After a disappointing loss against Bradley two days prior, IUPUI has secured their first victory of the season. The Jaguars defeated Anderson University 75-43 in their home opener. The Division III Ravens were no match for the size and speed of the Jaguars. Their loss was not from a lack of trying, however. Raven guards hounded IUPUI ball handlers and clogged passing lanes. Their intensity was for naught as they couldn’t keep up with IUPUI’s transition offense.
A victory over a Division III school is not a good indicator of things to come, but there were three main takeaways from the Jaguar victory over Anderson.
Coach Gardner has to preach discipline on the defensive side of the ball. The Jaguars committed 21 fouls on the evening. Anderson was in the bonus nine minutes into the game. For the game, Anderson shot 24 free throws and made 13. IUPUI got away with it tonight because they were a much better team, but Horizon League opponents won’t let it slide. Too many of the fouls were unnecessary, like charges and bodying a man at half court. The Jaguars were pushing too hard on both offense and defense and the referees would not let it slide. As level of play increases, so too must the player’s discipline. If not, the Jaguars could be in for a long season.
IUPUI will rely on speed and mid-range shooting offensively. Darell Combs is gone and so too is the three-point prowess that he brought to the team. On the evening, the Jaguars were 6-18 from behind the arc. Not only are they shooting less threes, they’re missing more. Aaron Brennan has the answer. Brennan, who had 18, was prolific from midrange.
“We need to get our rebounds and get out,” assistant coach Matt Crenshaw said. “We want to play fast and get up and down the floor and score in the first 8 seconds.That’s s something we’ve practiced all summer.”
The 6’6” senior spun and finessed his way around Raven defenders all game. His baskets were set up by guards Ron Patterson, T.J. Henderson, and Jaylen Minnett. The trio of athletic guards slashed the Anderson defense all game, drawing secondary defenders each time. The cut and pop play style was what worked best for IUPUI and should be a go-to system in the future.
“With Matt (O’Leary) leaving, it means more minutes for me,” Brennan said. I’m not really trying to look for a shot as much as I was last year, it’s about the same.If I get open shots, I’m taking them, I encourage my teammates to do the same.”
The Jaguars need to improve their conditioning if they want to be competitive in the Horizon. The top seven players for IUPUI are solid. Gardner has put together a solid starting unit, but the bench leaves much to be desired, specifically at the forward position. With Evan Hall out for the game, Gardner experimented with big men like Elijah Goss, Evan Borgman, and Noah Thomas. Goss was getting bullied by Division III athletes.
Borgman played the best of the three, but certainly not up to a Division I standard. Thomas, in the minimal time he was on the court, was given a technical and brought next to nothing to the court. Graduate transfer Maurice Kirby showed promise and will be a valuable addition to the frontcourt, but Brennan and Hall will need to be in the game as much as possible this season. If their backups struggled against Division III talent, things will only get worse against better opponent.
Coach Gardner’s teams have improved in final record every year he has been at IUPUI. With the conference shift and lack of depth this season, it could be difficult to continue that trend. But, he has proven in the past that he is a legitimate coach and should have his players in full swing once conference play begins.