How it Happened
Indiana got off to a fast start in its season-opener thanks to junior guard Aljami Durham, who scored seven quick points in the early going, including a corner 3 off a nice pass from freshman Armaan Franklin, to stake the Hoosiers to an 11-5 lead at the under-16 timeout. Even at that point, it was obvious that Indiana was trying to push the ball up the floor and get points in the delayed fast break. It worked early.
It worked less well after Durham left the game, as he had been Indiana's primary ball-handler. The Hoosiers' offense didn't run quite as smoothly with Robert Phinisee and Franklin running the show over the next several minutes, turning the ball over three times in a 3:56 span and missing three straight 3-point attempts. The Leathernecks made a couple of 3s in the same span, quieting the modest Assembly Hall crowd and taking a 15-12 advantage, the visitors' largest lead of the game, with 10:35 left in the first half on a Jaeden King triple.
From there, however, it was all Hoosiers. After falling behind by three, Indiana turned the game around with a punishing 18-0 run that took just 3:44 on the game clock. The spurt included six points from Justin Smith (four on dunks, including a beautiful alley-oop from Phinisee on a dribble-handoff pick-and-roll) and five from Phinisee, including a corner 3-pointer. The Hoosiers turned up their defense during this stretch, forcing seven straight misses from the Leathernecks and making eight straight shots of their own in a dominant stretch.
The run ended with less than seven minutes left in the half, but the Hoosiers continued to pull away in the final minutes of the opening period, eventually extending their lead to as many as 24 at 46-22 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Durham. The junior finished the first half with 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting and 3 for 3 from beyond the arc. At halftime, Indiana was comfortably in front at 46-25.
The Hoosiers put any hopes of a comeback to rest early in the second half with a 6-0 run coming out of the locker room. The highlight was a steal for Durham and a dunk on the other end, after which he looked at the crowd and spread his arms wide as if to say "Welcome back." Later, Smith nailed a 3, giving him 20 points and the Hoosiers a 30-point lead. The Leathernecks didn't threaten again and Indiana cruised to a season-opening victory after hitting its first eight shots in a row to open the second half.
Player of the Game: Justin Smith
Smith dominated on both ends of the court, matching a career-high with 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting while adding seven rebounds. On defense he racked up three steals and two blocks, which led to easy baskets for the Hoosiers, several of which went to Smith himself. He finished with four dunks and five layups and also hit a 3-pointer.
Facts and Figures
This is the 120th season of Indiana basketball and Archie Miller is entering his third season as the team's head coach. ... Indiana is now 4-0 all-time against the Leathernecks and 99-21 in season-openers. The Hoosiers have won 21 of the last 22 Opening Day games, with the lone loss coming to Indiana State in 2017-18. ... Durham finished with 21 points on a perfect 7 for 7 from the field, adding four rebounds and three assists. ... The Hoosiers shot 58%, while holding Western Illinois to 34%. ... IU held a 47-28 advantage on the boards. ... Indiana was without projected starting guard Devonte Green. Phinisee was not expected to play, but he was on the court for 18 minutes and finished with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. ... Indiana 2019 Mr. Basketball Trayce Jackson-Davis scored eight points on 4 for 5 from the field and grabbed six rebounds in his first official collegiate game. Fellow freshman Armaan Franklin led the Hoosiers with eight assists and did not have a turnover ... Leathernecks coach Billy Wright is a Richmond, Indiana, native and previously coached as an assistant at Ben Davis and as the head coach at Pike. ... Kobe Webster, an Indianapolis native, led Western Illinois with 18 points.
Indiana is back in action on Saturday at Assembly Hall when the Hoosiers take on the Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast online at BTN+. The Vikings opened their season tonight against Puget Sound University and are entering their third year under coach Barrett Peery. They're coming off a 16-16 campaign and last made the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09.