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The Journal Gazette

  • Indiana's Juwan Morgan battles for a loose ball against UT-Arlington on Tuesday. Morgan will lead the depleted Hoosiers against UC-Davis on Friday night. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Friday, November 23, 2018 3:30 pm

Pregame: Indiana (4-1) vs. UC-Davis (1-5)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana's final tune-up game before the Hoosiers travel to Cameron Indoor Arena to take on No. 1 Duke doesn't figure to be particularly challenging. The UC-Davis Aggies already have losses to teams like San Diego and San Francisco on their resume and their only victory is a 57-54 triumph over Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

The more important outcome from tonight's matchup will be how many healthy players the Hoosiers have on their roster when the game is over. By the end of the game against UT-Arlington on Tuesday, seven players from Indiana's opening-night roster were out of commission because of injuries, including leading scorer Romeo Langford, starting guard Al Durham and top big man De'Ron Davis.

It's unclear whether any of those three will play tonight and it wouldn't surprise me if the IU coaching staff held all three out simply as a precaution against a team that figures to struggle in Assembly Hall.

Still, such an approach would have a downside as well: the remaining healthy Hoosiers would have to play a ton of minutes and freshmen like Robert Phinisee and Damezi Anderson could begin to wear down late in the game, as Phinisee did against UT-Arlington, a game in which he played 39 minutes.

However, with three days off between this matchup against the Aggies and the one against the top-ranked Blue Devils, there would be plenty of time for recovery. My guess would be that if there is any concern about the overall health of Langford, Durham or Davis, that they would be rest tonight. That could make for a somewhat offensively-challenged Indiana team as Juwan Morgan would be the only remaining player that can get his own shot with any regularity. 

Even if the Hoosiers have a hard time scoring points, though, it's unlikely UC-Davis will be able to stay in the game. The Aggies have been one of the worst offensive teams in the country so far this season, scoring just 54.1 points per game, a figure that ranks 351st out of 353 Division I teams. UC-Davis shoots an anemic 35 percent from the field as a team, ranking 348th, while Indiana's opponents have shot just 37.4 percent, the No. 35 mark nationally. It's a recipe for a low-scoring, defensive game that might not be particularly exciting, especially compared to Indiana's 45-point wins in the first week of the season against similarly-overmatched teams.

The silver lining in all these injuries for the Hoosiers is that some younger players who might not have gotten much playing time are getting early experience. Anderson is the principal recipient of the extra minutes and capitalized by hitting a big 3-pointer in the closing minutes against UT-Arlington. Transfer forward Evan Fitzner has also been an important complementary piece and has proven he can fit in with almost any group of floormates. By the time Indiana gets healthy, it could go 11 or 12 deep with experienced players, which could be crucial during the bruising Big Ten schedule.

First, the Hoosiers have to get through tonight.

dsinn@jg.net