Green Looks Back To Normal As Indiana Beats Princeton

It only took his second game back for Devonte Green to start playing like himself.

Green fueled a second half charge for the Indiana Hoosiers, who turned a closely contested game at half against Princeton into a 79-54 rout by the time the final buzzer sounded.

The senior guard scored 16 points, including two of the team’s three three-pointers, and added 4 assists for a Hoosier team that improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.

The Hoosiers pulled away in the second half with an inspired defensive effort, allowing the Tigers to shoot just 7-of-25 (28.0%) after allowing them to shoot 12-of-26 (46.2%) in the first half.

Green played a huge part in the second half turnaround, playing 16 minutes in the second half and posting a +21 differential during that time (+29 differential for the game).

Joey Brunk was also a huge factor for the Hoosiers on Wednesday night as he had season-highs with 16 points and eight rebounds. Justin Smith added 14 points, Trayce Jackson-Davis had 11 points, and Al Durham dished out six assists.

However, the main story was finally getting to see a true glimpse of what Green brings to this Indiana team.

Green was seamlessly filling the role of playmaker, as his amazingly accurate passes and his ability to shake off his defender (including an incredible step-back three-pointer) had the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall buzzing with each play he made.

“He’s so aggressive and he knows he can impact the game,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I think the only thing I stress to him is to play smart and play simple. If he does that, he’ll play a big role with what we’re doing.”

Wednesday night also marked the first time this season that the Hoosiers’ four major rotation guards all played. Durham and Armaan Franklin got the start and played 29 and 12 minutes respectively. Green finished with 26 minutes and started the second half while Phinisee played 11 minutes before getting hit in the face midway through the second half and not returning to the game. He did return to the bench very quickly after getting checked on so it appears it wasn’t serious.

The Hoosiers will look to keep rolling next week as they finish The Indiana Classic with games against Louisiana Tech and South Dakota State before hosting Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Improved Free Throw Shooting Key As Indiana Blasts Past North Alabama

The Indiana Hoosiers had what could best be described as a “sloppy” first half against the North Alabama Lions. The Hoosiers committed nine turnovers, tied on the boards with just 12 for each team, and allowed the Lions to shoot 7-of-10 from three-point range. Yet despite all that, the Hoosiers held a seven-point lead at half before turning up the defensive intensity in the second half to win 91-65.

So how did Indiana survive that first half?

Believe it or not, it was great free throw shooting that kept the Hoosiers afloat in the first half. Indiana made 17-of-20 (85%) foul shots during the first 20 minutes compared to North Alabama’s 5-of-6 foul shooting.

It didn’t turn out to be just a first half trend as the Hoosiers finished the game having made 37 out of their 45 free throw attempts (82.2%), including an incredible 14-of-15 foul shooting performance from Freshman Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

“He’s a unique player,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I’ve been telling him since 10th grade, he’s going to get fouled a ton (because he’s a left-handed post player). Proud of him tonight, 14 of 15 from the line, that’s a huge deal.”

Jackson-Davis, who made just 3-of-6 from the foul line during the Hoosiers first two games, didn’t just excel at the free throw line on Tuesday night. He also made 3-of-4 field goal attempts to give him a game-high 20 points while also leading everyone in rebounds (8) and tying for most blocks (3) with Race Thompson.

“Coach really put an emphasis on not starting the ball so far down low, but kind of putting it up. Less room for error,” said Jackson-Davis about his improved shooting, especially from the foul line. “It was really (about) concentration for me, and I did really well tonight.”

Tuesday night’s foul shooting performance wasn’t just a product of Jackson-Davis’ amazing night. Nine of the 10 Hoosiers that played made multiple free throws and all but De’Ron Davis (who was still a decent 4-of-6) missed no more than one free throw during the game.

The reason this is so noteworthy is because last season’s Indiana Hoosiers were a rather bad foul shooting team, hitting 455-of-695 (65.5%) over the course of the season. In addition, they had just as many games shooting above 70% as they did games shooting below 60% (12 for both).

That’s what made the free throw shooting display against North Alabama so impressive, as even if you remove the players who didn’t play the previous season, you are left with a combined 16-of-21 (76.2%) from Davis (4-of-6), Thompson (3-of-4), Justin Smith (3-of-4), Al Durham (3-of-3), and Rob Phinisee (3-of-4).

For comparison, last season Davis shot 41-of-71 (57.7%), Thompson shot 2-of-4 (50.0%), Smith shot 36-of-70 (51.4%), Durham shot 54-of-73 (74.0%, which was the highest on the team), and Phinisee shot 35-of-53 (66.0%).

Admittedly one game doesn’t guarantee this will be a much better foul shooting team than the 2018-2019 team (which despite a low season percentage did go 16-for-16 in a game against Maryland). However, for now the Hoosiers are shooting 76% through their first three games and have two games above 70%, having shot 22-of-30 (73.3%) against Portland State on Saturday. If the Hoosiers are to succeed this season, this will need to be a trend that continues.

Smith And Durham Show Tremendous Improvement In Win Over Western Illinois

Justin Smith scored the Indiana Hoosiers’ first points of the season a minute into their 98-65 opening night win over the Western Illinois Leathernecks by stealing the ball away from forward Ben Pyle and taking it the rest of the way for a dunk.

It was a sign of things to come as Smith stole the ball two more times in the first half and capped each one with a dunk.

“I feel like I’m at my best in transition,” said Smith after the game about his biggest strength, “so being able to create turnovers and really get out and run, use my athleticism to really benefit our team.”

Smith methodically and smoothly poured in 24 points, which tied his career-high. He was both under control and in-control the whole game, a vast improvement from his sometimes wildly inconsistent play through his first two seasons.

The Hoosiers will need players like Smith (8.2ppg last season) to step into much bigger scoring roles than they previously had after losing their top two scorers from last season in Romeo Langford (16.5ppg) and Juwan Morgan (15.5ppg).

Smith wasn’t the only one who looked ready to take a big leap in their junior season. Al Durham, coming off a knee contusion that forced him to miss Indiana’s exhibition game against Gannon, went a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor (including 3-of-3 from deep) as he finished with 21 points and posted a game-high +37 differential in 27 minutes of play.

Durham (8.3ppg) was named one of the two team captains along with Devonte Green (9.4ppg), who missed the season-opener with a hamstring injury. Both are the two highest returning scorers from last season and are expected to have huge roles both scoring and leading the team, the later of which impressed Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller after the game.

“Al (Durham) is an important part to what we do. I think he did a nice job, obviously, with our team in terms of leading them. But I think you can tell, he’s very comfortable right now in how we’re playing and he’s got to stay with it and I think that as we get some other guys around him and continue to get a little bit more experience he’ll have some help.”

Experience and building chemistry will be a huge focus for the Hoosiers moving forward with their non-conference schedule, especially for a team that saw four players play for at least 15 minutes during their IU debuts.

Highly-ranked freshmen Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin both started the game and each were major contributors as Jackson-Davis had 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks while Franklin had 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Meanwhile, after missing all of last season, Jerome Hunter finally played his first minutes for the Cream and Crimson as he had 7 points in 16 minutes. Joey Brunk, a transfer from Butler, also got the start in his Indiana debut and provided 11 points and 7 rebounds.

The Hoosiers will have a chance to build off the strong start they had Tuesday night with a relatively soft November schedule before the competition level heats up drastically starting in December with a clash against Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. But for now, it’s all about finding a groove and Indiana has started the season off on the right path.