Human Interest


I watched Indiana University’s season-opening basketball game this evening with about as much optimism as the Washington Generals had each time they played the Harlem Globetrotters! Zero! Nada! Zippo!

My, oh, my, what an unimpressive performance. As I told my three IU basketball text buddies, it’s the same old stuff—missed free throws, missed lay-ups, non-existent offensive rebounds, and wide-open three pointers by an opponent who, on paper, was clearly inferior. One friend responded “it’s early.” Did he mean in the game or in the season? He must have meant “season” because later in the game the problems continued. Another replied “free throw practice immediately after the game!” 

Needless to say I’m a perennial pessimist when it comes to IU basketball. How could I be anything but pessimistic when they don’t give me any reason to have hope. For the entire Archie Miller era, and now during the early years of the Mike Woodson the same old problems plague this team. Once again they had long periods when the offense couldn’t score. They were careless with the ball leading to turnover after turnover. They failed to block out on defense allowing FGCU to get rebounds and easy baskets and on their end of the court failed to get easy, second-chance buckets for lack of offensive rebounding. 

Indiana allowed Florida Gulf Coast to get a 6-point lead midway in the second half and had to go on a 16-0 run to regain a comfortable lead. During that run it seemed like IU turned their aggressiveness up a notch realizing they were letting the game get away from them. IU still let FGCU get close after building a lead. In the end, the better team won, but by only 6 points. 

I’m just a fan and don’t possess a great analytic sixth sense, but right now this team has a lot of improving to do. As the title of this blog says, there were a lot of new faces on the court, but the same old problems are still there—poor offensive (and defensive) rebounding, poor free throw shooting (19 of 30, 63%), allowing wide open three’s (FGCU was 13 of 34, 38%), careless ball handling, turnovers, and multiple missed lay-ups. Of the new faces, only one was worth mentioning—Kel’el Ware. He needs to bulk up a lot, but his shot blocking the first half was awesome. He finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and those 3 incredible blocks. Other players were less memorable, but are worthy of comment:

Mackenzie Mbako—freshman “Star,” McDonald’s All-American, played only 18 minutes and scored only 4, easily-ignored, points. He was on the bench during IU’s run. Is he in the “dog house?” Is he paying for his sins? Does he have an attitude that needs adjusting? Only the coaching staff knows, but for a guy who turned down Duke for IU, his level of play the first half warranted the end of the bench.

Trey Galloway—he had the same Galloway-esque game, 16 high-energy points, decent defense, but he’s still a good, but not great, player.

Malik Reneau—we can only hope this guy gets it together because he looks like an athlete. At first, I thought maybe he had learned to control his body (and the ball), but he lapsed into the Reneau of last year. He did have 15 points but only one rebound—one lousy rebound, for a forward? 

Gabe Cupps—the 2022 Ohio Mr. Basketball. Really? He has yet to mature physically as a man and a player, but he had his moments (but only 5 points, one assist). “It’s early,” as my friend said, but comparing him to where Braden Smith, the 2022 Indiana Mr. Basketball, was early last year, Cupps has a lot of catching up to do. 

Xavier Johnson—for a guy with his experience (this is year 5), he still makes me nervous. He should be the leader of this team, but he needs to play better and be more in charge to earn that distinction. He had 14 points but only one assist—one lousy assist! Knight would have been all over him for that. And maybe Woodson is too. I don’t know. 

Walker, Gunn, Banks—the bench scored 2 points, 5 rebounds, and had no assists!

Unimpressive at best. Dreadful at worst. 

But there is a bright spot, Kel’el Ware. With some meat on his bones he could be the Hoosiers most valuable player. His scoring, rebounding, and incredible shot blocking impressed me and most fans, too. If his teammates give more effort and play as well as they’re supposed to, IU will win some games. I’m not holding my breath, though. The BiG 10 is a tough league and unless IU improves, ‘23-‘24 is gonna be a tough season.

As long as IU games aren’t on CBS or ESPN, the rest of the country won’t know how bad this team is. But the Hoosiers won’t be able to hide for long. On Sunday, November 19, they play current NCAA champion U Conn Huskies at Madison Square Garden. That will be a national broadcast and showcase how the Indiana basketball program is still resting on 36 year-old laurels and a reputation built by recently-departed Coach Bob Knight. Parents, cover the children’s eyes and ears because this game will be too much for their innocent sensibilities.

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  1. I was present for the University of Indianapolis vs. IU exhibition. The “misdemeanor” forward from IU was less than a week from his transgression. Coach Knight would have banned him from Indiana … but the game was tied with 3 minutes gone in the 2nd half! IU outside shooting and perimeter defense was the same as it has been for a few years except for GREAT defense by Cupps. All told, IU looks promising with the season opening players. Poor Woodson looks like his back ails him. GO IU!

    1. “Poor Woodson” is anything but poor. His back may bother him, and as I recall, he had back surgery during his time as an IU player. He’s poor in that way, but not monetarily! I think he has a monumental task ahead of him. Watching Kansas, Michigan State, and Michigan play, I see we are going to be embarrassed once again got the hundredth time.

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