BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The early portion of Indiana's basketball schedule wasn't supposed to offer many challenges, and that was certainly the case on Tuesday night when the Hoosiers blew out an outclassed Jackson State team, 70-35.
For the second straight game, Indiana's stifling defense controlled the game, holding Jackson State to just 20.7 shooting, and that was with the Tigers making four of their 12 total field goals in the last three minutes. The Tigers were just 12-for-58 shooting on the day.
Defense. That's how Indiana is making its bones early in the Mike Woodson era through five straight wins.
"I think that's just what Coach (Woodson) harps on the most every day,'' said Indiana forward Miller Kopp, who finished with 12 points. "From the first day he got here, that's what he's been talking about, us guarding people. It's nothing special, but coaches are always on us about talking — and over-talking pretty much — on defense. That's what they want from us.''
Indiana got an early three from Kopp and then, leading 15-9, forced 11 straight misses from Jackson State over a six-minute period. That also included a couple of blocks by Trayce Jackson-Davis and a third from Michael Durr. Indiana's frontcourt guys, including starter Race Thompson, have been terrific rim defenders so far this season.
"It's nice for us guys on the perimeter to know those guys are back there,'' Kopp said. "It's hard to make layups against those guys.''
It was hard for Jackson State to make anything, with the Tigers unable to penetrate Indiana's aggressive man-to-man defense. Sure, the level of competition hasn't been great, but the energy and effectiveness has been impressive.
Indiana was led by point guard Xavier Johnson, who had a team-leading 14 points and 7 rebounds. He stayed out of foul trouble on Tuesday night, which has been an issue so far.
"We brought Xavier here to help run our ballclub, and he can't do that sitting next to me,'' Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. "I'm hard on my point guards, but he's responding well. We're all in the learning stage right now. I'm still learning them, and they're still learning me.''
Indiana had 27 turnovers on Sunday against Louisiana after only averaging 13 through the first three games, so there was some extra running involved. It paid off. Indiana had only 11 turnovers on Tuesday night, and only three in the second half.
"I was shaking at halftime because we had eight,'' Woodson said. "We finished with only 11, so we're glad that we had that. I complimented them on that.''
It took a while for Indiana to figure out Jackson State's 1-2-2 matchup zone, but when they did, they started picking them apart. The Hoosiers shot 56.5 percent in the first half, and took a 34-17 lead to the locker room at the break.
The Hoosiers blew the game open right after halftime, scoring the first 13 points. The lead got to 30 at the 10:12 mark (56-26), and 40 just four minutes later at 66-26. Efficiency was a plus.
"I think it took us a couple of possessions to figure it out, but once we got the ball into the middle of the zone, we made plays from there,'' Kopp said.
Everyone contributed. Jackson-Davis had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, Parker Stewart had nine, and Jordan Geromino and Tamar Bates each had six points off the bench.
"We've got a team that, if you're called upon to play, you have to produce. We're getting that from everyone who steps on the floor,'' Woodson said.
Indiana is back in action on Saturday when the Hoosiers will take on Marshall in the final game of the Hoosier Classic. That should be a better test. Marshall is 4-1 and beat Louisiana 93-79 on Tuesday night.
Saturday's game is at 7 p.m. ET
Watch Mike Woodson's postgame interview
Here's what Indiana coach Mike Woodson said after Tuesday night's 70-35 win over Jackson State.