What to Expect: Indiana vs. Little Rock – Inside the Hall

Indiana’s second three-game Hoosier Classic opponent is Little Rock. The Trojans are 2-3 and beat Indiana’s Friday opponent Jackson State on Sunday.

Wednesday’s game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m ET Tip on BTN:

There will be no Thanksgiving break for Indiana basketball as the Hoosiers play three games in six days to complete their exempt multi-team event, the Hoosier Classic.

Indiana defeated Miami (OH) at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Sunday and has two games in three days at Bloomington. First up is Little Rock, which joined the Ohio Valley Conference this season.

The Trojans are ranked 325th in KenPom as of Tuesday with wins over NAIA Arkansas Baptist and Jackson State. Little Rock lost at 31 in Southern Illinois to open the season and dropped road games in Central Arkansas and East Tennessee State.

MEET THE TROJANS

Little Rock, coached by former NBA guard Darrell Walker, was picked to finish sixth in the OVC.

Walker played in the NBA from 1983 to 1993, ending his career as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He spent time as a head coach and assistant in the NBA, CBA and WNBA from 1995 to 2016 before accepting his first collegiate coaching position at DII Clark Atlanta in 2016. Walker joined Little Rock in 2018 and led the Trojans to a 21-10 record in the 2019-20 season curtailed by COVID-19.

Walker, 61, was an assistant coach for the Knicks under Mike Woodson.

The Trojans have three players that average double digits: De Antoni Gordon, Myron Gardner and DJ Smith.

Gordon (pictured) is a 6-foot-8 forward who began his career at Wichita State in the 2019-20 season. He played at JUCO Northwest Mississippi College in 2020-21 before moving to Little Rock. Last season, he suffered a season-ending injury in early December against Colorado State. In five games, he is the leading scorer for Little Rock with 13.4 points per game. Gordon shoots 51.9 percent from the field.

Gardner began his career in Georgetown and completed the junior collegiate route at South Plains College before arriving at Little Rock last season. The 6-foot-6 Detroit winger shoots 47.4 percent on 3s and is second on the team with 12.8 points per game at 12.8 points. He’s racked up an incredible 50 rebounds in five games. He also leads the Trojans in assists (18) and steals (12).

Smith, who hails from Little Rock, is Walker’s point guard. The 6-foot ground leader is third on the team with 10.8 points per game. As the team’s best, he shoots 83.3 percent from the free-throw line, but only 28.6 percent on 3-pointers and 44.4 percent from the field.

Nigel John, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, has started all five games in advance. He is second on the team with six rebounds per game and averages 8.8 points per game.

wing Isaiah Palermo, a 6-foot-6 senior, averaged 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 29.1 minutes last season. Palmermo’s consumption is down five percent so far this season and he’s only averaged 5.4 points in 22.4 minutes.

Three other names to know about on the roster are Jordan Jefferson, Chris Walker and Ethan Speaker.

Jefferson, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Marietta, Georgia, takes half of his field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point line, where he shoots 41.7 percent. Walker, a 6-foot-5 freshman, has knocked down a team high of 11 3-pointers and connects with a 40.7 percent clip. And Speaker, a 6-foot-7 freshman, didn’t play in the team’s first two games but has hit double digits in two consecutive games and is the team’s fourth-best scorer.

MATCHUP THOUGHTS

Pace is the name of the game for Little Rock. The Trojans play the 42nd fastest pace in the country.

Little Rock’s goal is to cause chaos and turn his opponents around. So far, D1 opponents have achieved 23.4 percent of possession in four games.

However, what happens when teams don’t turn it around is a big problem for Walker and his team. Little Rock has the 334th best defense in the nation according to KenPom’s adjusted Defense Efficiency metrics. In four games against the Division I competition, Little Rock is giving up a 2-point field goal percentage of 59.3.

All of Little Rock’s five previous games have been played with 71 or more possession and four of them with 75 or more possession.

If Indiana takes care of the ball, the Hoosiers should have little trouble taking care of an undersized and overwhelmed opponent.

What matters

The KenPom prediction puts Indiana at 31 with a 99.7 percent chance of winning for the Hoosiers. The Sagarin ratings like Indiana by nearly 29 once adjusted for home court.

On the various sportsbooks, Indiana is a 30.5 point favorite at FanDuel and a 28.5 point favorite at Caesars.

This looks like another easy win for Indiana, who could be heading for a top-10 finish in the Associated Press’s top-25 poll ahead of next week’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge match against North Carolina.

(Image credit: Little Rock Athletics)

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