The Indiana basketball program heads to Madison Square Garden, to face UConn, trying to rebound after its first loss of the season.
Jimmy V week continues as the Indiana basketball program takes part in the 2019 Jimmy V Classic against the UConn Huskies, a game that has a combined nine National Championships between the two programs.
Despite the historic programs playing, both have been out of the national conversation over the past few years, with neither team making the NCAA Tournament since 2016, but this game will hold a lot of weight as both programs are looking to have rejuvenating seasons.
The Huskies come into the matchup playing some of their best basketball of the season, off of a three game winning streak following a one point loss against No. 15 Xavier.
Head coach Dan Hurley has a much better roster in his second season on the bench for UConn. The Huskies have a very balanced attack but are led by senior guard Christian Vital. At 14.8 points per game, Vital is an extremely versatile guard with a nose for the action. At just 6-foot-2, he leads the team in rebounding at 8.3 a game, and has three double-digit rebounding outputs this season.
Though Vital shoots just 36.7 percent from the field, he takes 13 attempts a game with over five of them coming from three, where he shoots it at just 34 percent. Vital can create off of the bounce, the pass, but is best in transition.
In the front court for the Huskies is big man Josh Carlton. A true back-to-the-basket forward, Carlton will beat up opposing front courts on the offensive glass, with nearly four offensive rebounds per game. With most of his points coming from in and around the paint, his game is somewhat limited, but it doesn’t stop the Huskies big from have nearly a 30 percent usage rate.
The one name that has re-energized the UConn team after missing the first few games due to a suspension has been James Bouknight. The freshman guard was a top-50 talent in the 2019 class and has shown a lot of promise early in the season. Coming off of the bench, Bouknight provides the Huskies with a ton of energy and scoring power in the second unit, as he has scored 13 or more points in three of his five games this season. While most of the other guards on the roster struggle to be super efficient, Bouknight connects at a 62 percent rate from the field and has made 3-of-5 threes this year.
Two other players to keep an eye on are Tyler Polley and Alterique Gilbert. Polley is your prototypical stretch-four who makes the three at a 43 percent rate and has made at least two threes in six of the team’s eight games this year. For Gilbert, the junior point guard has struggled with injuries for his entire career, but now healthy, he is doing a terrific job at orchestrating the offense.
After forcing the issue trying to score the ball early in the season, Gilbert has switched his role from a shot taker to playmaker. After averaging 11.3 shots per game while shooting just 20.6 percent in the first five games, he has dropped that to 7.3 attempts over the last three, raising that percentage to 53 percent. Even better, his assist-to-turnover ratio has gone from 1.5-to-1 to a terrific 5-to-1 in the last three games.
Can the Hoosiers bounce back after their worst performance of the season? UConn is another feisty defensive team, will the Indiana backcourt hold up? Will Rob Phinisee be back on the floor? Hooisers need to get off to a good start – if so, could force UConn into a jump shooting team trying to cut into the lead. Battle of the boards. Indiana needs to win the rebounding battle in order to win the game.
The Huskies are familiar with playing at Madison Square Garden, can they keep up the success there on Tuesday? Despite shooting just 41 percent from the field, the Huskies average 77 ppg, thanks to their 40+ rpg, a top 30 mark in the NCAA – if they can control the glass, it would go a long way in the end result. If Alterique Gilbert can make shots, 53% fg and 45% 3pt in last two games, it opens up a lot offensively for the Huskies.
Devonte Green (14.8 ppg, 51.7% 3pt), Trayce Jackson-Davis (14.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg), Justin Smith (13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Al Durham (13.8 ppg, 43.8% 3pt)
Christian Vital (14.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.0 apg), Josh Carlton (12.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg), James Bouknight (11.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Tyler Polley (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg)