Archie Miller said that Indiana “grinded out” a win. We hope you are OK with that, because if Indiana is going to win many more Big Ten games this year, this Penn State game was the template. It wasn’t pretty, but it was tough, smart, aggressive basketball. It’s what we thought Archie Miller basketball looked like when he was hired. Sure it can be prettier with a deeper and more talented roster. Those days will come. But after two straight substantially complete games, this Indiana team seems to finally be buying into what Miller is selling. Indiana wins it, 74-70.
Overall: A- You can’t lose sight of the fact that Penn State was favored to win this game. You can’t lose sight of the fact that IU has lost badly at home to teams that are nowhere near as talented as Penn State. Indiana came out strong from the beginning and only trailed once, for 59 seconds – in the first half by one point. Indiana answered the Penn State runs, seemed to get most of the 50/50 balls, and got a really balanced effort from several key contributors.
Coaching: A- It’s clear that Miller has Indiana playing with more sustained energy. He doesn’t typically show a lot of emotion in the press room but his grin when he said that Indiana grinded it out sure looked like a guy that was pleased with his team. If he can get this group to keep their turnovers down like they did tonight and their energy and focus up then they’ll likely continue to improve in the win column.
Offense: B The offense looked crisp early with a plethora of cuts to the bucket which helped IU jump out to the lead, but midway through the first half Penn State clamped down and stagnated the Hoosier attack. Indiana was able to maintain the lead primarily because it only committed 2 first half turnovers. Indiana had 14 assists on only 9 turnovers for the game, and the free throw shooting was improved at 82%, including several clutch freebies down the stretch. From the field, well, not so much. Let’s just say this. If Indiana ever did catch fire from the perimeter it just might be ready to run a good team out of the gym.
Defense: B+ Indiana forced 14 Penn State turnovers on only 8 assists. What that means to us is that the Lions were reduced to individual play. Indiana was very solid on the defensive glass, as the Hoosiers only allowed 5 Penn State offensive rebounds. Probably most important — Indiana was able to avoid big runs. It got the stops when it needed them. That is just one of those intangibles that a team needs irrespective of how deep or talented it is. It’s a mentality.
- Al Durham, Jr.: B His play was reduced to 11 minutes. He’s now shooting 1-9 in his last 4 games. He was steadier today though as he got his no turnover mojo back.
- Josh Newkirk: A- Real heady senior guard game for Newkirk. 4 assists on no turnovers in 30 minutes. Clutch free throws down the stretch to quell any Penn State rallies. 7 for 8 on free throws on the night.
- Justin Smith: B- Disappointing night after such a big day in Minnesota. He just couldn’t stay on the floor due to fouls and then Miller chose to keep him out of the rotation the rest of the way.
- Robert Johnson: C+ Perhaps he was out of gas from the thankless job of trying to stop Tony Carr? His shot was off and he had 4 of IU’s 9 turnovers. He had some questionable decision making down the stretch as well. On the plus side, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
- Devonte Green: A- There he is. This team needs Green in so many ways. They need his swagger, his athleticism, his defense. Tonight he showed some great touch around the basket on multiple drives, and then hit a huge 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to 8 late in the 2nd half when it looked like Penn State might be about to take over. There’s more he could have done but it is good to get the trend line headed in the right direction.
- Juwan Morgan: A He nearly had a double double at the half with 14 and 8. Only one turnover in 39 minutes. He’s now 5 for 9 on 3-pointers over the last 2 games. Don’t look now, but shooting like that will probably put him in the first round of the NBA draft.
- Zach McRoberts: A- It just wouldn’t feel right if he scored. He’s too good for that. Despite appearing to sprain his ankle which he of course walked off, he played 26 minutes and fouled out with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. 3 of those rebounds he literally snatched out of Mike Watkins hands.
- Freddie McSwain, Jr.: B Overall a quiet 8 minutes. 2 points and 2 rebounds. He had a huge offensive rebound to set up Newkirk 3-pointer.
- Collin Hartman: B+ That shoulder brace is so Collin Hartman. He had a solid 10 points and 5 rebounds on the night. He couldn’t get it going from distance, going 1 for 6.
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Photo credit – Darron Cummings/AP