The minute after: East Michigan – in the hall

Thoughts on a 68-62 win against Eastern Michigan:

Three off-season talking points that we know to be true. (Well, as true as anything can be after just one game, that is.)

1) Mike Woodson’s steady drum beat of “defense ahead of offense” was quite evident tonight. Indiana’s first defensive possession of the game resulted in a shot clock violation. Defense also changed early on in transition scores. Later in the first half, Indiana forced the Eagles into a five-second violation on a baseline out-of-bounds play. Guards fought hard over the top of the ball screens. The Hoosiers put pressure on the ball, communicated and switched. They played with a purpose. Hands were active. Feet moved. Shots, six of them, were blocked. Indiana held the Eagles to just 0.82 points per possession. Noah Farrakhan was kept in check… until he made things interesting with a late-game scoring barrage.

2) The story of Rob Phinisee Rebirth looked lively tonight. When Phinisee got into the game in the first half, he wasted no time, calling for a ball screen on the left wing and driving for the cup. He played with energy and confidence. He was aggressive and sought his shot. He defended the ball with pressure. Phinisee scored seven points in the first half. It wasn’t all pretty, as he was only 3-for-11 from the floor and went scoreless after the break. But Phinisee’s behavior was the most important tonight. It was an encouraging performance.

3) Trayce Jackson-Davis came back to Indiana to get better. Mike Woodson tried to get him there. His outdoor shooting needed work, as did his right hand. Tonight he hit a long 2-pointer, a shot that the defense gave him in the first half and luckily forced him to take. TJD also scored with his right hand into the post en route to another double-double (21 points, 14 rebounds) in a career full of them. But Jackson-Davis also flashed some other skills. His passing and court vision impressed. He made clever double-team readings and found Race Thompson low for a crucial bucket late in the game. He also completed some alley-oops with flair in the transition and the half-court and added three blocks. It was a well-rounded, dominant performance from Indiana’s All-American.

Back to that statement “the defense is ahead of the violation”. While Indiana started hot and clearly possesses the talent and staff for a balanced, versatile attack, it is certainly a work in progress. Indiana seems to have more marksmanship on this squad, but it just didn’t show up tonight. The Hoosiers went only 4-for-24 from distance, including a 0-of-9 appearance in the bottom half, when things really started to splutter. Their 12-of-20 (60 percent) free-throw line rating will give some flashbacks to the Archie Miller era. Indiana’s distance, schedule and ball movement can be a pleasing watch. But right now there are still a lot of new players trying to figure it out, and each other. And so the possession sometimes lacked fluidity and continuity. Players were a bit confused about where to go and what to do. It felt like what was your turn, my turn things going on. It all came down to the Hoosiers racking up just 0.89 points per possession.

There is plenty of time to get it right and grow the fame. And the attack is the side of the ball that has been less worked on. Still, sweating it out and blowing a 21-point lead into the second half isn’t the best look. The outdoor season is over. The games are finally here. And there is work, much work, still to be done.

Filed At: Eastern Michigan Eagles

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