After a strong win in its most recent outing, No. 11 Indiana has a feeling along the lines of madness — March Madness.
The Hoosiers (4-0) will try to keep their slate spotless Wednesday night when they host their third game in Bloomington, Ind., facing new Ohio Valley Conference member Little Rock (2-3).
Indiana’s past two starts — a close win over Xavier on Friday and a rout of Miami (Ohio) on Sunday — offered a weekend schedule that resonated with Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson.
“It was a great job in handling the short days to get prepared,” said the second-year coach, who played at Indiana from 1976 to 1980. “The way the schedule is set up is like playing in the (NCAA Tournament), which is good for us.
“Playing every two to three days, that’s what the schedule is. I have to get these guys ready each time we step on the floor.”
After a five-season absence from March Madness, the Hoosiers got a taste of it last season. They finished a 21-14 campaign (9-11 Big Ten) by being selected as a 12-seed in the East Region. They were, however, blown out in the first round by No. 5 Saint Mary’s 82-53.
Still, the preparation for last year’s NCAA Tournament served as a refresher.
“This kind of schedule is good,” said Indiana forward Miller Kopp, who had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the 86-56 win over Miami as Trayce Jackson-Davis led the way with 17 points. “Preparation is huge for a short turnaround. It’s what we’ll see in the NCAA Tournament and the Big Ten Tournament. It’s good to have that experience now.”
Indiana’s defense clamped down in the rout, limiting the Redhawks to 32.4 percent shooting and making eight steals. The Big Ten school turned that into strong offense, managing a 42-16 edge in paint points and 27-12 in points off turnovers.
Added Kopp: “Our defense is unrelenting. Over the course of a game, it continues to get better.”
Indiana played without guard Trey Galloway, who was held out as a precaution after getting nicked up in the 81-79 victory over Xavier.
Little Rock certainly has established a flair for the dramatic.
After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half on their home court against Jackson State, the Trojans rallied for a 94-91 win to improve to 2-0 at home.
Ethan Speaker came off the bench to provide a spark for Little Rock. He netted seven of his 11 points in a run that trimmed the Trojans’ deficit to 41-37 at the half.
“He came out and gave us a good lift off the bench,” coach Darrell Walker said. “We cut to four at halftime and knew if we came out and played well, we’d have a good chance to win the game.”
Behind 5-of-6 shooting on 3-pointers, Myron Gardner led the home club with 23 points, while D.J. Smith added 18 and DeAntoni Gordon 17.
–Field Level Media