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What to Watch For: Indiana still looking for defensive improvement against Troy

Three games into the season, Indiana has three wins under its belt. Albeit, all of the Hoosiers’ wins have been against low-major conference teams and games they were expected to win.

On Saturday night, Indiana will have a similar test with visiting Troy next up on the schedule. The Trojans are winless, losing two close contests at home to UAB and Chattanooga. A season ago, Troy went 12-18 and did not qualify for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Jerome Hunter had a career-high 12 points vs North Alabama. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Should Indiana win the game, this will be its first time starting the season 4-0 since the 2014-2015 season.

Let’s delve into the matchup between the Hoosiers and Trojans a little closer with three things to watch for in the game.

Will Indiana’s defense shape up?

To go along with the lack of recent success for Troy, another positive for Indiana is that Troy is a lower-scoring team, which should help out an Indiana defense that has had its fair share of struggles early in the season. Troy is averaging 71.5 points per contest while Indiana defensively is allowing opponents to score an average just slightly under that at 68 points per game.

“Without question, that’s the one thing that I can’t stress enough that is not ready to play big time college basketball is our defense,” Archie Miller said.

While that works favorably for the Hoosiers, their biggest defensive struggle, the perimeter defense is something Troy could exploit. As a team, the Hoosiers have allowed opponents to shoot slightly above 40 percent from deep this season. Troy has found much of its offensive success from the 3-point line, shooting 40.7 percent from long range.

The sample size is very small, but Troy has five players shooting above 40 percent from the 3-point line and in two games, the team has put up 54 3-point attempts. So, even if the Trojans’ field goal success is skewed, they are likely to still challenge Indiana and shoot plenty from long range.

For reference, Indiana has only attempted 46 3-point shots in three games.

Does Rob Phinisee slide back into the starting lineup?

Coming into the season marred with injury and having to sit out for almost all of October, Rob Phinisee was limited to start the year.

After a few games, he looks more comfortable and like his usual self. He was the second leading scorer (13) and had the second most minutes (22) recorded for the Hoosiers in the win over North Alabama. He also played 26 minutes against Portland State.

With Phinisee showing he is healthy enough to carry more of the load than he was in the beginning of the season, it is possible that he retakes his usual spot as the team’s starting point guard. Freshman Armaan Franklin has been starting in Phinisee’s absence for the time being but has seen his minutes played slightly decrease in every game thus far.

Additionally, with Phinisee being the team’s best on-ball defender it would make sense to see Phinisee starting to help address the team’s struggles with perimeter defense.

Ultimately, health will determine Phinisee’s starting status. It should be noted that head coach Archie Miller does not think Phinisee is back to full health yet.

“He’s starting to practice full go now,” Miller said after the North Alabama win. “He doesn’t really have a ton of restrictions, and we’ll see. Do I think he’s 100 percent? No.”

Will Jerome Hunter continue his rhythm?

In every game, redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter has looked increasingly more comfortable. Against North Alabama, Hunter truly looked comfortable.

The 6-foot-7 forward notched a career high 12 points while stepping up and hitting some big and timely shots for the Hoosiers. He hit his first three shots and showed ability to put the ball in the hoop both from deep and inside.

Hunter has always been noted to be an excellent shooter from long range throughout his career, but it has not developed as a threat yet for Indiana, shooting 3-for-9 from deep thus far. The shot is making legitimate progress though, as Hunter knocked down two from deep against Portland State and had one against North Alabama with two that were just barely in-and-out.

As Hunter’s comfort as well as his volume of shots and minutes increase, he could very well emerge as the much needed 3-point threat coaches expected him to be. At this point, it just seems to be a matter of time.

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