Indiana and head coach Archie Miller made a pretty big statement Tuesday night during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Despite missing their presumed starting point guard, the Hoosiers hammered No. 17 Florida State in Bloomington. The win proved that Indiana's 7-0 start wasn't a fluke and that Indiana might have something special cooking this season.
Oh, and they probably don't want to hear any more questions about their first seven opponents.
The Hoosiers beat a good Seminoles team 80-64 at Assembly Hall and got a stellar performance from senior guard Devonte Green. Green, a captain, poured in 30 points, added 6 rebounds and 3 assists and was a plus-24 on the night. It was the best game he has turned in since he arrived in Bloomington. He was shooting the ball like his older brother Danny has in the NBA for years.
It was Green's show on offense, but the Hoosiers clamped down defensively as a team, especially in the first half. Indiana held the Seminoles to 0.92 points per possession in the opening half, en route to building a 41-30 lead. Though Florida State fought back in the second half -- and cut the lead to three on more than one occasion -- Indiana tightened up defensively and won going away. The Hoosiers showed a lot of fight and heart by not letting the Seminoles get over the hump.
Yes, there were warts on the performance. Indiana turned the ball over 18 times, something that must be improved. The Hoosiers also shot just 60.5 percent from the free-throw line, which is something they'll have to clean up moving forward. But the point is, despite those shortcomings, they still stepped up when they needed to and took down a legit opponent. The scary thing for opponents is that the Hoosier should get better as their litany of young guys get more experience.
Indiana was near the bottom of the strength of schedule rankings entering the matchup with the Seminoles, but the team proved it had the goods to beat a highly-regarded team with several solid wins on its resume.
So far this season Indiana has relied heavily on freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis to carry it in big spots. The young forward is averaging 15.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game and looking every bit the five-star prospect that was promised. But this roster is balanced and deep and that's been the key to IU's success.
Four Hoosiers are averaging double figures in points. Junior forward Justin Smith (14.3), junior guard Al Durham (13.7) and Green (12.3) have all stepped up their games this season. Oh, and Rob Phinisee, their presumed starting point guard, has only seen action in four games and sat out Tuesday night.
When Phinisee is healthy, the Hoosiers can legitimately go 11 deep with real contributors.
Archie Miller came to Indiana promising to restore toughness and a defense-first mentality to the basketball program. In his third season, that's starting to show. The team is deep, tough, physical and can cause a number of problems for opponents. It's still early in the season but if the Hoosiers can stay healthy, they could be dangerous in what's shaping up to be a tough Big Ten Conference this season.
After an 8-0 start, things don't get any easier for Indiana. A trip to Wisconsin awaits on Saturday, then matchups with UConn, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Arkansas will finish out 2019. Miller's bunch showed it could handle a big game Tuesday night. The Hoosiers will need to prove that over and over again this season.
The win over Florida State was a nice start.