It was their first taste of an atmosphere unlike anything they had played in before — a packed Assembly Hall filled with fans eager to see how IU's highly touted freshman class would perform.
They never looked like the moment was too big for them, playing healthy minutes and contributing to a 78-42 victory over Marian in the first of two exhibitions.
Two freshmen got the starting nod on Saturday — Malik Reneau at forward and Jalen Hood-Schifino at guard. CJ Gunn and Kaleb Banks would follow them off the bench.
While the regular season will look and feel much different, there's already a path being paved to see the freshmen play big minutes in key games. Postgame, head coach Mike Woodson confirmed that what he's seen from the freshmen has been encouraging and is part of why this year's group has so much potential.
"They're so in tune in what we're doing and that's valuable," Woodson said. "In terms of building a winning team, everybody's got to be on board."
It took one half to see how seamlessly the young players would fit into Woodson's system.
Reneau is a gifted back-to-the-basket scorer and seeing a lefty go to work in the post is something IU fans have loved for the past three years. In his first year, Reneau already brings the poise of a gifted scorer around the basket along with a relentless pursuit of the backboards.
IU forward Jordan Geronimo talked about what makes Reneau impressive for a player his age.
"Malik is a big man with great touch and he can kind of do everything," Geronimo said.
After seeing a few left-handed jump hooks fall in the lane, it was clear that Reneau has benefited from going up against an All-American in Trayce Jackson-Davis. Not only can you benefit from defending against a player of his caliber, but you can't help but mimic his offensive tendencies to try and enhance your own. Being defended by Marian's smaller frontcourt certainly helped him build confidence but at first glance, these freshmen already have plenty of it.
Reneau finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting from the field along with a highlight block for good measure.
Jalen Hood-Schifino was equally stellar, ending with 11 points, three rebounds and four assists on 5-for-8 shooting.
Hoosier fans are going to love this kid, plain and simple. He is as smooth as they come and is confident in his ability to make any shot or pass at any point in the game.
His ability to rise and elevate over defenders was on full display as well. On his first bucket he took contact from a Marian defender, hung in the air for what seemed like forever and still managed to finish.
Hood-Schifino's jumpshot is also one of the prettiest on the team. Playing on the court with fellow guard Xavier Johnson means that one of them will have to play more off-ball. Hood-Schifino has already shown after knocking down a few jumpers in his debut that it won't be a problem if he finds himself in that role.
Gunn seemed to have no problem with the role he was asked to play on Saturday. The freshman sharp-shooter hit on two of his three attempts from deep and even looked comfortable handling the ball as a facilitator on the perimeter.
Banks didn't score in his time on the floor, going 0-for-3, but his size on the perimeter makes him an intriguing piece on both ends of the floor. His time to play more and contribute could come in IU's next exhibition against Saint Francis on Thursday.
Overall, it might be just one game against an inferior opponent but the signs of production are there for this talented freshman class. Their contributions will help Indiana field the deepest and most dangerous team in the Big Ten.