It might not have been a Big Ten team or a high-major opponent, but Indiana showed real potential of an explosive offense against North Alabama.
The Hoosiers used the momentum from their 3-point shooting to beat North Alabama 87-52 at home Sunday afternoon.
It was Indiana’s best shooting display from 3-point range of the season, by far, finishing with 13 3-pointers on 39.4% shooting, a season-high in both total 3-point baskets and field-goal percentage. The second-best 3-point shooting effort this year was a 35% outing against Providence, when Indiana only made five 3-pointers.
“We’ve been working a lot on making each other more confident, making our passes on time, on target, and just having the confidence,” Indiana freshman Anthony Leal said of the team’s better shooting performance. “We know we’re all capable of it.”
Three-point shooting has been a consistent struggle for Indiana in the Archie Miller era, but with more performances like Sunday’s game it can raise the team’s offensive capabilities to a different level.
Unlike prior games this season, better efficiency from beyond the arc allowed Indiana’s offense to be more varied and unpredictable against North Alabama. There wasn’t an extreme reliance to only look for Trayce Jackson-Davis in the post for scoring.
Jackson-Davis still had a good game, going for 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field, but his teammates stepped up, taking pressure off of the sophomore to be at his best in order to win.
Another sophomore, Armaan Franklin, had arguably his best game of the season, chipping in a career-high 19 points to lead the team while going off from 3-point range, making five of his seven shots from deep.
“He continues to evolve a lot as a player,” Miller said. “I was really happy for him to see the ball go through the net… I think that’s going to be the Armaan that we get used to seeing.”
In addition to Franklin, freshmen Trey Galloway and Khristian Lander each finished with double-digits in scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. As a team, seven players hit a 3-point shot, with three of them hitting multiple, including Franklin, Lander and Rob Phinisee.
The far-improved consistency from downtown and the better balance of Indiana’s scoring efforts ultimately led to a far better rhythm on offense.
Going into the North Alabama game, Indiana’s offensive attack had been centered around the post due to Jackson-Davis’ dominance with 22.2 points per game and the Hoosiers’ inability to convert from three, shooting only 28.7% on the season.
On Sunday, the team scored more from 3-point range than any other spot on the court, which led to the team’s second highest scoring output of the season. The additional layer of 3-point shooting combined with Indiana’s already stellar defense makes them a lethal team.
“If we start to develop more of a rhythm, catch-and-shoot mentality, where our guys are confident and the ball is going in, we’re a tough cover,” Miller said. “Our defense is getting stops, we’ve just got to be a team in transition that’s really sharp.”
While Indiana’s shooting was great Sunday, the real question is if it can continue as conference play rolls around. Indiana does not have any more low-major opponents left on the schedule.
The Hoosiers will play Butler in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis next week and then it’s solely Big Ten competition for the rest of the season. As a team last year, Indiana shot 32.6% from deep, but in conference play that percentage dropped to a measly 24.4%.
Should Indiana improve on its 3-point shooting moving forward with real consistency, it could be a barometer to how successful the team can be in conference play and for the rest of the year.