BLOOMINGTON, IN - JANUARY 04, 2021 - guard Rob Phinisee #10 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

IU basketball dealing with injuries heading into showdown with Purdue, bench stepping up

By Dustin Dopirak

Indiana coach Archie Miller was never asked directly about the state of sophomore guard and second-leading scorer Armaan Franklin’s ankle on his weekly radio show Monday night. However, he suggested vaguely that his status and perhaps those of other Indiana players for Thursday’s home game against Purdue remains in limbo.

“We’ll see where we’re at in terms of full strength with all of our health and bodies by Thursday,” Miller said. “We’re limping around a little bit. I think that will be a big key is to make sure we have the best available guys available when we take the floor.”

Franklin has missed the last two games after injuring his left ankle in the first half of the Hoosiers win over Maryland on Jan. 4. Miller said before the Hoosiers’ win over Nebraska on Sunday that he’d been undergoing multiple treatments on the ankle each day but he was not quite ready to play.

Miller also suggested that there could be another Indiana guard with an injury issue, though he was even more vague and inscrutable in discussing his status.

Junior guard Rob Phinisee hit the floor late in the first half of Sunday’s win with what appeared to be an injured right knee. He had to be helped off the court by athletic trainer Tim Garl and team doctor Larry Rink, but Phinisee still played the second half. He wasn’t as effective as he had been in the first half, but still played 12 minutes and 29 seconds.

But Miller made an odd point of mentioning the injury in a way that suggested it might affect Thursday’s game.

“Rob tweaks his knee in the Nebraska game and throws another monkey wrench into what we’re doing,” Miller said. “And you know what, Khristian (Lander) and Anthony (Leal) and Trey (Galloway), those guys are going to have to be ready in a big stage on Thursday night.”

Playing with Franklin or Phinisee both out would obviously be a major problem for Indiana and so would playing without one and with a diminished version of the other. But Miller is at least slightly comforted by the play he’s seen from his freshmen recently. Guard Anthony Leal has been particularly productive after getting spotty playing time at best in the season’s first 10 games, taking advantage of the minutes that became available when Franklin was injured.

After scoring nine points in 34 minutes against Wisconsin, he hit a critical second-half 3-pointer against Nebraska that tied the game and helped stem what was starting to look like a second-half Indiana collapse.

“In Anthony’s case, Armaan goes down and we needed more bodies,” Miller said. “We needed some guys to come in. In the Wisconsin game, I thought Anthony came in with unbelievable preparation. He was like a starter. You have to give him credit in the way he prepares and thinks and he’s always ready for the opportunity. He stepped up and he banged shots. That was a huge boost to our team. He played solid defense as well. That’s the one thing about Anthony is he played hard and he’s strong.”

Miller said he’s generally been pleased with his bench and his supporting cast lately. He praised redshirt sophomore wing Jerome Hunter for improving his rebounding while also making more shots.

“He’s playing as well as he’s played maybe since he’s been here,” Miller said. “… And I’m not even talking about his jump shot. I think he’s playing defensively very well. I think he’s offensive rebounding very well.”

Senior guard Al Durham has also stepping up his aggression in Franklin’s absence. He’s averaging 15.8 points per game in Indiana’s last four games.

“It’s been Al Durham’s best four games in a row and I don’t even know how many points he scored,” Miller said. “I just know he’s out there for 37 minutes and he’s making very little mistakes.”

That combined with Miller’s increased faith in his freshmen give him more of a sense that his team is rounding into shape and can handle an injury or two. Galloway was already starting, Leal has seen his minutes increase, and the same could happen soon for Lander and forward Jordan Geronimo.

“As you head into January, a lot of times you kind of are who you are,” Miller said. “In our case, that wasn’t going to be the case. We were going to need everybody at some point in time to be able to emerge and help us. … Those guys just gotta hang in there and stick with it.”

More notes from Miller’s radio show follow.

— Wayne Radford, a reserve on Indiana’s 1976 national championship team who averaged 15.6 points per game as a starter in 1977-78, died recently at the age of 64. Miller said he got to know Radford well because he was a staple at Indiana games and a part of the IU athletic association and the Varsity Club.

“It’s really sad news to hear this morning,” Miller said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family today. Wayne was at my (first Indiana) press conference and from that point forward every time I saw him he had the biggest smile on his face. … Was a fixture behind our bench. You don’t see a lot of people you know at the games but you recognize him. Loved to talk basketball. Was constantly upbeat and positive about the kids. Loved IU, the game, the team the kids, and most importantly he loved Indiana.”

— Purdue is more freshman-driven than the Boilermaker team that beat the Hoosiers twice last season, but Miller thinks they’ve gotten better even as they have a younger roster. The Boilermakers are a modest 8-5 and 3-3 in the Big Ten, but they’re coming off an impressive comeback win over Michigan State in East Lansing.

“They’re a deeper team than they’ve been,” Miller said. “I think they’re a better team than they’ve. And I think they’re going to be an even better team as the year goes on because they play a lot of guys and they play hard like they always do.”

The Boilermakers’ guards spread the ball around, but the focus is on getting it inside to big men Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. The 7-foot-4 freshman Edey has been surprisingly effective with 8.8 points per game and Williams is becoming an increasingly dominant presence. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and scored 26 points including a game-winner against Michigan State.

“I think Trevion Williams is one of the premier post players in the country,” Miller said. “He carries as much attention as you possibly can. He’s a load inside.”

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