BLOOMINGTON – The beginning of this game felt remarkably like the first part of the matchup against Indiana State that opened last season. An overmatched team came into Assembly Hall and improbably began hitting everything in sight, while the Hoosiers struggled to get everything going on offense.
That's not a welcome parallel considering the Hoosiers lost to the Sycamores by 21 in that aforementioned game, the first of Archie Miller's tenure as coach, but it is the most apt comparison. UC-Davis came into this game No. 348 in the country in shooting percentage, while Indiana was No. 3, but at halftime the Hoosiers are shooting 61 percent and the Aggies are at 56 percent.
The plain fact is the Hoosiers have been sloppy and stagnant on offense far too often on offense and not nearly aggressive enough on defense. The Hoosiers clearly have the superior athletes, but UC-Davis been able to get into the lane for close looks at the basket almost whenever it wants. With less than eight minutes remaining in the half, the Hoosiers trailed 24-10 and seemed to be in real trouble.
The bad news for Indiana is that it has played this way despite getting some good luck on the injury front. Romeo Langford, Al Durham and De'Ron Davis (Davis later went to the locker room with the trainer) all saw the floor after being questionable to play as of yesterday, but that has been a somewhat mixed blessing. Langford hasn't looked like himself, not taking his first shot until 5:22 remained in the half and contributing "only" eight points.
On a more positive note, the final minutes of the half were much better, thanks in large part to the leadership of Juwan Morgan. Seemingly tired of seeing his team miss shots and turn the ball over, the senior forward put together a remarkable string of 15 consecutive Indiana points, including 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to get the Hoosiers and the Assembly Hall crowd back into the game. It's a very large crowd for a Thanksgiving week game against a (supposedly) lesser opponent, but this crowd has been loud and into the game when the Hoosiers have given them something to cheer for.
Indiana sliced the lead to one at 29-28, but UC-Davis refused to be intimidated and hit three 3s in quick succession to open the margin again. Even as the offense heated up late in the half, the defense remained too lax and the Aggies took advantage of the open-shot opportunities they got.
After falling behind by as many as 14, the Hoosiers (and Morgan especially) did a good job of staving off panic and working to get back in the game. They didn't expect to be trailing – especially after shooting 61 percent – but the deficit is small and they can take control with a run to start the second half. A young team will have games like this and finding ways to win them is an important step in its development.