Indiana vs. Howard: 5 takeaways from the Hoosiers’ win

Indiana guards Josh Newkirk (2) and Devonte Green (11) go for the ball with Howard forward Marcus Hall (5) during a game in Bloomington Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University men's basketball coach Archie Miller looks on during a game against Howard in Bloomington Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University sophomore center De'Ron Davis (20) defends the shot of Howard forward Charles Williams (13) during a game in Bloomington Sunday. (By The Associated Press)

There was little chance that Indiana’s second men’s basketball game this season was going to turn out as poorly as its first, and it didn’t.

The Hoosiers (1-1) bounced back from a blowout loss to Indiana State Friday at Assembly Hall to methodically get by Howard 86-77 Sunday in front of 17,222 fans in Bloomington.

“All in all,” first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller said in a postgame press conference, “it was a good basketball game for us to win. Anytime you have an experience like we had on Friday night, that was really tough to take, you question your confidence. You start to question your togetherness. You start to question some things.”

Here are five things to takeaway from the Hoosiers’ first victory.

FRESHMEN PHENOMS

Miller has stated that every Indiana player is sort of starting from the same point in terms of learning the expectations of the new coaching staff, as well as the new offensive and defensive systems, and the play of freshman guard Al Durham and freshman forward Justin Smith showed that they are adapting somewhat seamlessly.

Smith played more than expected after junior forward Juwaun Morgan went down with an ankle injury and the 6-foot-7 newcomer finished with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes.

“Being the game was in a zone,” Miller said of the Howard defense, “it gave Justin some spots where he could catch the ball, kind of in tight areas, and show his athleticism.”

Miller has praised the 6-foot-4 Durham all preseason, despite his limited play due to his own injury. However, he was on the floor for 30 minutes Sunday and totaled 16 points to go with three rebounds and three assists.

“Al has really been productive in terms of assist-to-turnover, quality shots, and defensively, he’s hung tough,” Miller said. “We’re getting a feel for him and he hasn’t even practiced half of the practices compared to everybody else. We’ve been excited about him, he’s just been out.”

SHOT!

A year ago, the Indiana fan base wasn’t pleased with the defensive effort of the Hoosiers, as they struggled to an 18-16 record. Specifically, in guarding opposing shooters, the Hoosier opponents made fewer than seven 3-point shots each game on average. However, two games into this year, Indiana is getting torched from long range.

Indiana State made 17 3-pointers, while Howard made another 13.

“We’re not defending the three,” Miller said. “It’s part of just being good at your system and doing what you’re doing. Whether it is scouting or attention to detail on certain guys, I think we’ve given up 30 made (3-pointers), which is astonishing.”

Howard took nearly half of its shots (34 of 70) from 3-point range and made more in the second half (eight) than the first.

“Right now,” Miller said, “we have to work really, really hard defensively to kind of start to look at how we can eliminate the 3-point line a little bit better. Because if you give up three’s at the rate we’re giving them up, it’s not a good thing.”

VETERANS (NOT THEIR) DAY

Morgan went out with a sprained ankle after just five minutes of playing time, which opened the door for Smith, and Miller said it is unknown whether the 6-foot-7 junior will be available Wednesday at Seton Hall.

“As far as I know,” Miller said, “he’s out until further (notice). They tried to re-tape him and he said he couldn’t play. We’ll play it by ear.”

Indiana is already down a forward after graduate student Collin Hartman injured his groin in Thursday’s practice. Miller said Friday following the Indiana State game that Hartman isn’t expected back anytime soon.

“Over the next three days,” Miller said, “I think we’ll take some time to learn, see if we can get recovered physically a little bit, especially if we’re going to be down two frontcourt players going to Seton Hall, and make sure that we’re ready to go.”

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BIG PRESENCE

One frontcourt player that definitely was not hidden in his impact was sophomore De’Ron Davis.

Miller had said in the preseason that he wanted to be able to get the 6-foot-10 center in “game shape” to the point that he could play 25 minutes at a pace that the coach expected of him. Well, Davis played 29 minutes Sunday and he was very effective and efficient.

The Hoosier big man totaled 17 points, six boards and three blocks and only missed two of his shots.

“Sometimes against the zone you forget about the post,” Miller said, “and De’Ron has an advantage there size-wise. I thought we did a good job finding him in the seams and hitting him with some good passes.”

The glaring negative in Davis’ game Sunday wasn’t his activity, he got to the free throw line 10 times, but he made just three of those unguarded shots.

“He’s a better free-throw shooter than that,” Miller said. “You add that in, and he had a terrific game in terms of efficiency. I mean, he did his job.”

GO WITH THE FLOW

Ironically, both Durham and Smith said that the Hoosier offense was to improve in Sunday’s game based on what the players were doing defensively.

Against Indiana State, Miller said that his team’s offensive play “crushed us,” but Indiana shot 54 percent from the floor Sunday and amazingly had 25 assists on 33 made baskets.

“We just talked a lot about how we had to come back and have an aggressive mindset on defense,” Durham said of the game strategy. “Basically, letting the defensive side flow into the offensive side and letting defense take care of the game for us.”

Fifth-year guard Josh Newkirk led Indiana with seven assists; while Durham joined Davis and sophomore guard Devonte Green with three assists apiece.

The fact that Durham was active in that regard didn’t surprise Miller.

“For the most part,” Miller said of Durham, “he’s made more plays for others in coming days. He hasn’t just been a shot maker. He’s been able to get guys with an extra pass or get a bucket.”

Turnovers have been a plague for the Hoosiers, particularly last season. Against Indiana State, Indiana passed out just 12 assists while turning the ball over 19 times.

But in Sunday’s win, the Hoosiers committed just 12 turnovers.

“We spent our time trying to get our offense organized because I thought our offense crushed us on Friday,” Miller said of Saturday’s emphasis. “The inability to run good offense hurt us a lot.”

“We spent our time offensively working against some of the things (Howard) was trying to do. If we could be more efficient, not turn it over and get off to a better start that would help. So we did that.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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