IU basketball vs. UConn player ratings: Hoosiers 'just got out-toughed'

Indianapolis Star

No more cupcakes. On Sunday, faced the champs.

And UConn showed the Hoosiers (3-1) just how far they have to go, defeating IU 77-57 in the Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden.

"It was glaring tonight that we just got out-toughed," IU coach Mike Woodson said. "I don’t like that. I’ve got to figure it out."

Player ratings on a scale of 1 to 10.


Xavier Johnson — Foul trouble limited the Hoosiers' table-setter to just three first-half minutes and pretty much set the tone for the game. He finished with four points in 14 minutes, and in a game like this, you need your leaders and best players to step up, and Johnson didn't do that. Rating: 3.0

Nov 19, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Kel'el Ware (1) rebounds against Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) and forward Samson Johnson (35) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.

Kel'el Ware — Undoubtedly IU's top threat this season, Ware found out it's not so easy going up against another 7-footer. He hit two early 3s, but couldn't establish anything close to the basket (0-for-6 on 2s) with UConn's Donavan Clingan in the way. Clingan didn't have a huge game (7 points on 1-of-3 shooting, 9 rebounds), but he neutralized Ware. Rating: 4.0

Malik Reneau — Offensively, Reneau was fantastic and kept IU in the game. He overpowered Alex Karaban and used his smooth arsenal of post moves to score 17 of IU's first 34 points. But he fouled out with 7:04 left. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting against one of the best teams in the country, showing he's got what it takes to be a difference-maker. He just needs to clean up on the other end. Still, without him Sunday, IU would have been completely lost. Rating: 7.5

Trey Galloway — Galloway scored a quiet 10 points, which included a 3, but he had one rebound and no assists, blocks or steals in a team-high 36 minutes. A senior leader needs to find a way to impact the game more than that, especially with Johnson on the bench with foul trouble. Rating: 4.0

Mackenzie Mgbako — Add Jay Williams to the list of former players-turned TV analysts who seem frustrated with Mgbako. So far the effort doesn't seem to match the 5-star ranking. He looks disinterested defensively, prodding Williams to say, "He has all the talent in the world... nothing is going to be given to you if you're a McDonald's All American." He scored two free throws, was 0-for-3 from the field with one rebound and one assist in 23 minutes. It may be time for Mike Woodson to use the bench as a motivator. In earlier games, he used Gabe Cupps because he played harder. On Sunday, CJ Gunn got those minutes. Mgbako may be a great talent, but we haven't seen it yet. Rating: 2.0


Gabe Cupps — He had trouble matching up with UConn's athletic and stronger guards. He took just one shot (he missed it) and had two assists in 19 minutes. He had a chance to assert himself with Johnson sidelined with fouls and never did so. A freshman lesson on a big stage against the defending champs. Rating: 3.5

Payton Sparks — He fell for a bail-out, pump-fake on a 3, to give up free throws. Brightside, he forced a tie-up with Clingan for a change of possession. Other than having a guy jump over his back, nothing else notable, except two more missed free throws. Rating: 4.0

Kaleb Banks — One of the few players who could match UConn's energy and showed some good active perimeter defense, but he also committed two fouls in the first half. He was 0-for-2 from the field, and really needs to work on the jumper if he's going to be anything other than an energy boost off the bench. Rating: 4.0

Anthony Walker — He had five points, most in garbage time (3-of-6 from free throw line) and found CJ Gunn with a nice bounce pass on a backdoor cut that resulted in free throws. But he had zero rebounds in 12 minutes, and IU needs him to be active on the glass if he's going to be a frontcourt rotation piece. Rating: 3.5

CJ Gunn — Against UConn's athletic guards, Gunn was Woodson's preference over Cupps for defensive reasons. With Johnson on the bench with fouls, Gunn got more run. His perimeter defense was admirable, but he was also as guilty as others when it came to getting scored on. He scored seven points, but still struggled from the field, missing two wide-open 3s. If he makes those, they are potential game-changers. But on the whole, he was one of the few Hoosiers who can say they tried to match UConn's energy level. Just needs to hit that jumper. Rating: 5.5