Indiana’s last two trips to the Maui Invitational didn’t start so well.
In 2008, an undermanned IU team lost by 38 points to Notre Dame, setting the tone for a six-win season. In 2015, Wake Forest tripped IU out of the gate, ruining what the Hoosiers had hoped would be a fruitful trip to paradise.
Monday’s opener went better. Much better.
Here are Three Things on Indiana’s 79-58 lopsided victory over Providence in Asheville, N.C.
Race Thompson dominated
There were moments late last season when it felt like Race Thompson was on the verge of taking a big step forward as a college player. On Monday, he did. Forcefully. Make no mistake: Thompson was the best player on the floor, placing a sizable imprint on Indiana’s efforts on both ends of the court. Thompson posted a double-double with career highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds in his breakout performance. The redshirt junior was strong, assertive and in control from the jump, scoring 11 points — on an early 4-of-4 showing from the field — grabbing four boards and recording one assist and one block through the first 14 minutes. Not only did he do what you’d expect him to do around the rim, he flashed some mid-range skill, as well. More of that, and IU should have a truly dangerous player on its hands. Thompson got the start alongside Trayce Jackson-Davis, and the two of them joined forces to overwhelm and swat away Providence on the defensive end. This frontcourt, combined with the three-guard sets we’ve seen so far, could do some really interesting things in the months ahead.
The first half saw some of the best basketball of the Archie Miller era
Well, that was fun to watch. The first 20 minutes — well, the bulk of them, at least — produced some great ball. Indiana’s physical, aggressive, disciplined, cohesive and fluid approach to the game illustrated the upside this group holds moving forward. Offensively, IU averaged 1.17 points per possession, while yielding only 0.76 ppp on the other end during the first half, per Inside The Hall. They shared the ball, recording 10 assists on their first 14 baskets. They didn’t turn it over, committing only five errors early on. Seventeen minutes in and IU’s lead was up to 17. The strong start paved a path to a convincing victory, one that bumped IU up to No. 14 in the KenPom ratings.
The shooting was ... OK
This probably won’t be a great shooting team, and we’re still not convinced it knows what a great shot is within this offense, but Monday’s effort wasn’t bad. It was OK, and that feels like a small step in the right direction. Indiana shot 75% at the line and 35.7% percent from beyond the arc, overcoming a truly terrible start from the latter territory. IU made only two of its first 11 3-pointers of the day, and some awful shot decisions helped Providence rattle off a mini run that cut its deficit to 11 points with a minute left in the first period. The second half was much better, both because IU made all of its perimeter attempts and didn’t take too many. Al Durham sank all three of Indiana’s 3-point looks over the final 20 minutes. A 35% showing isn’t anything special, but it is a couple ticks above last year’s national average. If IU can hover around there and not fall into taking the kinds of ill-advised shots that spur prolonged offensive droughts, it would help unlock some of the things this team hopes to do on that end of the floor. Perhaps Monday was a start.
Up next: Texas, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. ET
The Longhorns (No. 9 in KenPom) are the only program in Division I that returns 100% of its scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks and minutes from the 2019-20 season. They advanced in the winner’s bracket on Monday by surviving a close one against Davidson, winning 78-76. Six Texas players scored in double figures, led by junior guard Courtney Ramey’s 14 points. Senior guard Matt Coleman posted 10 points and finished an assist shy of a double-double.