Indiana’s luck without Jalen Hood-Schifino ran out as the Hoosiers struggled to generate consistent offense in his absence tonight. Indiana showed some fight down the stretch, but ultimately couldn’t get over the hump to tie it or take a second half lead.
The game was closer than the 14 points suggest, but between the officiating and injury trouble, the Hoosiers were outmatched tonight in Vegas. The Wildcats dominated in the paint and in transition, two areas that Indiana is used to having an advantage in.
Luckily, Mike Woodson and company have a full seven days off to get healthy and game plan for their matchup with the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks. Like tonight’s game, it’s another chance to notch a notable win before the Big Ten season and measure up against the kind of team that the Hoosiers are hoping to see in March.
Here’s Three Things:
Tonight’s game should serve to answer any lingering questions about how much Jalen Hood-Schifino means to this team as a freshman point guard. Not only was Indiana without his 8.7 points per game, but the lack of offensive flow really kept the Hoosiers from closing the gap when Arizona seemed most vulnerable.
Tamar Bates added 13 from the bench, while Trey Galloway finished with four points and three assists in his starting role tonight. Xavier Johnson also had 11 points and just two turnovers versus 11 assists despite being in foul trouble early.
I don’t really know that you can ask for a lot more from these guys and it sort of felt like this might be the offensive ceiling for Indiana without Hood-Schifino. I would have liked to see Galloway take a 3-pointer of two, but I also can’t fault the Hoosiers for riding with the hot hands from deep tonight.
Hood-Schifino’s absence was felt most acutely in the points off turnovers category, which favored Arizona 16-2 at halftime after eight costly Hoosier turnovers. This 14 point deficit was the difference tonight and proved to be too much for Indiana to overcome even with just two second-half turnovers.
Mike Woodson doesn’t need Hood-Schifino to lead the team in scoring, but it’s clear that the offense takes a hit when he can’t play. Especially when the officiating keeps the healthy guards off the floor.
Entering tonight, Race had hit three 3-pointers on 18 attempts throughout the season and had yet to more than four attempts from deep in a game. Tonight, he went four of seven from 3-point range to lead the Hoosiers in scoring with 16 points.
Thompson and Miller Kopp combined to go 8-15 from deep, propelling Indiana to a 40% 3-point shooting night as the only Hoosiers with multiple made 3s. Unlike Kopp, Thompson was dared to shoot tonight and finally shot with a confidence that we hadn’t seen yet this year.
Unfortunately for Indiana, he and Trayce Jackson-Davis struggled to get anything going inside tonight. Trayce matched his season low for scoring tonight with 11 points, while Race only hit two of his seven 2-point attempts on the night.
Aside from his 3-point shooting, Thompson shined on the glass, grabbing nine rebounds despite being the shortest post player on either team. His four offensive rebounds accounted for one third of Indiana’s total offensive rebounds and he was the only Hoosier with more than one offensive board.
This was Thompson’s best game of the season outside of his performance against an overmatched Jackson-State team in Assembly Hall, when he scored 20 points and attempted just one 3-pointer (a miss). His range and and tenacity give Indiana a much-needed boost inside as Malik Reneau finds his footing in college basketball.
Still, no reason to panic
There were points in tonight’s game that were genuinely fun, like when Indiana cut the lead to three with a little over 12 minutes left in the second half. The referees decided at that point to intervene and missed a crucial goaltending call that turned into a six point swing in Arizona’s favor.
Indiana fought back from what should have been a blowout multiple times and sustained a few Wildcats runs before the game got away at the end. The score doesn’t necessarily reflect it, but Indiana played a decently tough game.
It’s worth noting that Arizona is a legitimately good team too, by far the best team Indiana has played yet this season. Indiana won’t face a front court as tall and talented as Arizona’s 7’0” Omar Ballo and 6’11” Azuoulos Tubelis again, who combined for 35 points tonight.
If Indiana learned something about its ceiling without Jalen Hood-Schifino, it also learned something about the floor for this season, which is much higher than it’s been in years past. The same Nebraska team that Indiana handled in Assembly Hall this week took Purdue to overtime today in Lincoln.
The win would have been nice, but the loss shouldn’t hurt Indiana’s tournament resume so long as it avoids upsets at home in conference play. Part of becoming nationally relevant is playing in non-conference games like this, so Hoosier fans should get used to these high-profile, high-intensity December games.