IU basketball freshmen struggle with consistency, but 'Hey, shit happens, man.'

In 13 minutes on the court Tuesday, Malik Reneau flashed the sky-high potential and guard skills in a 6-9 frame that made him a top prospect out of Montverde Academy in Florida less than a year ago and a major part of Indiana’s future. He also struggled defensively and committed enough fouls against a physical, aggressive Maryland team to limit himself to just those 13 minutes.

Another freshman, Jalen Hood-Schifino, played 34 minutes and shot 1-for-14 from the field. IU was minus-11 with him on the floor.

It was only three days earlier Hood-Schifino, the highest-rated incoming freshman in the Big Ten and also an alumnus of Montverde Academy, had played one of the best games of his young college career, burying 3-pointers off the dribble, in transition and from well beyond the arc for 24 points against Ohio State.

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While they played out over different timetables, both Reneau and Hood-Schifino’s Jekyll-and-Hyde acts had precedent. They’ve each had their good and bad moments over the past three months. It’s the natural result of relying on freshmen for major minutes in the thick of the conference season, one IU has no choice but to live with.

To expect either to have the poise or reliability of veteran counterparts like Trayce Jackson-Davis or a healthy Xavier Johnson wouldn’t be realistic for players who graduated high school less than a year ago. Both have to take their lumps, learn their lessons and develop on the fly as Indiana navigates the Big Ten.

Reneau checked into the game at around the 13-minute mark of the first half, and Maryland saw an opportunity. Reneau leads IU with 62 fouls this season. Hood-Schifino is a distant second with 44. Thirty-eight seconds after the forward entered, Maryland's Hakim Hart went after him, drawing a foul inside and going to the free-throw line.

So began Reneau’s struggle to stay on the floor, even as he made plays in the limited time he got. He showed off his headiness and vision on a fast break, passing up a 3-pointer to put the ball on the floor and dish to Kaleb Banks for a layup. He posted up and made a hook shot. He drove to the basket and scored with a handle few young players of his stature possess.

But he couldn’t avoid fouling. He committed his fifth with five minutes left in the game, finishing with 6 points.

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - JANUARY 31: Jalen Hood-Schifino #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots the ball in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on January 31, 2023 in College Park, Maryland.
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - JANUARY 31: Jalen Hood-Schifino #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots the ball in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on January 31, 2023 in College Park, Maryland.

Hood-Schifino missed 3-pointers. He missed midrange jumpers after curling around screens, the shots that have been nearly automatic at times this year. Floaters rimmed out. At one point he got stuffed on a potential fast-break layup.

“Hey, shit happens, man,” IU coach Mike Woodson said. “You ain’t gonna make shots all the time. I thought some of the shots, he was pressing a little bit, trying to keep us in it. But hey, he’ll bounce back. He’s had too many good games for that to take him down.”

Before his 8-for-12 performance against OSU, Hood-Schifino had missed 14 of his previous 17 attempts from the field. He began the season in a 4-for-16 funk from deep before making 17 of his next 28. The ability is unquestionably there, even if the consistency isn’t.

Woodson has been generally pleased with Hood-Schifino’s performance throughout the season, even on cold nights like Tuesday, because of his ability to facilitate and play defense. He’s started every game when healthy and been the Hoosiers’ lone true point guard over the past six weeks with Johnson out.

Tuesday night was just part of the process, one with a far greater score than a single game.

“Obviously you’ve just got to learn from your mistakes, but at the same time, he’s been one of our rocks this year,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said of Hood-Schifino. “He’s been a great, great guard, especially just being a freshman, and so we’ve got to put this behind us, because we’ve got a big game Saturday and we’re gonna need him to step up.”

Saturday is a date with No. 1 Purdue, just in case you forgot.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU basketball: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau struggle at Maryland