Indiana is just a different team than they were a month ago. If you had any question about that, look at their late 2nd half response to three straight frankly horrible officiating calls that resulted in a Maryland 5 point lead with 4:53 left to play. IU would outscore the Terrapins 14-6 the rest of the game to close it out. A lesser team would have hung their heads and collapsed. This is the aggressive, mentally tough team Hoosier fans have been clamoring for. No rest for the weary, as Indiana plays at Illinois on Wednesday night. Indiana wins this one 71-68.
Overall: B+ The Indiana Grinders are back, and the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall home court advantage is a thing again. Down the stretch, motivated in part by a frenzied crowd, IU had players diving all over the floor, and getting big defensive stops. As long as the Hoosiers cannot knock down 3-pointers at a high rate things will never be easy, but they have found a winning formula. Not many would have had them at 5-3 in Big Ten, and yet here they are.
Coaching: A- All the credit in the world goes to Miller for transforming the mentality of this team mid-season. He’s done it by convincing his guys that they can win games if they do a few things that make them hard to beat — take care of the ball and play aggressive and disruptive defense. And he’s done it by not being afraid to play guys like Zach McRoberts that buy in 100 percent. There were some nits in this game, such as the failure to get out on shooters in the first half which Miller acknowledged was due to being caught off guard by Maryland’s smaller lineup.
Offense: B This wasn’t IU’s best game on the offensive end, but they seemed to get buckets when they needed them. Every time it felt like Maryland might go on a run Indiana seemed to find answers. The Hoosiers shot 50% from the field overall and only 33% from distance. A somewhat concerning statistic was that IU had only 12 assists on 12 turnovers, and it did seem like a lot of IU’s points were coming off individual efforts. One instance where that wasn’t the case was a great set to open the 2nd half where Juwan Morgan fed a cutting Justin Smith for a layup, seemingly taking advantage of Maryland overplaying Morgan. Indiana only had 4 offensive rebounds on the game which may reflect Morgan not being fully healed.
Defense: A- Indiana really made the necessary halftime adjustments on this end of the floor. In the 1st half the defense seemed to be focused on doubling the post causing IU to leave open shooters. Maryland shot 52% overall and 50% from distance in the first half. The second half was a different story with the Terrapins shooting only 31% on both 2’s and 3’s. The Hoosiers had an impressive 10 steals and 8 blocks on the game and they forced 18 Maryland turnovers. While Huerter and Cowan combined for 34 points, they did it on 12-27 shooting and they committed 11 turnovers by themselves.
Players with meaningful minutes:
- Al Durham, Jr.: C- What can you say? This was his worst game of the season. He isn’t a true point guard, and having him handle the ball against a guy like Cowan is just not a good idea. He continues to miss open 3’s and he had 3 bad turnovers in 15 minutes. He still has a bright future with the program but his star is fading as his freshman year wears on.
- Josh Newkirk: B+ Some might expect a lower grade after the foul trouble, four turnovers and late missed free throws. But his late defense against Cowan was special. In the last 2 minutes of the game he had 2 blocks and drew an offensive foul. Oh, and he hit 2 big free throws after missing those first 2, which say a lot.
- Justin Smith: B+ Smith had a really nice offensive game, going 6-8 from the field for 12 points in 21 minutes. He finished better at the rim in this one and he’s shown a knack for scoring in bunches. His energy on defense seemed better, but he only had 1 rebound in 21 minutes, which may explain how IU was out-rebounded 39-28 in this one.
- Robert Johnson: A RoJo has had better shooting nights, but when his coach calls him an “unbelievable defender”, we listen. We’d throw in “unbelievable rebounder” for a guard too. He had 8 rebounds on the night. He has 33 rebounds in the last 5 games — the 5 games since De’Ron Davis went down. The senior guard is bringing it.
- Devonte Green: B+ A good 19 minutes for Green, who drew some tough duty taking over for Newkirk in dealing with Cowan. He held his own. Green hit a huge 3-pointer right before the half to help IU go into the locker room with some confidence. He added 2 blocks and a steal.
- Juwan Morgan: A+ So, we think the ankle is OK. Perhaps he wasn’t 100% as his rebounds were down and he was not always finishing with the same authority that we’ve come to expect. But that’s what makes his day even more impressive. 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He hit late free throws to stretch the lead out to 4, and then effectively won the game with a huge offensive rebound and put back on a missed free with :30 seconds left. He had to muscle past 2 guys to get that rebound.
- Zach McRoberts: A- A typical McRoberts line with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. One steal on Huerter led to an assist and a Smith dunk. He showed some swagger on his 3-pointer as he seemed to start up the floor while the ball was still in the air. It was a big shot that slowed a Maryland run. He did miss two late free throws that kept the door open for Maryland but then he secured the game clinching box out and rebound on the next play.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: McSwain didn’t play enough to register a grade. We don’t know if it was just the match-ups or if he is in the dog house.
- Collin Hartman: B It was good to see him knock down an early 3-pointer to stretch out to a 7 point lead and force a timeout. He added 3 rebounds and he was one of the guys on the floor late giving it all he had.
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Photo credit – Darron Cummings/AP