BLOOMINGTON — IU basketball has been far from perfect this season, even if the record says otherwise. Wednesday’s 87-68 win over Little Rock played out in a manner that has become common for the Hoosiers: allow their opponent to find success early in the game before winning with timed shooting, improved defense and sheer talent . Here are three reasons why No. 11 IU (5-0) led the Trojans.
Malik Reneau got the start with Trayce Jackson-Davis
Trayce Jackson-Davis was ruled out before the game as a precaution. He played the first four games of the season with a wrap around his right wrist/hand. Trey Galloway (precautions/knee) and Anthony Leal (ankle) also did not play. In place of Jackson-Davis, freshman Malik Reneau got his first college start. For the second game in a row, guard CJ Gunn got minutes without garbage time as Galloway was inactive, and Logan Duncomb slipped off the bench to Reneau’s post spot in the first half.
Reneau used his opportunity to score eight of the Hoosiers’ first 12 points, finishing with 10 and six rebounds. Duncomb flashed some of the skills that made him a desirable Cincinnati recruit, seventing, rolling, posting and scoring four points in the first half.
As IU struggled in the second half, coach Mike Woodson leaned more on his remaining veterans than the younger players.
IU fought to withdraw from Little Rock
Once again, IU played down to the level of its competition for most of the night. The Hoosiers made 1 of 7 tries from 3-point range in the first half and maintained a comfortable lead but couldn’t break away from the Trojans.
Defensively, Indiana missed Jackson-Davis’ presence inside and ability to protect the rim. Little Rock scored 22 points in the paint and attempted 24 free throws, reducing the deficit to just six in the second half.
It was the second straight game the Hoosiers allowed a mid-sized opponent to hang around longer than a team of their caliber would like. On Monday, Miami (Ohio) capitalized on a tired IU team playing their second game in three days. Indiana has a day off before facing Jackson State on Friday. After that, North Carolina threatens as the schedule tightens.
It was ultimately the veterans who won the game for Indiana
In a second-half sequence, IU forward Miller Kopp knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, pinched a Little Rock 3 and Xavier Johnson drew an attack. The second three led to a 10-0 run for the Hoosiers, extending a lead that was previously in the single digits.
As the Trojans made another run, it was 3 seconds from Johnson and Jordan Geronimo who turned the momentum back in favor of IU.
Race Thompson (20 points, 8 rebounds) was a force throughout his first game of the year without Jackson-Davis, his front court mate. He consistently posted up and got into position against Little Rock’s comparatively smaller players. He also had a pair of rim-shaking dunks that ignited most of the night in a quiet gathering hall.