[Postgame 3-2-1] What We Learned From Indiana's 83-66 Win Against North Alabama
Here are three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana's final pre-Christmas game against North Alabama.
That was refreshing!
Indiana took care of business and dominated an inferior opponent from start to finish for the first time all season.
The only time IU didn’t lead was the first thirty-six seconds of the game, when they forced a North Alabama turnover on the game’s opening possession.
Malik Reneau finished with a career-high 25 points on 10-14 shooting including a perfect 4-4 from distance.
More importantly, the Hoosiers made 12 threes on 24 attempts, the most since December of 2020 when Indiana made 13 against the same North Alabama team.
“Tonight I thought we came out ready,” head coach Mike Woodson said of his team’s performance. “We consistently played well throughout the course of the game.”
The Hoosiers will now head into the Christmas break 9-3 and return to action a week from tonight against Kennesaw State, a tournament team that gave Indiana a run for its money last season.
Here are three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana’s game against North Alabama.
Did you miss yesterday's edition of the postgame show?
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3 Meaningful Stats
1. Seven different Hoosiers made a three.
Indiana went into last night’s game having made just 40 3-pointers through their first 12 games of the season, which is dead last in the Big Ten and 24 makes behind the next closest team.
At the half, the Hoosiers had already matched their season-high in a game for 3s, going 6-14 from the beyond the arc.
They wound up doubling their total in the second half, going 6-10, leading the Hoosiers to 50% from deep for the night.
“It's good to see the ball go in the hole,” said Woodson. “When you take 'em, you're supposed to make 'em.”
Indiana’s bigs will continue to see double teams down on the block, but if the guards hit the outside jumper at a decent clip, it will only get easier for Reneau and Ware as teams will be more hesitant to leave a shooter.
3-point shooting will be a significant key for the Hoosiers when they return to Big Ten play after the first of the year.
Most of the 3s Indiana took throughout the game were good looks, either from good ball movement around the perimeter or in transition.
I fully expect Indiana to be taking and making more 3s than they have in the first bakers’ dozen games this season. It will undoubtedly be the key to winning Big Ten games this season.
2. Reneau for … 3(s)!
My goodness, Malik! Have a night!
In the first year and a half of his career in Bloomington, Malik Reneau has made Indiana fans groan when firing from beyond the arc. Most of the time, it has resulted in a bad miss.
Last night was much different.
Malik made all four of his shots from beyond the arc. Outside of the late shot clock heave from thirty feet out, they were great shots within the offense en route to a career-high 25 points.
This 3-point revelation from Malik could be precisely what Indiana needed this season, if it proves to be at all sustainable.
Malik can create his own shot in the post off the bounce from the outside, so defenses will be forced to be honest when guarding him beyond the arc.
“Teams got to defend for that now.” Reneau said postgame. “It just brings so much confidence to myself coming in after this break, coming into the Big Ten play.”
Reneau does not lack confidence, which sometimes hurts the Hoosiers, especially when he takes ill-advised shots outside the offense that Indiana wants to run.
Woodson had high praise for Malik’s shot selection tonight:
“The fact that he shot 'em all tonight in rhythm, that helps.”
If Malik can stay disciplined and know when it is the right time to fire up a shot from deep, then Indiana will morph into an elite offensive team through their stretch-4.
3. Indiana had 25 assists on 31 field goals.
Indiana’s guard presence has been lacking since Xavier Johnson went down with a lower body injury a few weeks ago against Harvard.
Trey Galloway led the way in the assist department with a career-high nine assists while turning the ball over just once in his 29 minutes on the floor.
Additionally, the first 10 buckets from the Hoosiers’ second half were all assisted.
What makes these assists more impressive is that they came with minimal turnovers.
Indiana had just 10 turnovers to those 25 assists and avoided live-ball turnovers, keeping the Lions to just seven points off those turnovers.
We know if a team wants to make a run at a conference title in the Big Ten, the guard play must be exceptional for 20 games. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Indiana could be on offense if they continue to share the ball like they did last night.
It is hard to imagine that they will lose many games in Big Ten play with 2.5:1 assist to turnover ratio.
2 Important Observations
1. Indiana was outstanding in transition
Indiana had 18 fastbreak points last night, and it was refreshing to see them run the floor.
It has become very apparent that when the Hoosiers are in transition, they play at their best.
Indiana’s half-court sets have been less than impressive, leading to long scoring droughts spanning between three and five minutes; however, the 3s seem to drop much easier when Indiana is flying up and down the court.
Running the floor for 40 minutes every night is unsustainable, but I would like to see Mike Woodson urge his guards to push the pace with a big rim-running down the floor. We saw this style of play at times with TJD, leading to easy buckets for IU.
We’ve seen that Mackenzie Mgbako and Trey Galloway are more than able to knock down the transition 3, so there is hope that Indiana can continue to push the pace and earn easy buckets in transition after the break.
2. Perfect time for a week-long break
Those who agreed with Ryan during Tuesday’s postgame show might not like what I have to say here. You’ve been warned!
After playing in their third game in six days, Indiana’s coaches, players, and staff now get a well-earned break.
There are pros and cons to playing three games in a week, but the players appreciate the long weekend to go home and celebrate Christmas with their families.
With 18 Big Ten games on the docket after January 1st, it is a perfect time to get some much-deserved rest.
More importantly, it is a time for players who are banged up to get healthy for the second season.
1 Lingering Question
Will we see Xavier Johnson next week?
On the BTN broadcast during the game, Cory Provus and Trent Meacham recalled a conversation that they overheard during Indiana’s morning shoot-around involving Mike Woodson and Xavier Johnson.
They went into detail that when Woodson asked when he will be back, X told him a week. Woody responded with, “You’ve been saying a week for the past month.”
This appears to be friendly banter between a player and his coach and should remain that way; however, Woodson makes a great point.
Indiana desperately needs their sixth-year starting point guard back to man the backcourt as soon as possible, but the return date keeps getting pushed back.
It was supposed to be a week from the Harvard game. However, it has now been nearly four weeks since the Hoosiers played at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and there is still no timetable for X’s return despite the Big Ten Injury Report listing him as questionable for every single game since.
There is no doubt that All-Everything athletic trainer Tim Garl is doing everything he can to get X back on the floor. Still, there is no seventh-year medical waiver from the NCAA waiting for X if he doesn’t play this season, so I expect him to return to play as soon as he is cleared.
The Hoosiers will undoubtedly benefit from the guard depth once X returns.
Thanks for reading!
We’ll be back to talk IU hoops with you again next Thursday for AC Radio, then for the postgame show after IU plays Kennesaw State on Friday, the 29th.
Until then, make sure you vote in the postgame Game Ball and Hoosier Hustle Award polls and, most importantly, have a merry Christmas and happy holiday season with your loved ones!
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