BLOOMINGTON – Armaan Franklin scored a career-high 19 points and Trayce Jackson-Davis added 15 points and seven rebounds to lead Indiana to a 87-52 victory over North Alabama today at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers improve to 4-2 on the season.
- North Alabama showed the scouting report for beating Indiana ... or not: For much of the first half and into the second, the Lions sat back in a zone and crowded the lane, trying to make it difficult for Jackson-Davis to catch the ball in the post. On Indiana's final possession of the first half, for example, North Alabama crowded four players in the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball's immediate vicinity and dared Indiana to have someone else beat the Lions. Instead, the Hoosiers tried to force the ball into Jackson-Davis anyway and the Lions stole the entry pass. Jackson-Davis still got his points because he's so much better and more athletic than anyone the Lions have, but the talent gap won't be that large against Big Ten teams. The bottom line is Indiana will have to make some 3-pointers to force teams off of crowding Jackson-Davis. It's no coincidence that North Alabama hung around today within 10-12 points until the Hoosiers made three 3s in a 2:19 stretch near the end of the first half to open up the lead. More of that is desperately needed and the Hoosiers delivered in the second half, with Armaan Franklin drilling three 3-pointers and Robert Phinisee adding a pair to help Indiana finish a more-than-respectable 13 for 33 from beyond the arc. Freshman Anthony Leal even scored his first collegiate basket with a 3-pointer. After starting 1 for 8 from 3-point range, the Hoosiers made 11 of their next 19 attempts. Where has that been all season?
- It's time to worry about Khristian Lander: Lander was always going to face a steep learning curve, coming in during what should have been his senior season in high school and needing time to develop physically in order to handle the rigors of the college game. But his minutes have dipped in recent games and he's clearly Indiana's fourth guard right now, as it's difficult to see what he really provides for the Hoosiers that Armaan Franklin, Rob Phinisee and Al Durham don't do better. He's not hitting jump shots, he's not getting to the rim and he's struggling on defense, even against teams like the Lions. In the first half, he got the ball on the break and drove all the way past the rim without giving the ball up, eventually losing it to a jump ball as coach Archie Miller yelled at him to pass it. Lander has a lot of work to do before he's a significant rotation piece for the IU.
- Indiana's defense is good: Miller has praised Indiana's team defense early in the season and the Hoosiers won today in large part because they made almost everything difficult for the Lions, especially in the paint. Indiana held the visitors to 33% shooting and 4 for 23 from 3-point range. It's obviously not an elite opponent, but this is the second straight game in which Indiana has held its opponent below 40% from the field and it got its hands on all sorts of passes in this game, forcing 18 turnovers. The Hoosiers also cleaned up after their stops, giving up only six offensive rebounds and just six second-chance points. The Hoosiers are going to have to stop teams to win if their offense doesn't improve, but they might have the ability to do it.
Player of the Game: Armaan Franklin
The sophomore guard is probably Indiana's most improved player and he showed a little bit of everything today. In the first half, he dished off to Jackson-Davis for a dunk and got in passing lanes for a couple of steals. In the second half, he got hot from 3-point range and finished 5 for 7 from beyond the arc. He added four rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block to his scoring total. He has scored in double figures twice in the last three games after doing so twice all of last season.
This was Indiana's final scheduled game against a team from a mid-major conference. ... North Alabama is in just its third season as a Division I program. The Lions fell to Indiana 91-65 in Bloomington last season. ... Indiana was without center Joey Brunk, who has not yet played this season because of an ailing back. ... The Lions have no one on their roster taller than 6-foot-7. ... Indiana went 18 of 31 at the foul line. ... The Hoosiers turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 17 Lions points. ... Indiana won the rebounding battle 47-34. ... Trey Galloway went 5 for 6 from the field for 11 points for Indiana. ... North Alabama forward Mervin James came in averaging 18 points on 75% shooting. He had nine points on 4 for 14 from the field against the Hoosiers. Will Soucie led the Lions with 16 points.
Indiana has five days off before playing its final non-conference game, a matchup with Butler (1-0) at the annual Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will tip off at 11:30 a.m. and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1. The Bulldogs have had four games canceled or postponed because of coronavirus outbreaks this season. They will be coming off a matchup against No. 9 Villanova on Wednesday when they take on the Hoosiers.