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Indiana aims to handle another upset bid, hosts North Alabama

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Indiana just sidestepped one upset bid and now looks to extinguish another when it faces nonconference opponent North Alabama on Thursday night at Bloomington, Ind.

After losing consecutive games to Auburn and No. 2 Kansas, the Hoosiers (8-3) received quite a scare from Morehead State before escaping with a 69-68 victory on Tuesday.

Indiana trailed by 15 points before finishing with a 20-4 run to avoid a humbling setback. Malik Reneau blocked a shot by Morehead State’s Jordan Lathon as time expired.

“You should never have highs and lows like that,” Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson said afterward. “Kansas was a great game. We fell short. That doesn’t mean you lay an egg the next game.

“That’s unacceptable. That’s on me. I have to keep working to get them better. Make sure we don’t put ourselves in that position again.”

Backup Anthony Walker stepped up with 18 points to match a career high and collected nine rebounds. Walker made 7 of 11 shots.

“This gives me the utmost confidence,” Walker said. “Knowing that Coach Woody trusts me down the stretch. Being able to play well. Just my effort and the work I put in.”

Kel’el Ware had 10 points and six rebounds as his team-leading averages dropped to 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He also has a team-best 16 blocked shots.

North Alabama (6-6) is just 1-5 on the road, but it did scare Kansas State before losing 75-74 in overtime on Dec. 2. It also lost 105-103 in double overtime at UT Martin on Nov. 22.

Playing the Hoosiers rates as a big opportunity for the Lions, but coach Tony Pujol has stated that the process is more important than the win-loss ledger.

“For us, we don’t really get caught up in the result, we get caught up in getting the day-to-day work done,” Pujol said recently on ASUN Gameday. “We want to make sure our guys are building the right kind of culture and then go out and compete at the highest level they can.”

KJ Johnson leads North Alabama with a 13.9 scoring average, while Jacari Lane contributes 13.4 points and a team-best 4.4 assists per game.

Johnson recently returned from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. He had efforts of 27 against UT Martin and 23 versus Jacksonville State earlier this season.

Indiana won the previous two meetings by an average of 30.5 points. The most recent was an 87-52 victory on Dec. 13, 2020.

–Field Level Media

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