IUPUI starts 2-1, but old issues persist

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Photo courtesy of IUPUI Athletics/Justin Casterline

It would have been easy to overlook IUPUI’s home opener against D2 opponent Spalding if not for the fact that it was literally the first game of the season for any college basketball team. So, it was only natural that this game was spent fine-tuning the new Jaguar lineup, which featured three new faces (four, if you count Bryce Monroe only appearing four times before getting a medical redshirt).

The 70-63 win probably was closer for then IUPUI head coach Matt Crenshaw would have wanted, the next test, a road game against for Horizon League school Valparaiso, was of far more important. A win at Valpo would not only put the Jaguars at 2-0, if would have given them a road win for the first time since their short-handed win over Robert Morris in 2022.

Even though the game started rather auspiciously for IUPUI, being down up to eight points to the Beacons for a good part of the first half, the Jaguars finally got the offensive output that Crenshaw was seeking, and took Valpo down, 66-56.

Riding high off the first road win, IUPUI headed to Terre Haute aiming to produce another upset against Indiana State. The Sycamores had other ideas, though, and thoroughly trounced the Jaguars, 96-57.

Through three games, the same troubling trend that bedeviled IUPUI last season has reared its ugly head once again. In the last campaign, the Jaguars found themselves with issues beyond the three-point line. While Crenshaw sought to remedy that situation in the off-season, it appears that so far, things beyond the arc haven’t gotten any better.

IUPUI has, to this point, shot a dismal 17.8 percent from three. The opener against the Eagles saw the Jags hit only three out of 17 attempts. Versus Valpo, IUPUI did marginally better, 5-of-15, but all five of those were in the second half. Then, against Indiana State, the Jaguars shot 0-for-13 from three-point range.

Zero for 13.

One other issue that Crenshaw had hoped to shore up in the off-season was the lack of depth in the frontcourt which, as a consequence, made IUPUI vulnerable to getting out-rebounded game in and game out. Unlike the three-point shooting, that appears to be a work in progress that is slowly but surely showing signs of improvement.

Adding Yves Nkomba, Quanzi Samuels and Abdou Samb from the transfer portal, while also retaining John Egbuta from last year’s squad, has produced, at least in the early going, a solid rotation, although the numbers don’t bear out at the moment. The Eagles had outrebounded the Jaguars, 32-28, though it should be noted that all four played sparingly in that contest.

At full strength, IUPUI matched the Beacon’s rebounding output, grabbing 42 boards with Egbuta gobbling up the most rebounds, 10, in 25 minutes of work. The drubbing at the hands of Indiana State saw the Jags get out-rebounded, 38-31, having no answer for the Sycamore front.

The road for IUPUI won’t get any easier, as the Jaguars will play three straight days as part of the Rock Hill Classic in Rock Hill, SC. Friday’s content will be against a 1-2 Elon squad, then follow that up the next day against Winthrop, who was recently nipped in its home opener against Drexel, 74-72. Closing out the weekend will be a battle against Holy Cross, who spoiled Ed Cooley’s debut at Georgetown by upsetting the Hoyas, 68-67.

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