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Three Things: Indiana beats Northern Kentucky 79-61

Is Rob back?

NCAA Basketball: Northern Kentucky at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Woodson’s 10th win as a college coach was as stress-free as one could hope for from a home game against Northern Kentucky. Nobody got hurt, Indiana won by 18, the score never got concerningly close, the offense didn’t stall, and lots of guys got to see the floor. The Hoosiers have one more game to tune things up before Big Ten play starts on January 2nd, but appeared to be in good shape against the Norse tonight in Assembly Hall. Here’s three things of note from the win:

Parker Stewart Benched

When asked about why Parker Stewart saw zero minutes in the first half, Mike Woodson said, “I’m not addressing it. I’m not addressing things that go on in my locker room.” With that answer, we’re not likely to learn anything concrete anytime soon. He played in the second half, so it doesn’t appear to have been too serious and certainly not worth speculating about. It’s very easy to do dumb things in Bloomington, Indiana and I’m sure Woodson was responding appropriately to whatever it was, basketball-related or not.

Anthony Leal got the start in Stewart’s place, which initially seemed like an interesting strategic move until it was clear that Stewart was being benched intentionally. He had a rough offensive night, hitting just one of his four shots and missing all three three-pointers he attempted. Still, he’s a bit more athletic than Stewart and has more college experience than Tamar Bates, so Leal could be an option to start games that demand more defense from the shooting guard spot.

Rob Phinisee might be back?

Speaking of backup guards, Rob Phinisee had his first double-digit scoring night since last season’s loss to Purdue to end the regular season. He had 10 points on 2-3 three-point shooting while going 4-8 from the field. He was beating guys off the dribble, grabbed three rebounds, and turned the ball over just twice in 18 minutes of play. He didn’t have any assists, but he was playing off ball a significant amount of the time alongside Tamar Bates and Xavier Johnson as part of Indiana’s second unit during the first half.

Rob had a solid game against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic as well, which hopefully means he is starting to find something of a groove here in Woodson’s schemes. Lander did finally get to play today, but saw just four minutes in a game in which every healthy scholarship player saw playing time. Still, it was interesting to see Rob in some of those first half minutes he got at shooting guard from Stewart’s benching. Like I said, he shot well from deep tonight and he has well in his career before (33.3% in 2019-20) - even in Archie’s offense - so his shooting would give Woodson another opportunity to keep one of Indiana’s best on-ball defenders on the court as much as possible.

A more complete game

Indiana performed almost exactly as Kenpom and Vegas expected them to, but more importantly, the game never seemed to be in jeopardy tonight. Indiana has struggled with consistency so far this season, even in easier games like the opening victory against Eastern Michigan, or the 90-79 victory over Marshall when they allowed the Thundering Herd within three points with under 10 minutes to play. The last game after finals and before Christmas always has scary letdown potential, so it was almost nice how boring this game was from the start.

Indiana isn’t playing perfect basketball by any means. They shot just 33.3% from deep on just 15 attempts tonight, and lost the second half when the Norse got their best shooter, Trevon Faulkner, off the bench and out of foul trouble. Still, the defense was stifling in the first half, allowing just 14 points so the lead remained comfortable throughout. Indiana got a lot of quality minutes from the bench, with eight points from Jordan Geronimo and six from Michael Durr in addition to Phinisee’s 10.

If Geronimo can start producing against higher level opponents, he and Durr could make a sneaky good second-unit frontcourt for the Hoosiers. Geronimo’s athleticism and Durr’s ability to stretch the floor a little more than Trayce with his jumper range will be tough matchups for other backups in the Big Ten.