[Postgame 3-2-1] What We Learned From Indiana's Season Opener v FGCU
We break down three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana's season-opening victory over Florida Gulf Coast.
Look, let’s be real about what happened in Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday night:
Indiana barely escaped at home against the 136th-ranked team in the country, which was missing one of its top players (Purdue transfer Isaiah Thompson).
The Hoosiers are going to drop in the computer rankings, and rightfully so. Analysts and fans alike who carried pessimistic feelings about this team into the season will now have even more ammunition if they focus on this performance’s glaring warts.
The reality is that no one is going to be telling their kids, or anyone else, about many good things about this performance. (Although every IU fan should be telling their kids good things about the man who was honored at this game. And if you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.)
With that said, my visceral reaction walking away from the game is actually one of optimism. Maybe that’s in part because of the expectations I carried into it.
I expected this game to be a struggle. We were favored by 12, and I’d have bet on us to win but not cover, which is exactly what happened.
I expect a lot of games over the next couple of months to be a struggle while this long and talented — but inexperienced — Indiana team builds chemistry and cohesion.
So I have positive feelings regarding what we learned about this group once they got down 48-42 in the second half. Ideally, there won’t be 6-point second-half deficits to sub-100 teams at home in the future. That’s a recipe for disaster. But for this group’s first time out? Well, ask Tom Izzo. It could have gone a lot worse.
And for now, I think that’s okay.
This group just needs to find ways to win, even ugly, against a tough early-season schedule that it probably isn’t ready for.
But the games are coming no matter what, and the standard is the standard at IU. And I think we saw enough glimpses of what it might look like when things are rolling to keep me — and hopefully you — feeling good (for now) despite the overall ups and downs the performance.
Let’s break down three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question coming out of Indiana’s season-opening victory.
Did you miss yesterday's edition of the postgame show?
3 Meaningful Stats
1. Indiana held FGCU to under 1.0 point per possession
Indiana’s glaring defensive struggles at times in this game are, rightfully, a major talking point coming out of it.
Mike Woodson was clear that his young wings — Mackenzie Mgbako, CJ Gunn, and Kaleb Banks — have to get better at understanding what their defensive assignments and rotations should be.
In fact, if you haven’t watched Coach Woodson’s postgame press conference, I recommend it. It’s very revealing about where he thinks his team is as we sit here on November 7th.
But as Woody says, even with all of the struggles to contain FGCU’s 3-point shooting, Indiana only gave up 63 points. They held FGCU to less than a point per possession.
Even without Thompson available for FGCU, that’s a passable defensive performance to open the season. It’s one to build on, not blow up.
And when it really mattered, when IU was down 48-42, the lineup of X, Trey, Cupps, Malik, and Kel’el was able to clamp down on FGCU while the offense hummed enough to deliver a 14-0 kill shot of a run.
At times, we saw how devastating this defense might be more consistently at some point this season — with the effort, length, and hoops IQ that certain groups were able to play with at certain times.
There is plenty to clean up defensively. Woody himself acknowledged as much. But if this ends up representing anything close to Indiana’s defensive floor, then this team is going to win a lot of games even with its work-in-progress offense.
2. Indiana allowed FGCU to rebound 33.3% of their misses
Well, all that offseason talk about rebounding potentially being a strength for this team is showing no signs of coming to fruition here early in the season.
The Hoosiers allowed FGCU, which is currently just 208th in the country in KenPom’s Average Height metric, to grab 13 rebounds — or 33.3% of their missed shots. That’s not encouraging (as a season-long number it would have ranked deep in the 300s overall last year), especially on the heels of underwhelming rebounding performances in the two exhibition games.
Malik, who contributed a solid defensive rebounding rate of 18.8% last season, gathered only 3.4% of defensive rebounds — a measly one rebound — while on the court in this game.
So what do we do with this?
Well, obviously Malik being forced to play defense away from the basket so often in this matchup contributed to his low rebound total. He also just completely whiffed on an important rebound late in the game when he had decent position.
And I think that is a microcosm of the issue Indiana has faced here early in the season.
There have been opportunities for rebounds that Indiana hasn’t corralled — like the one Ware let slip right through his fingers with no one within ten feet of him.
But it’s also fair to acknowledge that each of IU’s two exhibition opponents, and now FGCU, has had a gameplan of countering IU’s size advantage by spreading the Hoosiers out and trying to use 3-point volume in its favor. That will inevitably lead to some weird long rebounds, and tree trunks like Malik being farther away from the basket than is ideal.
So I’m not going to officially press the panic button on the rebounding yet. But I’m certainly going to plant an early-season red flag on it.
As we learned last year, sometimes the habits revealed even in the season’s first 120 public minutes can prove to be glaring season-long issues. Rebounding fit that description last season. Hopefully it’s an area the Hoosiers improve on moving forward.
3. Trey Galloway was 6-6 from 2-point range
Trey was a revelation from 3-point range last season, improving from 18.2% and 21.4% over his first two seasons to 46.2% as a junior.
However, his 2-point field goal percentage went from 56.9% and 56.5% to just 48.0% last season — not a huge drop, but a meaningful one given the amount of minutes he played.
On Tuesday night, Trey was perfect on his two-point attempts, and what was especially encouraging was the variety mixed into the six makes (plus his made 3).
A layup to score Indiana’s first two points (followed by his only 3-point make of the night, which was actually off a bit movement using a screen)
A smart basket cut that led to a layup off a Ware assist
Another floater after busting his ass to get a loose ball. This bucket put Indiana up for good.
A transition layup off an assist from X that was the result of a dead-out sprint after an FGCU made 3
A wild, whirling layup after corralling yet another loose ball off a Ware missed 3
This is the Trey Galloway that Indiana needs to reach its ceiling.
He’s never going to be A.J. Guyton or Greg Graham as a “shooting” guard (at least nominally), but if he can find ways to be a consistently efficient scorer at increased volume — and a team-leading 16 points on nine shots is certainly that — then it will make Indiana’s offense that much better when guys like Mgbako and Gunn eventually get their offense going.