You have to love the fight in this Indiana team. They may not be a great shooting team but they certainly battle. And it was that grit and determination that helped Indiana pull out an 80-77 overtime win in a game that it felt like they’d lose on multiple occasions. Indiana overcame double digit deficits in both the first and second halves but still struggled to capture the lead until the very end of regulation. Time will tell if this was a program transforming win or just a nice effort today, but for the first time in a while this IU team and its fans can exhale and enjoy a big victory in yet another Indiana vs. Notre Dame classic.
Overall: B+ You might expect a better grade after such a feel good win, but there were a lot of negatives in this one that we cannot overlook. Indiana gave up a 19-3 first half run to fall behind by 14, fought all the way back to within 1, and then proceeded to give up another big run to fall back behind by 13. IU’s 16 turnovers and cold shooting were the main culprits in those runs. But enough of the negatives already, this team overcame all of that to beat a good team and it has a legitimate star on its hands in Juwan Morgan.
Coaching: A- It takes a good coach to hold a team together that was already fragile and then gave up those big runs in this game. The early double teams on Bonzie Colson were effective at taking him out of his rhythm and helped IU remain close. Coach Miller’s faith in Zach McRoberts was rewarded time after time — and right down to the final bucket — as the walk-on got a huge rebound and assist to Morgan to win it. Miller also tightened the rotation with Justin Smith and Freddie McSwain seeing very limited action. Ultimately it all paid off as Miller got his first win over a ranked team as Indiana’s coach.
Offense: B While IU ended up with 80 points and shot nearly 50% from the field, most of that came late in the game. All of the Hoosiers’ early troubles were coming on this end of the floor. IU shot 37% from the floor in the first half including 25% on 3-pointers. Several turnovers at critical junctures seemed to keep IU from breaking through. Finally, an emphasis on Morgan at the end and improved shooting from Robert Johnson was enough. Indiana has to make sure that De’Ron Davis doesn’t disappear in games like he did in the one, as that forced the Hoosiers to be too perimeter oriented.
Defense: A- It was Indiana’s defense that kept them within striking distance the whole game. They only forced 9 turnovers, but the Irish are known for protecting the ball. What Indiana did well was pressure the ball, force a lot of late shot clocks, and avoided defensive breakdowns. Notre Dame only shot 41% from the field and 33% on 3-pointers despite shooting 51% and 43% respectively on the season.
Players with meaningful minutes —
- Al Durham, Jr.: C+ Got the first bucket of the game on a nice dribble drive but got pulled for early unsteady play. He shot 2 airballs and he looks like he’s lost confidence in his shot. He gathered himself in the second half.
- Josh Newkirk: B- Never really had a chance to get into the flow of the game. Had two fouls very early and never came back in the first half. Played only 9 minutes and had 2 assists and 2 turnovers. Ultimately he fouled out.
- Robert Johnson: B Can a half-court halftime buzzer shot that doesn’t count help you regain your confidence? His shot was not falling early but it came back to him in the second half. He also started attacking with the dribble more when ND closed out on his shot. Finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but unfortunately also had 6 turnovers, many of which were unforced and at critical junctions. His defensive effort was solid.
- Devonte Green: A- Perhaps lost behind Morgan’s magnificence is the fact that Green hit a huge 3-pointer in overtime to pull IU back within 1, and then hit the final free throws to ensure the worst that could happen would be another overtime. It wasn’t always pretty, and Coach Miller didn’t hide his frustration with Green, but the sophomore guard might have earned minutes back from Durham and has to be feeling confident after this one.
- Juwan Morgan: A+ There really aren’t words to do justice for Morgan’s effort in this game and his year over year improvement. He did have a bit of a slow start as he looked unsure of himself on catches in the paint. But he put together a career best day with 34 points to go with 11 rebounds. His quick drop step in the post is special. But more important than anything else — this guy is just willing this team and carrying them on his back. He scored the last 9 points of regulation for IU to force overtime and then hit several huge shots in the extra period to seal it. ND had no answer for him as he outshined Colson down the stretch.
- Zach McRoberts: A He may never get an A+ because of his offensive limitations, but this kid gives everything he has. If the whole team played with his energy they’d be winning a lot more games. He had two first half tips that led to Morgan buckets. He finished with 9 rebounds, and none was bigger than the rebound and assist to Morgan to win it. He also had 3 assists and a block. If he develops more of an offensive niche, look out.
- De’Ron Davis: B A surprisingly quiet game for the big man. Sure, Notre Dame was trying to take him away, and some of it was the style of the game not being a good fit, but IU can’t survive too many 2 point nights from Davis. He picked a good time to make his lone basket in the final minute of OT.
- Collin Hartman: B An un-Hartman like day with no rebounds and only 1 assist. His two big 3’s in the first half kept IU in the game in the first half.
Photo credit – Darron Cummings / AP