Taking – and making – a high volume of 3-pointers is a big part of Minnesota’s offensive game plan.

The Gophers, however, never got any rhythm from distance in Wednesday’s game and Indiana’s ability to challenge shots and stay in passing lanes was instrumental in the win.

Minnesota shot a dreadful 5-for-26 on 3s and the Hoosiers were, for the most part, getting out to shooters to contest the looks.

The Hoosiers also had 12 steals and forced 18 Minnesota turnovers, leading to a 21-15 advantage in points off of turnovers.

“When you go out on the road and you play defense like the last couple of games on the road, you give yourself a chance to win, and that’s what we’ve done,” Woodson said postgame.

Minnesota’s .847 points per possession were the second-lowest for an opponent against the Hoosiers this season. Maryland managed just .799 points per trip at Assembly Hall on Dec. 1.

Mackenzie Mgbako is peaking at the right time

Mackenzie Mgbako’s improvement on both ends of the floor has put the Hoosier freshman in the midst of his best stretch of basketball this season.

Mgbako scored 15 points on Wednesday night and was an efficient 6-for-12 from the field and 3-for-4 on 3s. He also had two rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes.

Earlier in the second, Mgbako would often get benched for defensive reasons. He still has plenty of room to grow defensively, but he’s improved to the point where he’s playing in the most important stretches of games now and delivering.

Mgbako battled fouls against Wednesday – he finished the game with four – but his second half perimeter shooting was paramount in Indiana pulling away at the Barn.

“Well, you think back, guys, to where we started with Mack. We just hung in there, he hung in there and kept working,” Woodson said. “He’s starting to blossom in front of us, man, and that’s kind of nice to see the work that he’s put in. The staff has done a hell of a job in getting him where he is today, but he still has a ways to go, man. He’s got to continue to work and grow to help us continue to win because that’s what it’s all about moving forward.”

In Big Ten games, Mgbako is shooting 38.2 percent on 3s, the 17th-best mark in the conference.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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