With Keith Smart in the crowd, and just after the anniversary of the “Wat Shot”, Rob Phinisee etched his own name in the annals of IU basketball last second heroics.
With Indiana and Butler grinding out another Crossroads Classic, well, classic, it looked like the game would go to overtime for the third time for IU in the last seven years in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs defended IU’s final position well, denying Hoosier stars Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan the opportunity to take the final shot.
Enter Phinisee. The freshman point guard from Lafayette, who had also hit big shots late against Arkansas, Louisville and Penn State, knocked down a desperation three-pointer that people will be talking about for decades.
IU is now 5-3 in the eight-year history of the Crossroads Classic and it shares the best record among the four participating schools with Butler. IU is 3-1 against Notre Dame and 2-2 against the Bulldogs.
On the season, Indiana has now won 4 games in a row by a combined 8 points.
Whether it is a formula for success, or a recipe for disaster in the future, IU has been following a script lately.
IU trailed by 11 with 6:21 to go in the first half and trailed 59-50 with 10:36 to go. The Hoosiers then outscored the Bulldogs 21-9 the rest of the way. Recently, IU has trailed against UC Davis (14), Northwestern (5), Penn State (9), and Louisville (8) before winning each of those games.
The pattern is a familar one in Indianapolis as well. In IU’s last three wins in the Crossroads Classic, the Hoosiers overcame deficits of 16 (Notre Dame, 2015), 14 (Notre Dame, 2017) and 11 (Butler, 2018).
Will the Hoosiers be able to replicate the comebacks on the road on the Big Ten? Probably not. But a win is a win, and perhaps these kind of wins will make them stronger down the stretch. Juwan Morgan summed it up best:
“I think we’d like to get a couple, you know, wins where it’s not within the last 10 seconds where we win. At the same time, you know, it’s the ones that you grind out that are the best feeling. Come March time, those are the ones you’re really going to need.”
The Hoosiers can thank Juwan Morgan for this grade, as the Missouri native carried the load.
Indiana entered the game as the 6th best shooting team in the country at 51.6% and managed to improve on that mark, making 51.9%.
The problem in the first half wasn’t making shots, it was giving the ball away. IU had 9 turnovers on just 6 assists in the first segment before flipping the script with 12 assists and 6 turnovers in the second half.
The Hoosiers matched their season high by making nine three-pointers on 21 attempts.
While they didn’t get a lot of attempts from behind the free throw line, Indiana was also solid there, knocking down 8 of 10.
It certainly wasn’t a perfect performance, with Butler’s Sean McDermott converting on several open looks from long range. He finished 6 of 10 from distance for the game.
But as they have done down the stretch in several games now, the Hoosiers were solid late. Butler scored just 7 points in the final 9:31 of the game.
While IU played aggressive and disciplined defense down the stretch, they managed to do it without fouling. The Hoosiers committed just 12 fouls overall and allowed just two Butler free throws for the entire game.
The Hoosiers are now 17-2 in two seasons under Archie Miller when holding an opponent under 70 points.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- Phinisee, Morgan and Langford post-game
- Butler players and coach post-game
- Full game rewatch
- Game photos
— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) December 16, 2018
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (A-) Would it be nitpicking to talk about his 4 turnovers and just 3 rebounds? Of course, but he’d mention them as well. But this was a truly special performance that Miller called “as good of a game as I’ve been involved in in a long time.” How special? Including free throws, Morgan hit 19 of the 21 shots he attempted in this game. That’s amazing.
- Justin Smith* (B) It looked like Smith had the game winning dunk until both team’s late fireworks. Don’t lose sight of a major three-pointer that Smith hit to cut the lead to 61-58, the closest IU had been in a long time. It was just his second three ball of the year. His rebounding total was uninspiring and he was one of several guys that struggled to close out on McDermott.
- Romeo Langford* (B+) Langford was efficient from the field and continues to rebound and share the ball well. The five turnovers are too many, but he was highly effective on defense on Butler leading scorer Paul Jorgensen.
- Rob Phinisee* (A) Or is it PHINISH-SEE? Ice. In. His. Veins. Of course he hit the game winner. But he had what would have been the game winning assist on the play before. And he had 5 rebounds and 5 assists for the game on just one turnover. And he did an admiral job on Kamar Baldwin. What more can you ask for from a freshman? Oh, and he did it all after being pulled in the early minutes for playing a little shaky.
- Al Durham* (C+) Another quiet game for Durham who seems to have lost his early season shooting touch and has ceded minutes after playing a much bigger role earlier in the year. We continue to suspect that his wrapped shooting hand is bothering him.
- Evan Fitzner (B-) Fitzner has lost minutes in the rotation as well, and he was largely quiet in this one other than a nice post move and finish at the rim. No rebounds in nine minutes.
- De’Ron Davis (B) This felt like a game going in where Davis could be impactful. Instead, he had a largely quiet 16 minutes, with 2 blocks and 2 rebounds.
- Zach McRoberts (B) Miller indicated that McRoberts was rounding into form at practice this week. He was more active on the boards, but still hasn’t emerged as the improved offensive threat that had been hoped for. He was on the floor for a major portion of IU’s strong defensive stretch run.
- Devonte Green (B) Give Green the game winning assist, one of five on the game on just one turnover. The junior guard showed promise in this one and will be critical in the Big Ten.
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