BLOOMINGTON – Indiana coach Mike Woodson asserted repeatedly before the season that his team's defense would be ahead of its offense.
Woodson has been proven correct, but he might have undersold it. Indiana's defense has been the best in the country.
The Hoosiers stifled a second straight opponent Tuesday night, holding visiting Jackson State to 21% shooting in a 70-35 victory two days after limiting Louisiana to 19% from the field. Those are the two the lowest opponent field goal percentages Indiana has posted in the last 25 years.
Even before Tuesday's shutdown in front of 10,958 at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers (5-0) had the No. 1 field goal percentage defense in the country at 30.3%. That fell further after Indiana stymied the Tigers (0-5) to 23% shooting from inside the arc and 16% from 3-point range.
“I like everything about how we're defending, man,” Woodson said. “I mean, we're getting after it. I mentioned to these (players) early on, when we first started as a team, that we had to establish some kind identity and it had to start at the defensive end.
“They've held true to that and it's got us wins, kept us in games, pushed out (to leads). It's been our defense that's been solid.”
The Tigers tried to slow things down with a 1-2-2 zone in the first half and they succeeded in bogging down Indiana somewhat. Jackson State cut a 17-point lead down to 11 at 26-15 with 4:05 left in the half, prompting an IU timeout.
Parker Stewart drilled a 3 against the zone after the timeout and Xavier Johnson added a layup to stretch the lead back to 16.
Johnson led the Hoosiers with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting and added seven rebounds and three assists against only one turnover.
“My mindset for every game is to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “For the past two games, I've been in foul trouble in the first half. ... Today I was on the floor, I was available for my team to play. I just can't say anything else. We came out on top.”
The Hoosiers led 34-17 at the half and put the game away with an 11-0 run to open the second half that included 3s from Kopp and Stewart. That pair combined to go 5 for 12 from deep.
The Hoosiers stretched their lead as high as 46 during a 14-0 run later in the half that saw the Tigers miss 12 straight shots. Jackson State also missed nine in a row during one first-half stretch.
“(Defense) is just what Coach (Woodson) harps on the most,” said Kopp, who finished with 12 points. “In practice every day, we start with defense and that's we focus on a lot. When (Woodson) first came here, that's what he talked to all of us about, is guarding.”
Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis anchored the interior defense with four blocks. He averages 3.6 per contest.