The Indiana Hoosiers hosted the Morehead State Eagles Monday night to open their regular season. The crowd inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall was lively all night long as they watched the Hoosiers defeat the Eagles 88-53 and improve to 1-0 on the year.
Fourteen different Hoosiers saw the floor for Indiana, who were led by preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and freshman Malik Reneau who had 15 points apiece. Jackson-Davis also paced the Hoosiers on the glass, finishing with seven rebounds.
Mark Freeman led the Eagles in scoring with 14 points, all of which came in the first half. He did not play in the second half due to an undisclosed injury.
The Hoosiers were able to dominate in large part due to their suffocating and disruptive defense. Indiana’s defense, which finished third in the Big Ten last year giving up just 66.2 points per game, gave up 53 points and forced Morehead State into 21 turnovers.
“I think that's where our team starts with, is defense, and if we can get settled in on defense, everything else takes care of itself,” redshirt senior Race Thompson said.
Early on in the first half, the Hoosiers looked confused defensively, just as they did at some points during their final exhibition game against St. Francis. Under head coach Mike Woodson, the Hoosiers are switching frequently on the perimeter. With such a young team, some lapses are to be expected on the defensive end of the floor.
Woodson noted that “we got burnt a couple of times” on closeouts in the first half.
When the Hoosiers did get burnt, they were quick to help off of 3-point shooters in order to stop the ball. That led to the Eagles taking 30 shots from behind the arc. They only knocked down nine of those 30 3-point attempts, as the Hoosiers were able to rotate and close-out on the shooters effectively, using their length and athleticism.
The Hoosiers gave up 39 first-half points, despite a five-minute scoring drought for the Eagles about midway through the half. Indiana forced seven turnovers during that scoring drought.
“I thought the second half we turned it up from a defensive standpoint, did what we had to do to secure the win,” Woodson said
In the second half, the Hoosier defense held Morehead State to just 24 points. Through the first nine minutes of the second half, Morehead State only managed 10 points. The Eagles shot 33 percent from the floor and hit just three of their 11 3-point attempts after the halftime break.
“We really looked at some film, saw what we could improve on, and really focused on guarding the 3-point line,” Thompson said of adjustments the Hoosiers made during the intermission.
The Hoosiers are going to have to be careful giving up as many 3s as they did Monday night, as the season moves forward.
“I say defensively we did a solid job… for the most part, I thought our switching was on par,” Woodson said postgame.
The Hoosiers turned their solid defense into points on the other end. They turned the Eagles’ 21 turnovers into 29 points and showed off their athleticism on the break with multiple above-the-rim finishes in transition.
At one point in the second half, Miller Kopp hit two 3-pointers following blocks by Jackson-Davis and Reneau respectively. Kopp ended the game with eight points, hitting both of his attempts from deep.
The Hoosiers are back in action on Thursday, when they host the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. Tip-off for that one is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.