After three lopsided defeats in a four-game stretch, No. 18 Indiana looked more like itself on Tuesday in a rout of Elon.
The Hoosiers (9-3) hope to author a similar story Friday night when they host Kennesaw State (8-4) in non-conference action in Bloomington, Ind.
Indiana fell to Rutgers, Arizona and Kansas by an average of 17 points while defeating Nebraska to open December. Order was restored in the 96-72 win over Elon, when the Hoosiers shot 58 percent from the field.
“We play well at home,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “I expect us to win every game at home.
“Bouncing back is a confidence builder. This is still a young team.”
One of the young players Woodson will be counting on moving forward is Jalen Hood-Schifino. The freshman point guard was forced into the spotlight when veteran ball-handler Xavier Johnson broke his right foot against Kansas on Saturday. Johnson underwent surgery on Wednesday and is out indefinitely.
Hood-Schifino responded with a career-high 17 points against Elon, adding seven assists during a 30-minute effort.
“Things change with X out,” Indiana forward Miller Kopp said. “He’s one of our leading scorers and one of our leaders. He’s a big loss.
“Fino is making strides. The kid is a relentless worker. We’re super comfortable of where he’s going.”
The Hoosiers’ top scorer also was sidelined against Elon, as forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks) sat out for precautionary reasons, presumably to deal with back and/or hand injuries that have nagged him this season.
In Jackson-Davis’ place on Tuesday, Malik Reneau contributed nine points and seven rebounds.
“It’s about making guys come together,” Kopp said. “I always say, when the spider webs unite, you can tie up a lion. At the end of the day, it’s just about getting guys to understand that we need everybody, and we’re only as strong as our weakest link.”
Kennesaw State is coming off a 65-56 triumph over South Carolina Upstate on Tuesday night. The Owls rallied from a five-point, second-half deficit to improve to 4-0 at home this season.
“Two years ago, we were 3-7 in games determined by single digits. You’ve got to go through years like that to get to years like this,” Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said. “That last 11:55 of the game, we played with the heart and passion that we’re used to, that our fans deserve.”
Terrell Burden paced the Owls with 16 points, while Chris Youngblood contributed nine points and seven assists. Youngblood leads the team in scoring (14.2 points per game), while Burden averages 11.3 points and team highs in assists (3.8 per game) and steals (1.7 per game).
Brandon Stroud also did some heavy lifting against South Carolina Upstate, recording 10 points and nine rebounds.
“I was really proud of Brandon tonight,” Abdur-Rahim said. “He did a heck of a job with his points and rebounds. Whenever he can stuff the stat sheet like that, we’re pretty good.”
Kennesaw State has played three notable opponents this season, losing to Florida (88-78 score), VCU (64-61) and San Diego State (88-54).
–Field Level Media