For the first time this season, Indiana had a comfortable 12 point lead heading into halftime. This time, it was against Maryland, a team still ranked higher in Kenpom than Indiana and with a lot more to play for after early losses to Davidson and UAB.
In past seasons, and even earlier this year, the early lead has been the recipe for disaster. Even with starting point guard, Xavier Johnson, Indiana has struggled to build a lead and maintain it for the course of the game.
Without Johnson, Gabe Cupps played 24 minutes as the starting point guard. He struggled at points but again showed his promise as the floor general for Indiana. Anthony Leal logged another seven minutes, bringing a calm element to a team without its primary floor General.
It wasn’t the 3-point explosion that some fans were hoping for, but Indiana moves to 6-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference. The Hoosiers remain a work in progress, so notching an early December Big Ten win should be a real sign of optimism.
Here’s Three Things We Learned:
Three Point Volume
One of the bigger concerns coming into the season was the ability for Indiana to stretch the floor with its 3-point shooting. Smaller teams like Harvard, Wright State, and FGCU couldn’t count on points in the paint against Kel’el Ware, but tonight was the first conference matchup.
While Maryland has been one of the only 3-point shooting teams worse than Indiana this year, the concern coming in was Indiana’s ability to defend the perimeter. Tonight, the Hoosiers held the Terps to just 12.5% from deep, lower than their 22.7% average on the year.
Towards the end of the year, I would absolutely like to see this team attempt more threes. Between Ware, Malik Reneau, and Mackenzie Mgbako, Indiana has proven to have a front court that can stretch the floor better than most backcourts.
Trey Galloway had an open look that he missed to stay cold from deep, but added 12 points on layups and free throws, giving Indiana an offensive boost they’ve missed this year. His 34 minutes led all Hoosiers and, as usual, his defense more than made up for his offensive limitations.
Like it or not, Indiana is winning games on the talent of its front court. C.J. Gunn., Galloway, Johnson, and Cupps have all done their parts to steady the ship, but Indiana has gotten out to 6-1 behind their defense and willingness to play in transition.
Despite answering questions about his motor so far this season, Kel’el Ware seemed to struggle against the kind of contact he would face in the Big Ten when he saw Donovan Clingan of UConn.
Tonight, he went against one of the better bigs in the conference in Julian Reese and put up 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds alongside an assist and a block. Clearly, he is tough enough to play in the Big Ten.
Most significant for Indiana was the fact that Ware went 1-1 from 3-point range. As stated above, they could stand to see more attempts, but having a center who is a true threat from deep is a piece that the Hoosiers haven’t had in decades, if ever.
Alongside Ware, Mgbako and Reneau each hit threes to keep Maryland’s deep bench of forwards rotating on defense all night. I’m sorry, Jordan Geronimo.
It doesn’t look like last year’s offense with Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis, but Indiana has once again established itself as a threat to be among the strongest teams in the paint in the Big Ten.
Having Trey Galloway score 12 and tally six assists is probably not something Indiana fans should count on going forward. For now though, it’s good to see that the leadership we expected from the backcourt has paid off.
Tonight’s game is why the expectations for Galloway were so high coming into the season. Indiana’s ceiling is probably higher if Gunn develops into the scorer he could be, but having Galloway keep the offense steady from both guard spots allowed Indiana to control this game.
Again, 12 points and six assists probably isn’t sustainable, but it shows that the cupboard isn’t completely bare at the guard spot for Indiana this year. Cupps will settle into his shot, and Xavier Johnson will recover from his ankle injury.
By that point Galloway’s role will be to elevate Indiana to its potential.