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Indiana Basketball Game Preview: UConn – key storylines, injury report, how to watch



Indiana basketball
Indiana basketball looking to upset defending National Champion UConn. (Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball gets back on the floor today with their first road trip of the season as the Hoosiers head to New York to play in the historic Madison Square Garden for the Empire Classic to face the No. 5 ranked team and defending National Champions, the UConn Huskies. Indiana basketball is coming off of a 89-80 win over Wright State.

The Huskies enter the contest with a 3-0 record after lopsided victories over Northern Arizona (95-52), Stonehill (107-67), and Mississippi Valley (87-53). UConn is led by sixth-year head coach Dan Hurley.

Depending on the outcome of this game, the Hoosiers will face either Texas or Louisville on Monday.

Below is the full preview of Indiana game vs No. 5 UConn.

Key Storylines

‘Buddy Ball’ is the anchor of this Indiana basketball team right now

The competition has not been up to par, that is a fact, but the front court duo of Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau is surpassing expectations thus far this season. Really, it is the anchor of this Indiana basketball team.

The duo has even adopted the tagline, ‘Buddy Ball’ as we saw over the years with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson.

“They’re playing well together,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “When you talk about going against teams that got big bodies, they’ve got to play that way. We call it buddy ball. They’re really connecting in terms of making plays for one another, high-low plays. They both are extremely good passers with the basketball. They give passes. If you’re open they’ll give you the ball. You’ve just got to do something with it when you get it.”

Trough three games, Ware is averaging 18.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks per game while his front court buddy Malik Reneau is posting 15.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assist and 1.3 blocks per game. The on floor chesty these two have built has been one of the bright spots for this Indiana basketball team that has shown major struggles in other areas thus far.

“The term buddy ball is definitely what me and Kel’el been looking at, especially on the perimeter,” Reneau said postgame. “I’m looking to get top down, not post. I’m looking for him, get some early seals, early post-ups. Get their big men in foul trouble so we can have an easier game plan there, secondary unit and stuff like that. But yeah, buddy ball is huge for us.”

While the Hoosiers needs to keep adjusting and fixing the issues they currently have, they also need to continue to utilize this duo to the best they can. ‘Buddy Ball’ will be key vs No. 5 UConn.

Defense needs to be locked and disciplined or this could get ugly

Man, this is not the defense we have seen from Mike Woodson’s Hoosiers over the past few seasons. Even though it was perviously  stated that the competition level has not been all that great these first few games, the Hoosiers’ inability to defend the right way has led to three-straight nerve-racking, close games.

The main concern, and it’s pretty obvious, is Indiana’s struggles to defend the perimeter. In total, Indiana has been outscored 111-33 in three games on 3s. The switching, over-helping, and lack of communication is what has been Indiana’s downfall when it comes to the defensive end of the floor.

“Just us switching correctly and getting next to a guy before he shoots the basketball,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “That would help.”

With the fast pace that UConn plays with, there is hardly any room for error for Indiana on Sunday. If there are constant defensive lapses on the defensive end of the Hoosiers, this game will get out of hand in a hurry.

First true test for the Indiana Hoosiers

Even though Indiana is 3-0 on the year, it’s been a major struggle for the Hoosiers. While on-paper they shouldn’t have, they’ve had to grind out each and every game.

However, in terms of actual tests of where Indiana basketball is, it doesn’t get much more high-level than facing the defending national champions.

It is going to be a challenging game for Indiana as they are trying to still establish all the new pieces that make up the Hoosiers’s roster. But this is the type of challenge that Indiana needs in order to surely know what kind of team they are right now. Are they the team that has squeaked out lower competition wins? Or are they much better than what we have seen?

One thing is for sure, Indiana just needs to compete until the final buzzer. Show some fight and improvement and see what happens.

“We’ve just got to figure out how to put a complete 40-minute game together the way I’d like to see,” said Mike Woodson.

Related: Indiana basketball had questions about its front court. With ‘buddy ball’ on full display, those questions have been answered

Series History

The Hoosiers trail the 10-game series 4-6 against the Huskies. Indiana earned a hard-fought, 57-54 victory over UConn the last time the two programs played on Dec. 10, 2019.

Indiana basketball held UConn to 6-of-21 (28.6%) shooting from the 3-point line in the win at Madison Square Garden. Then freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis led the Hoosiers with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Podcast:  Talkin’ Bout The Hoosiers Episode 10 – Recap of Indiana basketball first three games, preview the Empire Classic vs UConn

Injury Updates


Xavier Johnson: The senior lead guard left Indiana’s game vs Wright State late into the contest with a lower leg injury. He was seen with a heavy limp afterwards. His status is currently questionable.

Jakai Newton: Newton had a lower body surgical procedure done this past offseason to help fix a previous injury he sustained during high school. He is still recovering and is not expected to play awhile at this point.


Stephon Castle: As it was announced earlier this week, the five-star freshman guard is expected to miss today’s game vs Indiana basketball due to a knee injury.

More: Indiana Basketball survives another close one but rebounding struggles continue

Quick Hitters

Who?: Indiana (3-0) vs No. 5 UConn (3-0)

When?: Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023 • 1 PM ET

Where?: Madison Square Garden (19,5000) • New York, N.Y.

TV: ESPN (Karl Ravech, Jay Williams, Myron Medcalf)

Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, John Herrick)

Betting Lines: UConn is listed as a 13-point favorite

SEE ALSO: Defending 3s. Making 3s. The biggest thorn in the side of Indiana basketball shows up again despite win

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.