A key player returned and lessons were learned as Indiana picked up its ninth victory of the season in New York.
In a game that was by no means a work of art, Indiana found a way in a hard fought contest against Connecticut at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
IU saw point guard Rob Phinisee return after missing four games, and the Hoosiers responded after a disappointing loss in Wisconsin.
Indiana (9-1, 0-1) will resume Big Ten play when they host Nebraska on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Down 26-16 on Tuesday night, and coming off of an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers appeared to be on the verge of getting knocked out early once again. But an 18-3 run to close out the half showed resilience.
“I can’t say enough about the response. It’s not easy to take the medicine we took on Saturday not really playing the right way, but tonight obviously we were much better in the toughness category, IU head coach Archie Miller said after the game.
“We grew up a little bit this week. I thought today was a battle tested game where you were going to have to earn it, and we did that. They don’t ask you what this looks like down the line. We got this done today.”
The Hoosiers led for most of the second half, utilizing a deep bench to stay fresh in a physical battle.
Indiana had all eleven scholarship players for the first time this year, and Miller believes that with the full complement of players this can be a good team.
“All eleven guys have a chance to play. We’re not afraid to play any of them. We just have to be very mindful around each other every day how hard it is to coexist with eleven players that expect to play. But if we’re about the right things and we play the right way, and it’s about the win, this team has a chance to be pretty good.”
All eleven players saw action in the game, with ten players contributing eight or more minutes.
Nothing came easy in this one, especially not in the half court for IU. The Hoosiers were able to win despite shooting just 36.8 percent overall, and a miserable 15.4 percent from three-point range.
“Obviously it was a grinder of a game,” Miller said. “It was very hard to finish around the basket. They blocked eight shots and everything was tough.”
The opportunities were there to score points in transition, but the Hoosiers did not capitalize. Despite forcing 22 UConn turnovers, IU did not convert defense to offense, scoring just 12 points off those turnovers.
“We missed our chances early in the game in transition in the first half with some sloppy play,” Miller said. “I thought we left about five in transition that we’ve got to convert, and probably left another three or four easy ones that we’ve got to get down.”
Although IU didn’t get to the foul line for more than 12 minutes into the game, they ended up with 18 attempts overall and hit a team benchmark.
“We made more free throws than our opponent attempts. That’s what we try to do,” Miller said.
If Indiana was going to turn the page from the Wisconsin game, it was going to start with a much more aggressive effort on the defensive end.
“Tonight, I thought we were much better in the toughness category, and much better in some areas defensively,” Miller said.
UConn came into the game averaging just 12 turnovers per contest but coughed it up 22 times on the night.
“We did a pretty good job off the ball being able to dig a few out of there and get some steals,” Miller said.
IU had 10 steals and held UConn to 41.2 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from three-point range.
Indiana fell behind early as it struggled to shut off driving lines. But highlighting the versatility that his 11 man roster provides, Miller liked the athleticism and energy of a smaller lineup that saw Trayce Jackson-Davis move to the five.
“I thought our defense was amped up out there a little bit when Trayce was at the center position,” Miller said.
For the second straight game, Indiana lost the rebounding battle, 37-34. While the Hoosiers have the potential to be a good rebounding team, some of their early season success, including a top ten rebounding margin nationally, was no doubt built up on much smaller teams.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller post-game
- Smith, Brunk, and Durham discuss the win
- Snapshot: Indiana beats UConn in a Grinder
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (B) Brunk struggled in the first half trying to finish around the rim and had his shot blocked multiple times. To his credit, he persevered and had 7 critical points down the stretch. He also created the lane when Al Durham drew the flagrant foul.
- Justin Smith* (B) Smith was strong defensively and had mixed results on the offensive end with struggles with ball security.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (B+) Miller credited him with having a voice when things got tough, he led the team in rebounds, and Jackson-Davis provided a strong defensive presence.
- Devonte Green (C+)* Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time, it was a bit of a rough homecoming game for Green as he seemed flustered by UConn’s pressure and was clearly a point of emphasis in the Husky game plan.
- Al Durham* (A-) Durham hit some key buckets down the stretch, attacking the rim relentlessly and showing the ability to finish with his right hand. Three assists and one turnover in that kind of game is solid.
- Rob Phinisee (A-) He had an immediate impact, as the game changed in the first half in large part when Phinisee entered off the bench. Hit two free throws at the end to finish things off despite missing the last four games.
- Armaan Franklin (B) A reduced role with Phinisee back, but Franklin was still steady when called upon in a tough game for a true freshman.
- De’Ron Davis (B-) Tale of two halves as Davis had a couple nice baskets in the post early but also missed multiple easy shots in the second segment.
- Jerome Hunter (B+) Miller trusted Hunter in the last ten minutes and he delivered with a bucket and a block in a back-to-back sequence that helped spark the Hoosiers. Hunter’s defense and overall intensity seems to be on the rise.
- Race Thompson (B-) Four minutes and two fouls as Thompson wasn’t the right fit in this one.
- Damezi Anderson (B+) Anderson continues to be a positive on both ends when he is called upon and he brings good energy to the team.
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