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Indiana men’s basketball and the largest collective exhale you’ve ever seen

Recapping one of the wackiest season openers in recent memory.

NCAA Basketball: Florida Gulf Coast at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

If you made it through all forty minutes of the Indiana game, congratulations!

There were highs! That huge run late in the half!

There were lows! Whatever was going through everyone’s head as soon as Pat Chambers got his team to press with like a minute left.

That’s... probably gonna be the bulk of what these first few weeks of Hoosier men’s basketball are like. This is a pretty inexperienced team with a lot of new pieces that are going to need time to figure one another out.

The coaching staff too. This game provided A Very Substantial Amount Of Tape to go over and I’d imagine that’s gonna be on the itinerary first thing tomorrow.

The box score actually does a pretty good job of telling the story here with the finer details on tape. Florida Gulf Coast shot thirty-four (34) 3-pointers and made 13 of them. Indiana shot less shots from range.

What Indiana did shoot a great many of was free-throws, 30 to be exact. They’re gonna need to make more than the 19 they did tonight (second on the itinerary at practice tomorrow) but one game isn’t enough of a sample size to judge.

The Hoosiers ended up with 30 points in the paint and probably should’ve had more. Every drive to the rim and most moves in the post were met with a hand or arm of the Eagles immediately followed by a whistle.

Getting Indiana to the line ended up being a decent strategy given Indiana’s clip until winning time came about and Pat Chambers was low on dudes with less than four fouls.

On the defensive end, FGCU also wasn’t able to score in the paint, but that can be attributed to a lack of trying. That’s where Indiana’s length came into play. The issue is that Indiana was leaving shooters open from the arc.

It happened in both halves, possession after possession where the Eagles found a great, open shot from the arc because nobody was in the vicinity. Dudes were leaving their assignments, overhelping and FGCU, an experienced team, knew how to make them pay for it.

That’s what kept FGCU in the game and gave them the lead... until Mike Woodson called a timeout with just under ten minutes to go in the second half. Indiana was suddenly down six, having just allowed an 8-point run.

But the Hoosiers had an answer. Woodson drew up a play and inserted a lineup of Johnson, Galloway, Cupps, Reneau and Ware. Three guards, all great at ball pressure, and two bigs.

What came next was a 10-point run. The Hoosiers found a rhythm on offense and were finally locking down the perimeter on defense. It took a contested midrange jumper to end it.

Assembly Hall was on its feet for the run, loud and proud. It didn’t just effect Indiana either. The Eagles started looking meek and panicked with the ball while the bench, previously on its feet, was glued to their seats as coaches sighed in frustration.

Also, Gabe Cupps. Woah.

Cupps, as a true freshman, played 19 minutes tonight off the bench. He finished the game with 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist but the box score doesn’t show his value.

In that three-guard lineup, Cupps was fully capable of holding his own on his assignment, on or off the ball, and provided exactly what Indiana needed in that moment alongside the starters, Johnson and Galloway.

Mike Woodson said as much after the game, noting it was the first time he had the opportunity to pair him with Johnson for an extended period of time.

“He’s a winner,” Woodson said. “He’s capable of hanging in there and making basketball plays. I thought he was tremendous on both ends.”

That lineup continued to look impressive, a Looney Tunes-esque series of errors being the sole exception. That’s teachable and not a flaw they’re gonna have to drag with them throughout the season.

In his postgame press conference, Woodson attributed the lapses and need for more scoring to the trio of C.J. Gunn, Kaleb Banks and Mackenzie Mgbako.

“All three of those guys are capable of scoring too,” Woodson said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, put it that way.”

Another issue was the lack of depth in the frontcourt. Without Payton Sparks, still questionable from his injury during Indiana’s first exhibition, Reneau is Indiana’s only traditional back-to-the-basket scorer.

When Reneau starts getting called for fouls, that’s when Sparks can come in and get buckets in the post while defending the interior.

Indiana probably ended the game in the most panic-inducing way it possibly could’ve, coughing the ball up against the press on an inbounds multiple times for FGCU to find an open shooter from the arc.

... But they closed it out. Indiana’s defense held up and the Hoosiers made enough free throws to seal the win.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but not nearly enough of a sample size to make sweeping takeaways about this team. Chill out and let the staff do their thing.