The IU men’s basketball team continued it’s strong start to the 2023-2024 season with an impressive 89-76 win over Harvard yesterday. In a game in which senior leader Xavier Johnson missed the entire second half with an ankle injury and fellow senior leader Trey Galloway struggled mightily, it was the younger Hoosiers who stepped up. Harvard had no answer for Kel’el Ware, who dominated his way to a career high 28 points on 12-13 shooting. Freshman Mackenzie Mgbako also turned in a career high performance with 18 tallies of his own, a showing which should get his NBA stock heading back in the direction it was in heading into the start of the season. Beyond those two, sophomore Malik Reneau turned in a solid 17 point, 5 assist outing to further contribute to the victory.
While those three did what they could to get the W, it did not always look as though the Hoosiers were going to run away with this one. After a buzzer beater by talented freshman Malik Mack at the end of the first half, Harvard held a 40-39 lead over IU as the teams went to the locker room for intermission. Mack proved to be a handful to handle, finishing with a team-high 27 points on 50% shooting from the floor. However, his offensive wizardry (most of which was done in the second half), was not enough to overcome a resilient charge by the cream and crimson in the second half.
Led by Ware, IU poured in 26 of it’s 50 second half points in the paint, evidence that Mike Woodson emphasized a heightened sense of aggression during his halftime pep talk. Harvard simply had no answer in the size department, as IU came out of the gates quickly in the second half and never looked back.
After securing the win, the focus now shifts to the team’s next contest: the Big Ten opener at home against Maryland this Friday (December 1st). That will certainly not be an easy victory (nor is any game for that matter), but the level of difficulty will be enhanced even more if they are without their starting floor general. The Hoosiers will need a healthy Johnson throughout the season if they are going to make some serious noise, and we all hope that he will be back in action for Friday’s game.