One thing that seems abundantly clear in the early portion of Indiana’s 2017-18 season is that its going to need much greater contributions and leadership from its veterans if it has any hope of producing a respectable season. Through the first 3 games, upperclassmen Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan had shown flashes but neither had put together a complete game. Both changed that on Sunday in Indiana’s 70-53 win over South Florida. Johnson had one of his better games as a Hoosier, scoring 21 points on 9-14 shooting including 3-3 on 3-pointers. He also added 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Johnson has shown an ability to get to and finish at the rim that really makes him difficult to defend when his perimeter shot is also falling.
But for today’s turning point we focus on Juwan Morgan. Collectively for the game, Morgan also had one of his best games at IU. 15 points, 10 rebounds, 9-10 free throw shooting and 4 blocks. But there was also an intangible aspect to Morgan’s effort on Sunday. He showed a level of aggression and tenacity that we hadn’t seen before, at least not on a sustained basis. It was a Juwan Morgan’s “Beast Mode” if you will. His efforts were particularly noteworthy midway through the second half, when he almost single handedly willed the Hoosiers to start to pull away from South Florida.
At the 13:30 mark, South Florida had taken the lead at 43-41. Up until this time, the game was tight, with neither team ever having more than a 4 point lead. It was a this point that Juwan Morgan put his stamp on the game and turned the momentum in Indiana’s favor:
13:10 – Morgan aggressively attacks the basket and gets fouled. This led to two made free throws (43-43).
12:30 – After a South Florida offensive rebound, Morgan stepped in front of a pass and got a steal.
12:15 – Morgan makes another attacking dribble drive resulting in a layup. This got the crowd into the game for the first time in the second half (45-43).
11:35 – Morgan corrals an offensive rebound and draws a foul. He made 2 free throws and the crowd noise intensifies (47-43).
11:00 – In what was perhaps his most valuable play, Morgan fouled to stop an alley-oop, thereby maintaining the momentum and crowd noise. His efforts also saved a point, as South Florida only made 1 of 2 free throws (47-44).
Morgan would come out of the game at that point but his efforts were the game’s turning point. From there De’ron Davis would score 3 quick points to help stretch the lead to 6 and force a timeout. Indiana never looked back and continued to stretch its lead and coast to victory.