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A ‘special’ Jalen Hood-Schifino is x-factor for Indiana in NCAA Tournament



Mar 11, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Jalen Hood-Schifino (1) brings the ball up court against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at United Center. (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Indiana basketball program gets its NCAA Tournament started on Friday night against an upset-minded Kent State program. For the Hoosiers, a key to their opening matchup and beyond is a consistent Jalen Hood-Schifino.

The Indiana freshman point guard has been better than advertised this season and is part of one of the most talented duo’s in the country with Trayce Jackson-Davis.

On the season he is averaging 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

But, it’s been since senior Xavier Johnson went down with a broken foot on Dec. 17 that he’s flashed his NBA potential. In 22 games since the injury, Hood-Schifino has averaged 15.1 points and shot 44.1 percent from the floor and 35.1 percent from three.

“It’s something I saw in high school, and high school is not college,” IU head coach Mike Woodson said last week. “Once he got here (to Indiana), you could see how he approached things on and off the floor, his demeanor. It’s been a nice carryover from high school to college.”

While he has been one of the keys for Indiana this season, it’s now time for his consistency to ramp up.

In his last month of the season, it has been an efficient game followed by a difficult shooting night. That has caused Indiana to end the season 4-4 in the last eight games.

At home against Purdue, Hood-Schifino had 16 points points on 8-of-15 from the floor. The next game out, he was just 2-of-9. He was 8-of-15 in the following game, followed by two games going a combined 11-of-33.

After his 14-of-24 performance for 35 points against Purdue, he went 4-of-14. Following another 8-of-15 outing against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament, he was just 4-of-13 the night after.

He’s shot above 45 percent from the field six times in the last 11 games. On the flip side, four games have been below 30 percent.

“He’s still growing. He has still a ways to go, but the fact that nobody says anything — us losing Xavier Johnson was huge, and it just threw him right to the wolves basically,” Woodson said. “He had to grow up awfully fast. And in doing that, he’s been great for us, man. He’s done a lot of great things for us to put us in this position.”

Just how important is an efficient Hood-Schifino for Indiana? The Hoosiers are 14-3 this year when he shoots 40 percent or better from the field. They are just 7-6 when he is below 40 percent from the field.

With little consistency from the surrounding pieces, the success of Indiana in postseason play will come from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino. But the numbers are telling, Hood-Schifino needs to be efficient for Indiana to advance.

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