BLOOMINGTON — Three-point-shooting specialist Miller Kopp, whose three-point shooting wasn’t as good as advertised last season, recognized that.
So he spent the offseason working on his golf game.
Following Kopp’s logic, he has read how many star basketball players also are good golfers — he cited Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry — so he adopted what he thought might be an appropriate training program.
Working on his golf stroke may or not have aided Kopp’s long-range shooting Thursday night in Indiana University’s easy-peasy 101-49 victory over Bethune-Cookman at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, but no one was going to contradict him on such a feel-good performance.
“I think for me, this summer was a big focus,” Kopp said. “So I did a lot of work on my golf swing and tried to get tan a lot.”
It sounded as if Kopp might have been joking, but he took an awful lot of three-pointers indoors, as well, and trained himself to remember shooting accuracy might be as much mental as physical.
“It’s because he put in the work,” IU coach Mike Woodson said. “I’m not surprised that he’s making them in the game.”
The 6-foot-7 senior scored 12 points, making four long shots that electrified the crowd in a game that but for the early minutes the Hoosiers owned over the 0-2 Daytona Beach squad coached by former NBA star Reggie Theus.
Woodson and Theus were teammates and opponents in their younger days in the pros, but it is doubtful any of their one-on-one matchups were as one-sided as this game. The plurality even exceeded the point spread against IU football versus Ohio State for Saturday.
As Indiana moved to 2-0, this was one of those shakedown games scheduled for the win and to help a team mesh at the start of the season, and it played out that very way for the Hoosiers.
After giving Woodson some concern with lackadaisical free throw shooting three days earlier against Morehead State, IU made 21 of 22 tries from the line, 41.7% on threes and 58.3% overall. Hoosier shooting precision would have won many kewpie dolls at the county fair.
Running in not only upperclassmen but a mix of freshmen, the Hoosiers seamlessly moved the ball, collecting 27 assists. Woodson said he told players they should average 20 to 25 assists a game.
“If you’re unselfish and a guy is open, you’ve got to give him the ball,” Woodson said. “I thought tonight, we shared it.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis, playing with his right hand wrapped in a white bandage, shot 9 for 10 from the floor for 21 points in 21 minutes. No one had to play heavy-duty minutes in a game won by 52 points. Jordan Geronimo was also in double figures with 11 points. Trey Galloway excited fans with treys and scored 10.
Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino had eight assists and Xavier Johnson six more. Just about everyone could finger a contribution. Freshman Kaleb Banks ran up eight points in 6 minutes.
The Wildcats led only at 10-9 and 14-12. IU’s defense became increasingly stifling, forcing 35-second shot clock violations, plus on other occasions forced Bethune-Cookman to shoot with a single second left. It was too much telling defense practiced by too many guys, while offensively, the Hoosiers controlled the flow and ran opportunistically.
Indiana attacked voraciously and with ferocity, and those traits will be needed as the schedule stiffens.
Next Friday in the Gavitt Games, IU is at Xavier. Nov. 30, the Hoosiers host North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Tar Heels began the season ranked No. 1 in the country. In mid-December, IU will play at defending national champion Kansas.
Two games into the 2022-23 season, Indiana, preseason ranked No. 13, is living up to voter praise. Players such as Kopp, aka the second coming of Phil Mickelson, and Geronimo, who has shown newfound confidence and smoothness, are more than ably abetting the starters.
Most intriguing is how freshmen, such as Hood-Schifino, Banks and Malik Reneau, will fare when the pressure is ratcheted up.
While Johnson is often referred to as “X,” the new X Factor is Reneau. He is big at 6-9, strong at 230 pounds, and if they are on the court simultaneously, he may prevent teams from doubling Jackson-Davis.
This is a team that can shine against tougher foes than Bethune-Cookman.
Lew Freedman writes sports columns for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].