Indiana Xavier Basketball

Indiana guard Xavier Johnson (0) calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Cincinnati.

Less than 48 hours after Indiana dispatched Xavier in the 12th-ranked Hoosiers' first major-conference clash of the season, the Cream and Crimson return to action this evening with a matchup against Mid-American Conference foe Miami (Ohio) at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, part of the Hoosier Classic. It's the 48th straight season IU has played a game in the Circle City as this contest replaces the defunct Crossroads Classic, which had been held in the state capital for more than a decade.

The Hoosiers will likely have to deal with some fatigue today after battling Xavier for a full 40 minutes Friday and needing to sweat out a series of missed free throws and turnovers in the final minutes to win 81-79. It was a galvanizing victory of the kind which was so difficult to come by last season – made all the more uplifting by the contributions of freshmen Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau down the stretch – but it demonstrated the Hoosiers still have several areas in need of improvement before they face No. 1 North Carolina at the end of the month.

Chief among those is, as has been the case for more than half a decade now, free throw shooting. Indiana went just 17 of 26 (65%) from the line against the Musketeers and missed 3 of 4 in the final minute as it tried to preserve the lead (Reneau missed both of his attempts). That came on the heels of a 21-of-22 performance at the charity stripe in an easy win over Bethune-Cookman two weeks ago, so we know the Hoosiers are capable of knocking down foul shots. They simply must have more consistency there and it needs to happen soon or it will cost them games.

It would also be good to see some improvement against pick-and-roll offense going forward. IU forwards Reneau, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson got caught in no-man's land on ball-screens several times against Xavier, not rushing out to pressure the ball-handler but not dropping off to handle the rolling big man, either. That gave Xavier several opportunities for easy lobs over the top, plays which helped keep the Musketeers in the game down the stretch. Getting caught in the middle that way is usually a sign of indecision from the big man and although IU likely didn't do much in terms of practicing Saturday with another game today, it should be relatively simple for the coaching staff to clarify what it wants from Jackson-Davis et al on such plays.

Indiana will get some opportunities to defend those sets today because some of Miami's most effective offense is pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action with 5-foot-8 guard Mekhi Lairy, an Evansville native, and 6-8 forward Anderson Mirambeaux, the Redhawks' two leading scorers, who combine for 32.3 points per game. They're not particularly efficient, with Lairy shooting barely 38% from the field and Mirambeaux just better than 45%, but they're prolific and they're both making more than 89% of their free throws through four games. Indiana will also have to deal with 6-6 Julian Lewis, a 50% shooter averaging 12 points and 6.3 rebounds. 

The Redhawks don't have much in the way of success recently. They have finished above .500 a grand total of one time since 2009 and they've started 0-3 against Division I opponents (plus a win over NAIA Goshen College) in their first season under (ironically) former Xavier coach Travis Steele, losing games against Evansville and Marshall and hanging tough with Georgia before falling 77-70. Miami held Georgia to less than 40% shooting. 

Indiana will have to play somewhat short-handed today as it appears junior guard Trey Galloway is out. He is not dressed for warmups, though he did travel with the team. In his place, there could be a few more minutes available for Tamar Bates as the main playmaker on the second unit and freshman CJ Gunn could see some more time as the fourth guard.

Despite Galloway's absence Indiana should still win handily today and this is an opportunity to work on some of the problems which cropped up against Xavier. The Tar Heels await in 10 days.

College Sportswriter

Dylan Sinn is a College Sportswriter, covering mainly Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame, as well local colleges in northeast Indiana and Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball. He is a graduate of Indiana University and an AP Top 25 football voter.