BLOOMINGTON – Xavier Johnson scored 14 points and ran the offense with aplomb and Indiana held visiting Jackson State to 21% shooting tonight at Assembly Hall on the way to a 70-35 fifth straight victory to open the Mike Woodson Era.
- Xavier Johnson, shotmaker, makes an appearance: When he played for Pittsburgh last season, the point guard was most of the Panther offense. He handled the ball on nearly every possession and scored or assisted on most Panther baskets. Indiana has enough scoring from its guard (plus Trayce Jackson-Davis), so it has asked Johnson to be more of a pure point guard this season, running the offense and facilitating for his teammates. Johnson has accepted that role and had not taken more than nine shots in any game coming into this one. Tonight, however, he proved he can still fill it up when the opportunity presents itself. Jackson State tried to slow the ball down and Indiana responded by pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity. Johnson was the key to that offense and he frequently went all the way to the rim when the Tigers didn't stop the ball. Johnson's finishing ability in the lane is an impressive piece Indiana has not had for a while.
- Looking for his shot: Guard Miller Kopp came over as a transfer from Northwestern as a bona fide 3-point threat and the Hoosiers hoped he would help open up their offense. In his first four games, however, he shot just 33% from 3-point range: not bad, but not the floor-stretching threat the Hoosiers really need. Tonight, Kopp came out in the first half looking for his shot, from the 3-point line and in the midrange. It appeared as though the Hoosiers pushed him to get his in an effort to get the 6-foot-7 guard on track. Kopp hit a smooth-looking 3-pointer in transition in the first half and added another on a catch-and-shoot 3 in the second half. He went 2 for 7 from beyond the arc and 3 for 11 overall for 12 points. While Parker Stewart has been a terrific 3-point shooter for Indiana, the Hoosiers need at least two capable shooters from deep to really get this offense moving and Kopp is the most likely candidate. He needs to be a more consistent finisher on open jumpers or Jordan Geronimo may start to eat into his minutes.
- Take care of the ball: Indiana improved from the 27-turnover performance it posted against Louisiana on Saturday, but the Hoosiers still gave the ball away 11 times tonight. Johnson did a good job of taking care of it at while running the offense, but Race Thompson had three turnovers and Stewart had two. Indiana wasn't completely loose with the ball tonight as it was Sunday. Rather, there are just too many possessions where the Hoosiers don't make the easy play – they try to fit the ball in a tight window and toss it out of bounds or to the other team. Post feeds to Jackson-Davis were a particular issue tonight: even when Jackson State double-teamed the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball, the Hoosier guards tried to force the ball inside instead of rotating it. Sometimes Jackson-Davis made a tough catch and other times the Tigers were able to get a tip and a turnover. Across the board, IU just needs to be more simple, because passes shouldn't turn into 50-50 loose balls and those lost possessions will matter much more later in the season.
Player of the Game: Xavier Johnson
Johnson has struggled with foul trouble and turnovers at times early this season, but tonight he was poised and under control almost all night. The Pitt transfer added seven rebounds and three assists to his 14 points and he shot 5 for 6 from the field. He also turned the ball over only once in 25 minutes. That's how you run an offense.
Indiana is 5-0 with at least one win over a major-conference opponent (St. John's) for the first time since 2012-13, when the Hoosiers won the Big Ten. ... Indiana shot 47% from the field and 6 of 15 from 3-point range. ... Indiana is No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage defense this season, coming into the game at 30.3%. The Hoosiers are also No. 1 in 2-point percentage defense and Jackson State shot just 23.1% from inside the arc. Jackson-Davis had four blocks, giving him at least two in every game this season and 18 total. ... The Tigers came into the game shooting 38.8% from 3-point range, but went only 3 for 19 from beyond beyond the arc tonight. ... The Hoosiers outrebounded the Tigers 44-33 and had 18 fastbreak points to just three for the visitors. ... Guard Gabe Watson led Jackson State with 14 points.
The Hoosiers are back in action Saturday, when they play host to Marshall (3-1) of Conference USA at Assembly Hall. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Marshall has wins over Wright State, NAIA Milligan and Jackson State, the latter by an 80-66 score Saturday. The Herd lost to Campbell 67-65 on Thursday. They are coming off a 15-7 campaign and play at one of the faster paces in the country.