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Indiana Basketball: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the Hoosiers win against Army



Indiana Basketball
Indiana Head Coach Mike Woodson and the coaching staff wear red sweaters during the first half of the Indiana versus Army game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday, Nov. 12. 2023. © Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana basketball narrowly avoided an upset against Army on Sunday night, winning 72-64. The Hoosiers grappled with Army in a back and forth game that saw them tied at 58 with 3:20 left in the game.

Indiana struggled for the majority of the game before pulling away in the final minutes. Some recurring issues have continued to plague the Hoosiers as they move closer to some of the tougher games on the schedule.

Below is the good, the bad and the ugly from the win against Army.

The Good

Xavier Johnson kept Indiana basketball afloat during an ugly first half, scoring 15 points and adding 3 assists. No one else on the team had more than 4 points for the Hoosiers at the half.

Johnson finished with 19 points and 5 assists and set the tone with his energy, pressuring Army ball handlers as soon as they crossed half court. Johnson’s return has been a big boost for Indiana basketball in his sixth year of college basketball.

Another positive for Indiana basketball was the play of Kel’el Ware, who led the team in scoring with a career-high 20 points.Ware shot 9 for 11 from the field, added 6 rebounds and had a block and a steal on the defensive end.

His play on both ends has been very promising for the Hoosiers, using his length to contest and block shots at the rim while being effective as both a roller and popper in the pick-and-roll game.

Ware has also proven to be a reliable lob finisher, catching a number of alley oops, including a couple on Sunday against Army.

Another positive for Indiana was free throw shooting. After missing 11 free throws in the season opener, The Hoosiers made 18/22 in the win against Army. Xavier Johnson, who shot 9/9 from the line, and Malik Reneau (6/7) led the team in attempts Sunday.

In four games, Indiana has had two poor games from the free throw line and two good games from the line. Free throw shooting will play a big part in winning games and the team needs to show more consistency from the free throw line moving forward.

The Bad

Indiana struggled to share the basketball and Mike Woodson emphasized that after the game.

“We have to move [the ball]. We have to trust each other. We catch the ball, and the first thing we think about is putting the ball down on the floor, making a play for myself,” Woodson said postgame. “This is a team game, a team sport. So we have to trust each other, and that’s my job, so get them to trust.”

Indiana had 16 assists in comparison to 18 turnovers Sunday. If Indiana is unable to take care of the basketball against Army, it is a bad omen with tougher opponents like UConn, Kansas and Auburn on the schedule.

Mike Woodson has emphasized he wants this team to score in transition and they have not been able to do that. Indiana only scored 4 fast break points against Army.

“The game is like this: If you get stops and you rebound the ball, you have an opportunity to get out and fast break and make plays,” Woodson said about the offense. “If you get in passing lanes and you get easy steals where you can generate offense that way, it’s a quick way to get out and play faster.”

Woodson emphasized that the fast break offense starts on defense and until the Hoosiers can lock in on that end, the transition opportunities won’t come.

A major question about this team has been the ability to shoot it from beyond the arc. Through two games, that part of the offense has not shown up as Indiana does not seem interested in shooting the three.

Indiana has taken 24 attempts from three in their two games, while their opponents have taken a combined 72. It is no surprise their opponents have made 18 more threes in the first two games of the year.

In both of their games, Indiana has been outscored by 27 points from three. It is hard to overcome that kind of deficit all the time.

Indiana has not shot a bad percentage when shooting from deep, making 8 of their 24 attempts, but the focus has clearly been to attack the basket.

The Ugly

Indiana is hurting themselves with their carelessness of the basketball. The Hoosiers were extremely sloppy against Army, turning the ball over 18 times in the win.

That is not winning basketball, especially when the Hoosiers are the much more talented team. Indiana was fortunate that Army did not do a better job making them pay for their mistakes.

Army only had 13 points off of the Indiana turnovers. When Indiana basketball gets into the heart of the schedule, their opponents will almost certainly make them pay, so the Hoosiers have to take better care of the ball.

Another problem facing Indiana basketball has been rebounding the basketball and Sunday against Army was a perfect example. Indiana ended up winning the rebounding battle 29-26 but allowed 11 offensive rebounds to a much smaller team.

IU has played two teams that are significantly smaller than them and in both games have allowed double-digit offensive rebounds. With the size and athleticism on the Indiana roster, they should not be out-rebounded often, much less by mid-majors.

For a team that has struggled to defend the three-point line, the worst possible thing you can do is allow offensive rebounds. When playing high-volume three-point shooting teams like Army and Florida Gulf Coast, offensive rebounds typically lead to open threes.

Indiana has to improve on the defensive end. While the total points allowed (64) won’t jump out as a problem, it’s the way they are allowing the points that is. The Hoosiers have had problems fighting through screens and it has led to open threes for their opponents.

“When I watched film on the last game, we’re not getting over a lot of ball screens, you’re right,” Xavier Johnson said about the defense. “I think it takes a lot of heart, and that’s what Coach said to some of the young guys, you know, wanting to play, to get on the floor. I think we ran too many rotations, what-if rotations, and we have to stay out of those.”

The defensive effort has been an issue for the Hoosiers as they seem to be relying on their size and athleticism at that end of the floor. Indiana has all the tools to be a great defensive team, but until they start committing to that end of the floor, their struggles will continue.

SEE ALSO: Kel’el Ware an early bright spot in otherwise dismal offensive start for Indiana basketball

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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.