When Indiana knocked off Nicholls State Friday night in the season opener 99-65, a new player was in the starting lineup for the Hoosiers and he was not an Auburn transfer.
That new player was senior guard Marshall Strickland, a career 8.0 point per game scorer, who broke out for a career-high 25 points against the Colonels and showed what could be the beginning of a breakout season in his last trip through college basketball.
"It's been unfortunate for Marshall that his first three years we played a half court offense." Said Indiana head coach Mike Davis. "This year we're going to push the ball up the court and that is his style of play. I think it's going to help him more than any guy on this team. He's going to have games like this a lot because this is his style of play."
Strickland shot 75 percent from the floor, knocking down 9-of-12 shots against Nicholls including 4-of-5 shooting from the three-point line. He made his first four attempts from down town before missing with less than ten minutes to go in the second half.
"I played real comfortable and I got my rhythm early," said Strickland. "I got my feet under my shot. Once I do that I feel like every shot is going in."
The difference for Strickland is simply the position he is playing. After spending his first three years at Indiana mostly at the point guard spot, Strickland has made the move back to his natural position as the shooting guard.
With the inside presence of transfer Marco Killingsworth combined with the point guard play of transfer point guards Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway, Strickland is set for his best season as a Hoosier. Killingsworth led all scorers in the win, picking up 28 points and six assists. The point guard combo added eight assists.
"Just playing off the big guys is so much fun out there," said Strickland. "I get a lot of clean looks at the basket. It just makes the game really fun to play. We were kind of inside/outside. They really surrounded (Killingsworth) on the inside and that really opened up a lot of shots for me. Their coach was yelling at them to get out on me, but it's hard for teams to guard two guys both inside and outside."
"And Lewis Monroe is helping me out a lot. He and Earl Calloway can push the ball up the court fast and they see the court really well. They always hit me right when I'm open."
Before the game against Nicholls State, Strickland's career high was just 21 points and that was all the way back in 2004 as a sophomore. Last season Strickland topped out at 14 points and averaged just 7.4 points a game.
"This season I'm real offensive minded," said Strickland. "I'm going to be really aggressive out there. I'm the shooting guard and I'm going to shoot. It's a lot of fun playing like that."
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