No De’Ron Davis and Collin Hartman? No problem. Why? Because as we’ve seen with some of Indiana’s opponents, grit and determination can make up for a lot. Sure, you cannot lose sight of the fact that Minnesota was also missing key players in Reggie Lynch and Amir Coffey. In fact, Minnesota almost certainly lost more in Lynch and Coffey than IU lost in Davis and Hartman. But IU still had Juwan Morgan and Robert Johnson. And Minnesota still had Jordan Murphy and Nate Mason. And the team that fought and scrapped harder won: Indiana 75, Minnesota 71.
Overall: A- Considering the circumstances of losing Davis and Hartman, and how these Hoosiers handled that adversity, maybe it should be an A+. But despite our enthusiasm for this win, we know it was far from perfect. Sure they won the game but hopefully they learned a lesson about what it takes to win. We’ve heard Archie Miller talk about the need to bring maximum effort every day. Today was what that looks like. Will we see it again Tuesday against Penn State? We better, because the Nittany Lions are much, much better than Fort Wayne — the last team Indiana played coming off an inspirational win.
Coaching: A- An ineffective coach wouldn’t have gotten this kind of response from his team. IU had every reason to look bad today. Missing players, season apparently tanking, road underdogs. Instead, the guys gave one of their better efforts of the year. They are clearly still playing for their coach. Archie Miller made some nice adjustments to get Robert Johnson cutting to the rim that created a lot of opportunities. We’d be remiss to not mention Miller’s decision to pull Johnson and Morgan at the 9:00 minute mark of the 2nd half. It left no scorers on the floor and allowed for a Minnesota run that nearly cost IU the game. The decision to allow Al Durham to handle the ball against Nate Mason in final minutes was nearly disastrous as well.
Offense: B While it wasn’t their best day from the field (40%), there were two key stats on this end of the floor: Indiana finally had a decent shooting night behind the 3-point line (42%), and they also had 17 offensive rebounds. 16 assists on 13 turnovers isn’t bad either against a team like Minnesota that emphasize pressure defense. The fact that 3 guys scored 68 of the 75 points is probably a cause for concern, but that was probably more of a fluke than anything IU expects to be sustainable going forward.
Defense: B+ The effort on this end of the floor was noticeable. IU was in passing lanes, getting deflections, and crashing the boards. IU limited Minnesota to only 8 offensive rebounds, although of course the absence of Coffey and Lynch surely contributed to this. The Hoosiers forced 14 turnovers and for the most part stayed out of foul trouble. But even when they weren’t perfect on the execution they were always hustling which goes a long way. The play where Morgan went for a block so hard that he flew over the top of Johnson and went crashing to the floor personified the effort.
Players with meaningful minutes
- Al Durham, Jr.: C+ Not the freshman guard’s best day. He is in a shooting slump and he has been turning it over more lately. He still gives you some good winning plays but the early season mojo seems to be gone for now.
- Josh Newkirk: C+ Rough game for the senior guard. He was 0-4 from the field and seemed a step slow on defense. He did have 3 assists on 1 turnover.
- Justin Smith: A A coming out party for the freshman, and many will now wonder why he hasn’t been seeing the floor more. We suspect we saw why in the first half during a sequence where he didn’t hustle after a loose ball and got an ear full from Miller and was sent to the bench. A very efficient 7-10 from the field for a career high 20 points. He was 4-4 from the line. He hit both of his 3-point attempts and he has a good looking shot and looks confident taking it. His shot late in the 2nd half was huge, as he gave IU the lead back with 2:33 remaining. His confidence in taking and making that shot speaks volumes about the young man.
- Robert Johnson: A A career high 28 points to go with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. We’ll look the other way on the 3 turnovers as this was a special game for RoJo. The stats won’t show it, but his defense on Mason was solid. When Mason finally did get hot he was doing it with some special shots that were mostly well defended. Johnson got hands in passing lanes on multiple occassions. To top it all off he just might have saved the season by catching Juwan Morgan as he was about to crash to floor.
- Devonte Green: C+ The slump continues for Devonte. He came in early and played aggressive defense but then made some bad turnovers including a 10 second violation.
- Juwan Morgan: A He beat Jordan Murphy at his own game tonight. He had his own double double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. There was passion in every one of those rebounds. He wanted the ball more than anyone else on the floor. Similarly he had 4 blocks that were all effort. He also found his 3-point shooting touch. If he can continue to knock down the occasional 3-pointer he’ll be nearly impossible to defend.
- Zach McRoberts: A- 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and no points in 31 minutes. Zach’s gonna Zach and we like it. 3 of those rebounds were critical boards in the last few minutes. His aggressive defense in the 2nd half set up a Smith dunk and cut the lead back to 2.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: B+ Don’t look now but McSwain hit a jump shot. He fell a little to in love with it and finished 2 of 7 on the night. He also had a really strong finish at the rim on 3 point play that drew Jordan Murphy’s critical 2nd first half foul. He had 8 rebounds in 16 minutes which is exactly what he needs to be doing.
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Photo credit – (AP Photo/Jim Mone)