[Postgame 3-2-1] What We Learned From Indiana's Win Against Harvard
We break down three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question from Indiana's win over Harvard on Sunday.
Take a deep breath.
Indiana finished the early portion of its non-conference slate with a 89-76 victory over the Harvard Crimson at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Plus, Harvard came in shooting 38.1 per game from 3; and, well, Indiana isn’t really a team that seems to pride itself on guarding the 3-point line. But on Sunday, Harvard shot 9-26 from behind the arc — including just 1-9 in the second half — offering some hope that further defensive improvement will come.
The offense showed some improvement too, most notably freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako, who finally broke out of his shell by scoring nine points in the first 20 minutes of the game (he finished with 18). This is something Indiana fans have been dying to see from Mgbako throughout the first five games of the season, and their patience paid off. There were flashes in the Empire Classic, but Mgbako was never really able to get it going like we saw tonight.
“He’s a freshman, and he’s been working,” head coach Mike Woodson said postgame about Mgbako. “Hopefully this will be a nice carryover to the next game.”
The one area of concern coming out of this game is Xavier Johnson’s health.
At the 3:41 mark of the first half, the senior got subbed out and went to the locker room with a foot injury. He was listed as questionable to play before the game, indicating a lingering injury, but as we saw in New York that usually means X will play, which he did before apparently reinjuring himself.
As shown on the broadcast, X tried to come back out for second half warmups, but he immediately went back into the locker room and came back with an ice bag on his foot. This is concerning, especially with Big Ten play starting on Friday against Maryland.
There was a lot of good and some bad to breakdown in this game, so let’s get right to it. Here are three key stats, two observations, and one lingering question coming out of yesterday’s game against Harvard.
Did you miss yesterday's edition of the postgame show?
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3 Meaningful Stats
1. Indiana had 50 points in the paint.
This is good, right?
For now, this is a really good stat against inferior opponents; however, the only way Indiana will be able to maintain its high level of play down low is if they can convince teams that they can make them pay for doubling the post.
Kel’el Ware was terrific inside for the Hoosiers. He had 28 points on 12-13 shooting. And the one miss turned into a rebounded putback by Ware himself. Big Fella, as Mike Woodson calls him, was terrific around the rimm including some monster slams off of beautiful lobs from his frontcourt partner Malik Reneau, who also had a fantastic game.
I’m not sure if Reneau qualifies as a glue-guy, but everything seems to be smoother offensively when he is on the floor. Whether he is throwing the aforementioned lobs to Ware or scoring with beautiful touch on a jump hook, Indiana seems to go as Reneau goes. That is encouraging, especially if he can continue to improve on finding the open man when being double teamed.
After the UConn game last weekend, it became evident that the lack of true 3-point shooting threats hurt Indiana against bigger, more physical teams. There is no issue with scoring inside on a regular basis when you have a size and skill advantage, but if the Hoosiers don’t hit open looks off double teams, the next four games on the schedule could be ugly.
2. Mackenzie Mgbako was +23.
Raw plus-minus scores from individual games can be deceiving, but last night’s team-leading number for Mackenzie Mgbako seems to capture his impact on the game for Indiana.
And while his career-best 18 points had a lot to do with it, Mgbako’s continued improvements on defense, and on the glass, were also noticeable.
It has been a shaky start for the freshman on the defensive side of the ball, but his intensity in the Louisville game on Monday carried over to last night’s game in Indianapolis. Mgbako had active hands on defense and moved his feet well, staying out of foul trouble. Sure, there were moments where Mack got caught ball-watching, leading to easy buckets for Harvard, but that is exactly what these games are scheduled for: to work out the kinks.
Because Mgbako was lured to Indiana, in part, based on the development of Jalen Hood-Schifino into a one-and-done last season, it is at least worth noting that Jalen had his offensive ups and downs early on too. The future Laker scored in single digits in four of Indiana’s first six games, averaging 7.83 points per game during that span; Mgbako is currently at 7.2 points per game.
This is yet another piece of evidence suggesting Indiana fans need to stay patient with the development of the McDonald’s All-American. The next stretch of games are against much better opponents and will give Mgbako a good opportunity to prove himself as one of the best in his class.
It will be interesting to see if last night’s game was the official coming-out party for Mackenzie Mgbako this season.
3. Kaleb Banks only played 10 minutes.
Remember when I was on the postgame show being confident that Kaleb Banks will get more minutes after a great performance against Louisville? I still stand by this … for now.
There are many reasons for the lack of minutes for Banks yesterday. The obvious one is that Mackenzie Mgbako gave Mike Woodson very little reason to sub him out. Additionally, when Banks did come off the bench during Mike Woodson’s patented first half line change, he didn’t move the needle on either end of the ball. He hit a three (we’ll get to this) in the five minutes that he played, but the defensive effort just wasn’t there from Kaleb last night like we saw last weekend in NYC.
I can’t be too negative on the guy who was responsible for two of Indiana’s four made 3-pointers. And if Banks can combine his defensive abilities with being a credible threat from deep, then Mike Woodson will have a valuable, versatile player to throw at opponents.
I would love to see Woody give KB some more run with Mgbako in the next couple of games to see how it plays out.