INDIANAPOLIS — Vibes are very fine indeed around unbeaten Indiana right now. At 4-0, why not laugh a little?
Miller Kopp and Tamar Bates, with a push from Race Thompson, had a very inspired gag at the media's expense in the postgame press conference after Indiana's 86-56 win over Miami (Ohio) on Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Kopp was asked about Jalen Hood-Schifino (more on him in a bit), and he went into a metaphor that seemed off the rails right from the off.
"I mean, you know, he puts the work in. It's one of those things where it may not — we've all been through it as players, but, you know, you put the work in, and sometimes it doesn't show right when you want it to," Kopp started, routinely enough.
"It's like marinating chicken. You know, you need to let it sit maybe six, eight hours in the fridge maybe and then put it on the grill. It tastes a lot better like that," Kopp continued.
I was sitting in the front row, queued up to ask the next question, and I'm sure I must have smiled (and I'm certain I wasn't the only one) because the "marinated chicken" reference came out of the clear blue sky.
This also comes hot on the heels of Kopp citing his golf game in a very tongue-in-cheek manner to describe his offseason routine after Indiana's win against Bethune-Cookman.
Later in the press conference, Tamar Bates threw in another food reference when describing his approach off the bench.
"My best ability is my availability, so I just take care of my body, making sure I'm eating the right things, putting the right things in my body, getting a banana in before the game, don't cramp up or nothing like that," Bates said.
These weirdo food references were not accidents, as proven by a TikTok video Kopp released later Sunday.
Kopp explained in the video he and Bates were challenged by Thompson to slip in the words "chicken" (Kopp) and "banana" (Bates) during the press conference. Mission accomplished.
As a member of the media, we're not humorless and none of any of this is church. When I saw the TikTok video later, I thought it was very funny and an inspired put-on.
It's the kind of random silliness I wholeheartedly endorse, but I have one regret. As I mentioned, I had the question after Kopp successfully made his "chicken" reference, and it crossed my mind to tell him he made me hungry, but I'm new to the beat. They don't know me at all yet, so I, um ...
Chickened out? Sorry (not sorry) for the pun.
Just be wary, gentlemen. You never know when we might start inserting random words into our questions.
Here's four more takeaways from Sunday's win over Miami:
WOODSON ON HOOD-SCHIFINO
For love or money, Hood-Schifino just can't get his jumper to fall. At least from the start of games, he can't.
He came out firing -- two 3-point attempts, a runner in the lane and a jumper.
None of them fell. Some of it was bad luck. Two of the shots swirled out of the cylinder.
To Hood-Schifino's credit? From his 0-for-4 start, he finished 5-of-12 and three of those were jump shots, albeit one was a late-game banked 3-pointer.
Hood-Schifino has not shot well in his first four games. Sunday's game was easily his best from a scoring point of view, but he's 11-of-33 for the season.
Still, Hood-Schifino is doing other productive things. His two assists Sunday were actually a season low. He's also had three five-rebound performances in a row.
All of the above is what prompted a defense from Indiana coach Mike Woodson when he was asked about Hood-Schifino's jump-shooting slump and how Woodson approaches being patient with Hood-Schifino -- given that he's a freshman -- versus the expectation his role on the team demands.
"I mean, he is 5-for-12. I don't think that's too bad. He made some shots tonight, had good looks. It's just the other things that he does on the floor: He defends, he rebounds, he assists, he runs your ball club, and he is a freshman," Woodson said.
"I'm not concerned about the shot-making. Hell, we scored 80 points tonight, 80-some points. We're averaging 90 points. Again, Jalen will be there when it counts. He is capable of making big shots, so that's not a big concern," Woodson continued.
GUNN GETS A CHANCE
With Trey Galloway out due to a knee problem, Woodson described Galloway's absence as his being "cautious." That opened up the door for freshman C.J. Gunn to get more minutes.
Gunn played 19 minutes. He scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting with two assists and two steals.
Woodson was a tad annoyed with a question, which queried how Gunn could get more minutes.
"Guys, again, CJ is fine. He is in a good place. I'm not going to sit here and play guys because you guys probably think that this guy should play. If he is called upon, hey, I expect him to come out and play and give us positive minutes," Woodson noted.
"We've got a lot of players on this team. I'm not sitting here playing favoritism to anyone. I'm trying to win basketball games, and I'm going to play the guys that I think I can win with, and he has been a part of us winning," Woodson concluded.
THE ALLEY-OOP FOR TWO
In the second half, with Indiana having Miami deep into its back pocket, it was time for some fun.
Miami's will to get back on defense waned as the second half marched mercilessly against them. After Miami's Mekhi Lairy had the ball stolen by Tamar Bates with 12:04 left in the game, Indiana's fast break rapidly got down the floor.
Very rapidly down the floor. Bates found Xavier Johnson on the right wing and Johnson saw Hoosiers closing in on the rim.
Emphasis on "Hoosiers." Johnson tossed up a lob that was probably intended for Jordan Geronimo on the left side, but Jackson-Davis flew in down the lane and threw it down for a reverse dunk.
Geronimo was on the Indiana bench side and gestured to his teammates, almost apologetically. What Jackson-Davis wants, he gets.
HOOSIERS IN THE RANKINGS
Shortly after the IU Review is scheduled to come out, the Associated Press will release its latest Top 25 poll.
Could Indiana, currently No. 12, move into the top 10? It's possible.
No. 4 Kentucky lost twice in the last week, so the Wildcats are sure to drop, even though one of the losses was Sunday's 88-72 loss at No. 2 Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs also lost to No. 11 Texas last Wednesday, though they may not fall below the Hoosiers.
No. 5 Baylor, No. 7 Duke and No. 8 UCLA all lost but all to quality teams. No. 16 Virginia beat Baylor, No. 6 Kansas knocked off Duke and No. 19 Illinois defeated the Bruins.
It is also possible Indiana gets passed by teams currently below it in the poll. Aforementioned Virginia, in particular, had a strong week.
After its game against Northern Iowa was canceled last Monday due to the tragic shooting that claimed the lives of three football players Nov. 13, the Cavaliers defeated Baylor and Illinois in the Contintental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas.
Of course, Indiana had its own quality win as it won at Xavier 81-79 on Friday. The Musketeers weren't ranked, though they were just outside the poll at No. 31.