Don’t let that final score fool you. Similar to the South Florida game, this one was tight. Uncomfortably tight. For too long. Let’s face it — when Robert Johnson goes 4-12 overall from the field and 1-6 from the 3-point line, this Indiana team is going to struggle to get separation from anyone.
But for the second game in a row Juwan Morgan did it all and willed the Hoosiers to a win. This time that included a career high in points. Did anyone ever see Morgan having a 28 point game? This guy has taken his game to another level and that is good to see after all of the various injuries. The combination of Hartman, Morgan and Davis can be a formidable trio on the front court this year to go along with a solid backcourt.
Indiana will be tested in two days against Eastern Michigan, which itself beat Arkansas State by 17 and has a much more talented front line. It will be a good last test before the 5 game gauntlet begins next week.
Overall: B Another sluggish start for IU as they figured out the zone and Arkansas State’s pace. The Hoosiers had a very strong close to the first half and then the pattern repeated in the second half with a slow start and a strong finish. So again, this team is still looking for a more complete performance. But compared to 90-69 home court losses, it could be much worse.
Coaching: B The process continues. If Coach Miller is trying to change hearts and minds and institute cultural change, then, well, there’s still plenty to do. His team goes into funks. The good news? He has their attention. When Miller lit into his team in the first half they responded with a good run. That is encouraging. Another thing we saw that we liked were a couple of inbounds plays where the Hoosiers got buckets at the rim on lobs to Morgan. It feels like it has been a while since we’ve seen effective inbounds plays. One critique would be that they should have gotten a guard on Deven Simms sooner than they did.
Offense: A- After sluggish start, IU started finding efficient shots against the zone and hit 9 shots in a row at one point in the first half. The Hoosiers shot 50% from the field overall. 3-point shooting continues to hold this team back. 15 assists on 8 turnovers was very good against an aggressive defense. Free throws were better as well.
Defense: C The Hoosiers got broken down too easily and gave up too many points around the basket. They also struggled with their transition defense. You have to wonder what an effort like this looks like against a team like Duke. Arkansas State was at around 50% from the field until they faded at the end. The Hoosiers also had no answer for Deven Simms until Robert Johnson started guarding him. He was a tough matchup for the front court.
- Curtis Jones: B- The breakout game feels like its coming but he is struggling with his perimeter shot. He still found ways to contribute effectively with nice dribble drives to attack the zone, a block and no turnovers. 0-5 on 3’s though — he’s too good for that.
- Al Durham, Jr.: A- 28 more minutes without a turnover. Are you kidding? Continues to impress with his steadiness. Slow start with his shot but a floater helped him find his stroke, and he got a huge basket when Arkansas State got within 6 in the 2nd half — again showing the moment isn’t too big for him.
- Josh Newkirk: A- Had a really nice game and seemed to make his contributions when the Hoosiers needed them most. He was very effective attacking in the latter part of the 1st half. Even more important — no turnovers in 21 minutes.
- Justin Smith: B+ Did a good job feeding the post via pocket passes in 1st half. Good attacks and passes in the early part of the 2nd half. Had a really big bucket late in the shot clock down the home stretch.
- Robert Johnson: C+ His shot was off again and that is probably why this game stayed close. The encouraging thing was that he kept shooting and hit his last 3 pointer — and it was a helpful one to put away Arkansas State. Also had 8 rebounds and helped limit Simms down the stretch — neither of these points should be overlooked.
- Devonte Green: B It looks like Green is just going to be a streaky player. He hit three 3-pointers in the first half to give IU its first separation in the game. Wasn’t a big factor after that and had two quick turnovers early in the 2nd half that helped Arkansas State gain confidence. An injury might have contributed to at least one of the turnovers however.
- Juwan Morgan: A+ The Juwan Morgan beast mode continues. This guy is just willing this team right now. 28 points (career high) on 9-11 from the field and 10-10 from the line, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, only one foul. All of that and no turnovers. As good as it gets.
- De’Ron Davis: B+ He stayed out of foul trouble which just might be the most important thing he can do to help the team. He started slow but woke up late. He seemed to get angry and want to take over. The Hoosiers just need that for longer stretches. 10 points and 6 rebounds to go with 3 blocks.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: B 10 rebounds in 12 minutes is just special. 3 turnovers and the missed shots are not. Hoosier fans are likely going to have to accept that the bad hands and limited offensive game are here to stay. But he can still be effective. We think of him as Ben Wallace 2.0.
[photo credit – AP]