Indiana followed up a huge home win against North Carolina with a simple, no-frills butt-kicking of SIU-Edwardsville, by a score of 83-60. Let’s get to the Three Things.
Effort, effort, effort
After a big win you might worry about a letdown, and when IU started out 0-for-7 from the field, I have to admit that I started having flashbacks to Fort Wayne for a moment or two. But the Hoosiers only gave up 4 points during that stretch, and after Zach McRoberts hit a three and James Blackmon, Jr. hit a couple of free throws that lead was history, and IU quickly jumped out front after that.
The difference between A Letdown Game and what happened tonight (i.e., a game where Tim Priller’s in with nine minutes left) was effort. There was a first half stretch where Curtis Jones blocked a shot on defense leading to a fast break, and Josh Newkirk slipped receiving the pass. But he still kept the ball alive from his back, tossing it back in, and after JBJ missed a three, De’Ron Davis fought for a rebound and then the layup. None of it was really spectacular basketball, but they were fighting about as hard to beat a team I’ve never heard of as they did against North Carolina. That’s good.
I have to give them credit, SIU-Edwardsville played really well in the defensive paint. Keenan Simmons had a bunch of blocks, and Thomas Bryant early had to work a lot harder than I expected he would. De’Ron Davis took a block too, and the interior defense was a big reason for the aforementioned 0-for-7 start for IU.
But it went both ways. De’Ron Davis had safely the best game of his burgeoning college career, with 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Bryant was Bryant, scoring 11 with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Juwan Morgan had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Indiana also played for a while with all of the top three (uninjured) big men on the court together, which was an interesting look I’m not sure I’ve seen so far this year. While OG Anunoby’s out, we may see more of it.
After a protracted battle with UNC we needed an easy game, and we got it. It was particularly helpful after OG’s injury; going straight into a game against a P5 team (or even a good mid-major) while figuring out how this team would play without him would have been hell. Instead IU was able to work on stuff and give bench and new guys loads of playing time. Juwan Morgan had a major role, De’Ron Davis and CuJo got a lot of minutes. Zach McRoberts and Devonte Green got some run, and even Grant Gelon and Freddie McSwain, Jr. and Tim “Read Mike Miller” Priller played. All of this will help as the season progresses.