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Indiana men’s basketball: Hoosiers shake off the rust against UIndy

Nothing is true.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Before I say anything I really, really need you to understand one thing:

That game was not real.

Exhibitions are exhibitions. These are live reps for Indiana’s staff to test out lineups and get minutes for guys who may not see many during the regular season. They’re playing Minecraft in creative mode, it ain’t that deep.

The chief concern I, and you, should have is Payton Sparks, who went down with an injury in transition. After the game, Mike Woodson said that Sparks will be fine and he expects he’ll be back on the floor for the Marian exhibition game

And I get it! The halftime score made for a funny tweet on Twitter. Get those post off, rack up that engagement. Indiana doesn’t really care. When asked about it, Woodson said Indiana “had a nice halftime talk” and, well, 49 second half points.

“The ball was just, it wasn’t going in,” Woodson said postgame. “I told our guys ‘we were too soft.’ We’ve gotta be tougher. You gotta will the ball and put it in the bucket. Don’t hope that it goes in, you gotta put it in there and I thought in the second half we were better in that regard.”

When asked about it, Woodson said Indiana “had a nice halftime talk” and, well, the play was

Here’s the reality: a bunch of dudes who haven’t played live basketball in multiple months played live basketball for the first time in multiple months. Most of them didn’t play together last year.

Weird mistakes like errant passes, missed layups and an offense that appears disjointed are to be expected. Those are fixable issues and are the reason why this game doesn’t count. They’re the errors you make and get out of your system before Real Ball gets going.

It wasn’t just the dudes on the court figuring things out either. Nobody on the roster played more than 26 minutes on Sunday. The staff was getting guys into the game and seeing what they had, from individuals and the sum of Indiana’s parts.

There were a great many teachable moments here that I’d imagine the staff is going to spend the next few days working through in practice. Take a deep breath and let them work.

We can take a few things away from that game though.

For one, Indiana’s length. Woodson has said for months now that Indiana’s length and athleticism were a priority in the building process for this specific roster. The Hoosiers added a 7-footer and an experienced athletic wing in the portal and a high-ceiling guy as a late freshman commit.

“This team is a lot taller than last year’s and a lot longer,” Anthony Walker said postgame. “We plan to use that to the best of our ability on offense and on defense.”

That stood out today. UIndy shot 35 (!!!) 3-pointers and had just 18 points in the paint. It was obvious that the Greyhounds were forced out to the arc, any drive or pass down low would’ve been met with a Hoosier.

There just weren’t many gaps in the defense. When the Hounds got the ball down low Kel’el Ware was typically lurking for a block.

On top of that, the Hounds made just 8 of those 35 attempts. Most were well contested and/or heaved up late in the shotclock as the Hoosiers forced them into desperation mode.

Defense is an emphasis for the program and the team looked like that today. New pieces like the aforementioned Ware, Mgbako and Walker need to learn Woodson’s system and I’d imagine that’s been the focus in practice with the offense coming along.

On the ball, Indiana’s duo of Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway was tenacious as ever. Both forced some bad decisions out of UIndy’s Jesse Bingham and Josiah Tynes, who finished the game with ten combined assists and as many turnovers. Gabe Cupps stepped up in the second unit as well, singlehandedly forcing a 10-second violation with relentless pressure that brought the Assembly Hall crowd to its feet.

If there’s a lapse on the ball, Indiana has the length behind it to close up gaps and protect the rim.

The offense left a bit to be desired, particularly in the first half, but it’s worth noting that UIndy was playing some incredible physical defense and Indiana took some time to get used to it.

Just ten attempts from the arc is a number Indiana will probably need to improve on. Just five Hoosiers shot a 3-pointer today, with three going down between Johnson, Mgbako and Ware.

Indiana’s offense took some time to get going last year with a group that’d been playing together for a few years. It’s gonna take longer with this current unit and always was.

Give them some time, like you did last year, and then pass some judgement.