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Indiana Basketball: Five takeaways from IU’s exhibition win vs Indianapolis



Indiana's Malik Reneau (5) shoots past University of Indianaplis' Julian Steinfeld (21) during the Indiana versus University of Indianapolis men's basketball game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. © Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana basketball hosted the University of Indianapolis in the team’s first exhibition ahead of the 2023-24 season on Sunday.

Indiana won the exhibition 74-52 despite a slow start where the Hoosiers found themselves trailing at halftime.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s exhibition.

No three ball

A lot has been made about the three-point shooting ability of this Indiana basketball team and on Sunday, the three-point shot was not a part of the Indiana offense.

Indiana did not make a single shot from beyond the arc in the first half. They only attempted ten the entire game, and most of those attempts came in the final minutes of the game. Indiana finished with three made three-pointers in the exhibition.

Trey Galloway, who shot 46.3% from three a season ago, did not attempt a single three in this game. Freshman, Mackenzie Mgbako was the only Hoosier to attempt more than two threes going 1/3 from beyond the arc.

More than half of Indiana’s shots came at the rim, with guys passing up the threes to attack the rim.

“I don’t put a lot of emphasis on it. If we’ve got them, you’ve got to take them,” Mike Woodson said about the team’s lack of attempts. “I’m not telling guys to pass up the 3-point shot.”

7-foot center Kel’el Ware did show he can space the floor, making his only three-point attempt of the game. Ware was frequently on the perimeter in the half-court offense, while Malik Reneau played inside.

Sophomore guard, CJ Gunn has been labeled as a shooter but did not make a three in his two attempts. Gunn, like so many others, attacked the rim on his touches and hunted the mid-range as opposed to the long ball.

Indiana will need to shoot the long ball this season to reach their full potential. Prior to the season, there were a lot of concerns about who could shoot the ball, and Sunday did little to settle those worries.

The length is gonna cause problems for opposing offenses

Indiana’s defense played a big role in the team’s turn around in the second half. They had six blocks and 10 steals on Sunday.

A big reason was the length of Woodson’s ball club. The Hoosiers boast a very tall and long starting five, with 6-foot-3 Xavier Johnson being the shortest of the five.

6-foot-5 Trey Galloway, 6-foot-8 Mackenzie Mgbako, 6-foot-9 Malik Reneau and 7-footer Kel’el Ware make up the rest of Indiana’s big starting five. 6-foot-10 Payton Sparks, 6-foot-6 CJ Gunn and 6-foot-8 Anthony Walker give Mike Woodson even more size off the bench.

That is not including 6-foot-8 Kaleb Banks who missed Sunday’s game with an injury. Woodson clearly made a conscious effort to build a roster with plenty of defensive versatility and he has done that.

“For sure. That’s something Woody stated at the beginning of the year when he assembled this team, put the team together,” Anthony Walker said about their length. “This team is a lot taller than last year and a lot longer. We plan to use it to the best of our ability on offense and defense.”

That size helped make it difficult for Indianapolis to score on Sunday. They shot 32.2% from the field and had 18 turnovers and were able to capitalize, scoring 20 points off turnovers.

The abundance of size should help the Hoosiers , especially in Big Ten play. The size of Indiana is perfect for the physical style of Big Ten basketball and gives Woodson plenty of versatility to use throughout the grueling Big Ten season.

Kel’el Ware’s rim protection will anchor this defense

When Trayce Jackson-Davis left for the NBA, a lot was made on the lost scoring but his rim protection was a big part of what made him so successful.

Since Woodson became the head coach, Indiana has relied on Jackson-Davis’ rim protection and Indiana needed to find a replacement to anchor the defense. Woodson went out and got one of the top centers in the transfer portal in Kel’el Ware.

If Sunday was any indication, Ware might be the answer to Indiana’s rim protection questions. When he transferred from Oregon, it was expected that he would fill the role, given that he is a 7-foot center with great length.

In his first game as a Hoosier, Ware had 2 blocks in 24 minutes of action.

Ware served as the anchor of the defense and used his length and timing to step up as the help defender on a number of plays to contest and affect shots at or around the rim.

The Hoosiers are going to rely on Ware to be a disruptor on the backend of the defense and his performance Sunday should give fans some excitement about the shot blocking of this team.

Related: Indiana basketball starts slow, uses strong second half to cruise to exhibition win over Indianapolis

Xavier Johnson looks like the old ‘X’

After a broken foot ended his 2022-23 season, I was curious to see how Johnson looked in his first competitive game since the injury.

While Johnson did not play his best game, one thing was clear. He still has the explosiveness that has made him such a special player in the college game.

Johnson showed off his burst when beating his man off the dribble for a layup in the second half. He applied heavy pressure on ball handlers as soon as they crossed half court, forcing a couple of turnovers in the process.

Johnson finished Sunday with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in 23 minutes of action. He had a couple of turnovers in the first half as he was shaking off some of the rust.

Johnson went 3/3 from the field in the second half after shooting 0/3 in the first half.

Johnson is still building chemistry with his new teammates, but there were flashes of what’s to come in the pick-and-roll game with him and center Kel’el Ware. In the second half, Johnson hit Ware on a hard role who finished through contact for the and-one.

Indiana is going to need the duo and specifically Johnson to be leaders if they are going to reach their ceiling.

This team wants to run in transition

After Sunday’s exhibition and Mike Woodson’s press conference, one thing is very clear. This team wants to run in transition.

“That’s a big emphasis in getting the ball out,” Woodson said on playing fast. “And the way we try to play is [Xavier] is not always the guy that’s got to lead the break.”

Indiana scored 28 of their 74 points in transition Sunday, and their length will likely help them create plenty of opportunities to get out and run. Indiana forced 18 Indianapolis turnovers, which helped them get out and score on the break.

“I just don’t want to live in a half-court game this season,” Woodson said about the team’s transition offense. “And I think we’ve got enough talent out there that guys can make plays. We only had 10 turnovers tonight. So I was pleased in that category as well.”

Woodson wants a balanced attack and trusts a lot of his guys to push the ball off of a miss or turnover.

“That’s why we work on ball handling every day. Our bigs can push it,” Woodson said about the transition offense. “But whoever is pushing it, we have to get ahead of the ball and then make the passes up the floor and create offense that way.”

Many of the highlights of Sunday’s game came in transition and with Indiana struggling to score in the half court, the expectation is that they will prioritize their transition offense.

SEE ALSO: Indiana Basketball: Five questions the Hoosiers answered this offseason

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.