How it Happened
The game started out sloppily on both ends. The Lions led for a good portion of the early going as the Hoosiers struggled to hold on to the ball, turning it over three times in the first three minutes alone. Indiana's first six points came on free throws, a common theme in the first half, and the Hoosiers didn't have a field goal until Robert Phinisee drove to the basket for a layup 4:24 into the game. Phinisee replaced Armaan Franklin at point guard at the under-16 timeout and immediately drove to the basket for easy layups twice to give Indiana the lead, part of a 6-0 run that left the Hoosiers in front 12-8.
The game see-sawed back and forth for much of the first half. Indiana was aggressive going to the basket and attempted a steady stream of free throws, hitting 17 of its 20 first-half attempts, but the Lions were able to stay in the game by getting hot from beyond the 3-point line. North Alabama hit six of its first seven attempts from beyond the arc and a Christian Agnew jumper with 6:26 left in the first half knotted the score at 28.
From there, however, the Hoosiers began to really take control for the first time. Indiana hit its own string of 3-pointers down the stretch in the first half, including a pair from Al Durham as part of an 11-2 stretch that pushed IU in front 39-30, its largest lead of the game to that point. When Phinisee added a 3 from the top of the key with 1:56 remaining in the opening period, the Hoosiers were in front 46-33 and it looked like they might go into halftime with a semi-comfortable lead.
Instead, North Alabama fought back, finishing the half on a 7-1 run that sliced the halftime deficit to 47-40. The first half was dominated by whistles, with 24 fouls called on the teams in the first 20 minutes. It wasn't a clean game by any means in the opening half with 19 combined turnovers, as well. Phinisee led Indiana with 10 points and five assists in just 13 minutes, but the Lions remained within striking distance.
North Alabama continued to stick close early in the second, but it wasn't able to close the gap. Indiana's offense looked disjointed at times and coach Archie Miller had to implore his team to push the ball up the court, motioning frantically from the sidelines. Still, the Hoosiers remained in front and Trayce Jackson-Davis surged for six points in a 1:30 span, culminating with a dunk on a strong drive down the middle of the lane, to put Indiana up 56-45 at the under-16 timeout.
That flying dunk started an 8-0 run for the Hoosiers that pushed their lead past 15 points for the first time in the game. It was the first time all night that it really felt like Indiana was in control. By the time Durham drove for an easy layup with 13:10 remaining, the Hoosiers led 62-45 and it was beginning to look as though they'd be able to put the game away before the final minutes.
Indiana did just that, using a 7-0 run to really put the game out of reach with less than eight minutes remaining. That spurt included a 3-pointer on the right wing from Damezi Anderson, a positive sign for a player the Hoosiers really want to get going from deep. On the next possession, Anderson drove down the lane and lofted a pass for Jackson-Davis cutting along the baseline. The 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball slammed the alley-oop home and was fouled while doing so, hitting the free throw to make it 77-51 and put an exclamation point on the win.
Player of the Game: Trayce Jackson-Davis
Indiana coach Archie Miller wanted Jackson-Davis to be more aggressive and he was tonight, going to the rim repeatedly and getting to the free-throw line. The freshman finished with a team-best 20 points, his first career 20-point performance, on 3 for 4 from the field, while going 14 for 15 from the line. He added eight rebounds and three blocks and has 11 rejections in three games this season.
Facts and Figures
This is the second straight season Indiana has started 3-0. ... The Hoosiers were once again without projected starting guard Devonte Green, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. Fellow projected starter Robert Phinisee came off the bench and played 22 minutes, finishing with 13 points and six assists as he recovers from an abdominal injury. ... The Lions went 7 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half and 0 for 4 in the second half. ... Indiana went 37 of 45 from the free-throw line and shot 50% from the field. The Hoosiers came in 17th in the country in FG% at 54.4% ... Indiana held a 23-10 advantage in points off TOs and only turned it over themselves four times in the second half (nine in the first half). ... The teams combined to shoot 72 free throws. ... Jamari Blackmon led North Alabama with 19 points.
The Hoosiers are back in action Saturday, when they take on the Troy Trojans (0-1) of the Sun Belt Conference at Assembly Hall. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. The Trojans fell to UAB in their season-opener, 76-75, and faced Chattanooga tonight. They're coming off back-to-back under-.500 seasons after an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016-17.