BLOOMINGTON – Indiana isn't where it needs to be on defense, but its record is exactly what the Hoosiers were looking for after three games.
The Cream and Crimson beat North Alabama 91-65 on Tuesday to improve to 3-0, running away with the game in the second half behind a 20-point, eight-rebound performance from freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis in front of an announced crowd of 17,222 at Assembly Hall.
Despite the victory, coach Archie Miller was not satisfied with the defensive performance for the second straight game. North Alabama (1-2) shot 7 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half, getting too many open looks for Miller's taste. The coach emphasized the victory, but acknowledged the defense has a long way to go.
“It's a concern,” Miller said of the defense. “I don't want fool's gold for our guys. But also, I want them to know how hard it is to win one game. It's hard, and we have a lot of guys right now that are learning to win together. That's important, and for them to be 3-0 is the most important thing without question.”
Indiana led just 47-40 at halftime. The Hoosiers turned up the defensive intensity and pulled away with a 14-1 run early in the second half that extended a nine-point advantage to 22.
The run kicked off with Jackson-Davis slicing down the middle of the lane for a thunderous dunk, but 10 of the final 12 points during the spurt came on free throws.
That was a common theme for the Hoosiers, who attempted 45 free throws, making 37. The Lions shot 27 free throws in a heavily officiated game.
Jackson-Davis, who Miller has wanted to be more “forceful,” was a load around the rim, going to the basket over and over on his way to 15 free-throw attempts. He made 14 and added three blocks.
“You always take it to heart as a player,” Jackson-Davis said of Miller's push for more assertiveness. “Coach Miller just wants me to be more aggressive on the floor and I thought my teammates put me in positions to score and I took advantage of it.”
North Alabama went 0 for 4 from beyond the arc in the second half and finished the game with 22 turnovers, a testament to how much Indiana's defensive pressure improved in the second half. The players have internalized the message about getting better on that end.
“Coach Miller always makes a big emphasis on defense,” said forward Jerome Hunter, who had a career-high 12 points. “So we came out in the second half and tried to focus more on our defense and making sure they don't get open shots like they did in the first half.”
The Hoosiers had five players in double figures, with Robert Phinisee finishing with 13 points, Al Durham chipping in 11 and Damezi Anderson adding 10.
It was the first career double-digit performance for Anderson, the sophomore from South Bend, who went 4 for 5 from the field, made a pair of 3-pointers and added three rebounds and two assists. The performance came after he did not play in Indiana's previous matchup with Portland State.
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