Indiana's string of seven straight mid-major matchups to open its season continues tonight, when the Hoosiers welcome North Alabama, an Atlantic Sun team playing its second year of Division I basketball, to Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers have won their first two matchups against lower-tier competition, defeating Western Illinois and Portland State to open the season. Though Indiana is 2-0, coach Archie Miller was not happy with his team's performance on defense in Saturday's 85-74 victory over Portland State.
“(There were) some alarming things out there defensively,” Miller said Saturday. “This team has to grow up a little bit faster on the defensive end. We are going to have it a whole lot tougher.
“We don't have the toughness or the pressure on the ball right now that we're going to need. The (opponents) methodically can move and do what they want to do real easily.”
The statistics back up Miller's assessment. The Vikings shot 50% (8 of 16) from beyond the 3-point arc and got to the free throw line 32 times, which allowed them to stay within striking distance until late in the second half.
Indiana's players also recognize the need for improvement on that end of the court.
“We got to be better in all aspects,” guard Al Durham said. “I feel like we got to be better on the ball, be better in help. We got to be able to close out. I feel like we got a couple things to work on, fine-tune in practice.”
Durham is a good conduit for that message because he is quickly becoming one of the team's most important leaders. He's averaging 19.5 points in the Hoosiers' first two games while shooting 14 of 18 from the field.
“(Durham) has a maturity level about him,” Miller said. “Very, very, very proud of Al and where he's at right now regardless of who we play against. We're comfortable with him, how we trust him, how his teammates trust him.
“Some guys are self-made. He takes great pride in his own development. He's doing a great job for our team of giving us a guy that stabilizes us at times.”
The Hoosiers are also getting plenty of production from its younger talent. Reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball Trayce Jackson-Davis has been as good as advertised in his first two games, which includes a 13-point, 10-rebound performance against Portland State with two blocks added for good measure.
The next step of the talented freshman's development is to be more willing to take over games when the Hoosiers need a spark. Much like Romeo Langford last season, he has let the game come to him, at times to a fault.
“Trayce has got to be more forceful,” Miller said. “He's got to learn to be more forceful. He's got to play with more energy and speed. He's so gifted and so talented, when the ball finds him around the basket, he's got great hands, he's going to be able to finish.
“I'm watching Trayce so I can continue to watch him grow up and develop. He knows he's got to get better. He's very coachable. He'll continue to work at it.”
North Alabama (1-1) lost its other matchup against a Power Five opponent this season, falling to South Carolina 77-55 before beating lower-division Carver Bible College easily. The Lions are led by 6-foot-8 forward Emanuel Littles, who averages 10.5 points and nine rebounds while shooting 61.5% from the field.
vs. North Alabama
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Indiana (2-0), North Alabama (1-1)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM