Following only an 11-point win and a quite competitive game against Portland State on Saturday, Indiana needed a convincing win over North Alabama on Tuesday.
The Hoosiers took care of business, beating the Lions 91-65. In the process, Rob Phinisee gave another convincing performance that he is back to his normal self after recovering from injury.
Phinisee led the team with six assists and was also the second leading scorer of the night with 13 points while hitting 50 percent of his shot attempts.
“I do think hopefully he continues to build day by day and gets better and better,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said of Phinisee’s performance.
Not only did the sophomore guard turn in a solid individual performance, but he led an Indiana offense that looked the smoothest that it has all year.
Phinisee did not start this game. It was Armaan Franklin, who has started every game thus far due to Phinisee’s injury. In the second half though, Phinisee got the nod and it made all the difference.
At the half, Indiana only led by seven. In the second period, the script was flipped. Indiana started clicking offensively, outscoring the Lions 44-25. Phinisee led the charge, as his six assists accounted half of the total assists for the Hoosiers on the night.
It was an entire team effort and balanced scoring attack. Along with Phinisee, four other Hoosiers found themselves scoring in double digit scoring figures, including bench players Jerome Hunter and Damezi Anderson who had 13 and 10, respectively. Both are season highs for each player. As a team, Indiana shot 50 percent from the field and had 46 points off the bench.
“It’s not going to be the same guy every night with this group,” Miller said. “We have a lot of different types of guys that can help us and contribute in a lot of ways.”
The Indiana offense also found itself rolling in spots that have been typical areas of struggle in the Archie Miller era at Indiana. The Hoosiers got to the line plenty and converted on their opportunities from the charity stripe, shooting a season-best 82 percent on 45 attempts. Moreover, Indiana hit eight 3-point shots and was 38 percent from beyond the arc, both season highs as well.
Indiana improves to 3-0 with a 91-65 win over North Alabama.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) November 13, 2019
Much of that offensive improvement can be attributed to Phinisee and the increased ball movement with him on the floor. The sophomore recorded 22 minutes off the bench, and probably would have played more had the game not been a blowout.
The increased usage is a positive sign for his progress in his return from injury. This is the second straight game playing over 20 minutes after he logged 26 against Portland State. In the exhibition matchup against Gannon and in Western Illinois he didn’t reach 20.
Having Phinisee back to full health not only will help the offense run smoothly, as evidenced Tuesday, but it will help restore the backcourt’s depth. Devonte Green is still out for the immediate future, but a healthier Phinisee gives Miller some flexibility again.
It is likely that Phinisee will slide back into his usual starting point guard job again soon, allowing Durham to play as the off-ball guard. This should also benefit the second unit in having Franklin shift to be an impact player off the bench.
Whether or not Miller feels comfortable with putting Phinisee back to being a starter is to be seen, but the first chance for it to happen is this Saturday for Indiana’s next test when the Hoosiers host Troy.