You know that knot you had in your stomach in the final minutes of Saturday’s game against Northwestern? Get used to it. That seems to be the template for Big Ten basketball in 2018-19. Yes, Michigan seems to be on another level. Rutgers and Illinois look like the clear bottom feeders. Everyone else? Flip a coin.
Indiana did enough to win a game it had to win for multiple reasons, including avoiding a losing streak and protecting its home floor in the Big Ten.
Did the win come at a cost? Hoosier Nation will have to wait with bated breath for news on senior co-captain Juwan Morgan. While we have good reason to believe that this is not a serious injury, we won’t know for sure until after the weekend. Just note that he hadn’t come out of the game before the injury, and Miller alluded to that being a mistake on his part in the post-game.
Indiana returns to action on Tuesday at Penn State.
Northwestern has been underestimated by many. With Vic Law, Ryan Taylor and Dererk Pardon, they have a potent trio that is going to give teams fits. As a team they use their length to defend very well.
It felt like a game that if someone ran out to a seven or eight point lead, that might be enough to put it away. That never happened, as this game was tight from start to finish.
There were 15 ties and 14 lead changes in the game on Saturday afternoon. Neither team ever led by more than 5 points.
With Morgan on the bench and IU trailing 61-58 at the final media timeout with 3:33 to go, it felt like that might be it for the Hoosiers. Rather than hang their heads, the they found a way, which should give them confidence going on the road on Tuesday.
Indiana shot over 50% from the field for the sixth time this season. The key there is that IU is playing to its strengths. As much as we’d like a different answer, this isn’t likely to ever be a really good three point shooting team. Indiana was only 27% from distance, but it only took 11 threes.
Turnovers were an issue early in the game, but Indiana steadied and ended up with 13 on the game, which is an acceptable if not great number.
IU only had nine assists on the game, and Archie Miller continues to believe that a lack of chemistry is contributing to what is clearly at times a sluggish offense. He said this after the game:
“But I would say the biggest struggle is trying to get that chemistry, that symmetry, both ends of the floor. But, most importantly, offensively right now, especially with some new guys in there who have never been in there before, whether that’s a lineup of Romeo, Fitzner and Rob, with two veteran guys. Those three guys don’t know how to play together great.”
For a team with no point guards, you’d like to see IU force more than 11 turnovers. Miller was impressed with the scheme that Northwestern has developed with their unique lineup:
“Chris does a great job of how organized they are. And they have some really, really tough concepts to defend. And they do a great job of playing through Pardon, not only in the low post but obviously the high post as well.
They give you a lot of different feel. They give you a Princeton-esque type of feel; they can really control the game without really getting sped up.”
Pardon was uniquely a nightmare for Indiana, going 11 for 15 on the game and doing his best Zion Williamson impression. IU has work to do defending the post.
But give Indiana credit — they buckled down after halftime. The Hoosiers held the Wildcats to 36.8% shooting from the field and 20.0% from three-point range in the second half.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and players post-game
- Chris Collins post-game
- Rewatch on BTN2Go
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (A-) He was an absolute force on the floor, and showed why he is too valuable to get in foul trouble. Chris Collins admitted they were trying to do just that early, and who could blame him? He has double doubles in three of his last four games. He has become an exceptional passer, but did have four turnovers, including at least one questionable offensive foul on a screen.
- Justin Smith* (C+) Miller gave him credit for his play down the stretch when Morgan went down, saying “He was good. He stepped up in the last four minutes when we needed him.” But Smith continues to be an enigma, with uninspiring rebounding numbers and struggles taking care of the ball and finishing at the rim. The struggles appear to be in part due to the lack of an effective left hand.
- Romeo Langford* (A) Yeah, we’re grading on a curve with this one because of his heroics at the end and his response to a question as to whether Miller was looking for him to step up when Morgan went down: “I feel like that was already stated without saying.” Ice cold. He made several big plays on defense as well, as his length was an issue for Vic Law throughout.
- Rob Phinisee* (B-) Phinisee was in a tough spot with this one, guarding and being guarded by guys much bigger than him. It was a quiet game. He doesn’t always need to be a scoring option, but just one assist and 1-4 from the line is concerning. He did a nice job closing out on shooters in the second half.
- Al Durham* (B+) Durham struggled to stay out on the floor with foul trouble — but he was effective when out there, especially finishing at the rim.
- Evan Fitzner (B-) Fitzner saw extended early action with Smith in foul trouble. He did some things well, but when he only goes 1 for 4 from long range, it is going to feel worse than it really is. The three he hit was a big one, as the Wildcats had gone up by five late in the first half.
- De’Ron Davis (B+) Was effective early scoring in the paint before getting two fouls. Miller confessed that Davis should have been in the game more, stating, “De’Ron was really important; I wish I would have played him a lot more.” He continues to have a really nice touch around the basket, and Miller also gave Davis credit for keeping the paint clear on Langford’s winning shot.
- Zach McRoberts (B) It isn’t always obvious how McRoberts is contributing, and with the worst +/- on the team, perhaps this wasn’t his best day. It isn’t easy to work yourself back from sitting for a month. But then he did this, and you know everything is going to be alright.
- Devonte Green (B+) Indiana really needs a third scorer to emerge on this team, and Green really seems like the right guy to do it. He admitted that he is still working his way back, but he was better today and could be about to break out.
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