After losing 12 of 13 games in Big Ten play, raise your hand if you saw Indiana closing out the regular season with four straight conference wins.
That’s exactly what IU did on senior day Sunday against Rutgers, and in the process Indiana solidified its standing on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
It was the final home game for five Hoosiers — Juwan Morgan, Zach McRoberts, Evan Fitzner, Johnny Jager and Quentin Taylor.
The quintet walked off the Branch McCracken Court for the final time with a victory, and now they will look to Chicago to keep the momentum going.
The Hoosiers (17-14, 8-12) will play against Ohio State at the United Center as part of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
Plenty of 👏 greeted him on his way to the bench. pic.twitter.com/O4jmuNuDyR
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) March 10, 2019
After falling behind 5-0 at the start, IU used a 20-5 run to set the tone. Juwan Morgan was the force behind the early run with 12 points and 5 rebounds.
With Morgan and Rob Phinisee in foul trouble, Rutgers was able to stay within striking distance, but the pair spurred a second half burst with consecutive three point plays to put IU up by 16, 60-44. A Morgan and-one and then a dagger from long range on his senior day put the game out of reach at 66-46.
Holistically, the key for Indiana right now is their health. In the first meeting against Rutgers they were without Devonte Green, De’Ron Davis, Race Thompson and Zach McRoberts. Now those players provide a much strong rotation for Indiana. As a result, the Hoosiers are putting a potent lineup on the floor for 40 minutes and coming at teams in waves.
While Indiana has been playing better of late, they still haven’t put together a complete game on both ends. But this is a team that is peaking at the right time and appears to be primed for a strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament.
From the outset it was clear that the Hoosiers were focused on getting to the rim rather than settling for jump shots. Indiana scored 48 points in the paint and shot 53.4% overall from the field. Those are numbers that look more like their early season form.
Archie Miller summed it up this way —
“We’re doing a much better job of running our offense,” Miller said. “I think Rob has done a really good job of setting the table for guys and getting into stuff. I think our guys have started to do a better job looking at film and seeing what’s going on and we’re adapting. See a lot more assists. You see a lot more open looks and I think at the end of the day, it’s not as robotic. It’s not as stale. There’s a lot more movement. I think it’s helped us.
But to our guys credit, they are starting to execute better, as well. When you look at our turnovers, 13 turnovers this week as a team, that’s spectacular.”
Indiana also put together a strong showing from the free throw line (23 for 29), and got out in transition with 14 fast break points.
If there is any cause for concern right now with Indiana, surprisingly, it has been with the defense over the last two games. Things have regressed some over the last two games.
Indiana’s on the ball defense wasn’t as strong in this one, and that created a lot of dribble drive opportunities for Rutgers and resulted in a lot of fouls by the Hoosiers.
It wasn’t a bad showing, but the results could be different against better offensive teams.
Miller simply said this about the effort —
“I didn’t think our defense was very good in the first half,” Miller said. “We fouled way too much.”
Indiana did a respectable job on the glass, holding Rutgers under their season average for offensive rebounds.
The Hoosiers also allowed just nine assists for the game against 12 turnovers.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Senior day speeches
- Big Ten Tournament bracket
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (A) What a way to go out. About the only thing you could criticize was his fouls, but Morgan was 10 for 10 from the field at one point which would have been the most attempts in IU history without a miss if he could have carried it through to the end of the game. Morgan’s effort from the outset was the difference and he went out a winner.
- Justin Smith* (B-) A quieter day for Smith after a couple really strong showings. The sophomore forward had a few nice passes in this one. He saves the three-pointers for Michigan State.
- Romeo Langford* (A-) Langford had an attacking mentality throughout which was rewarded with 10 free throw attempts. It speaks volumes when you can have a quiet 20 points, an he continues to rebound and defend as well.
- Rob Phinisee* (A-) He was hampered by foul trouble, but the guy is just near flawless when he is on the floor. Four assists and just one turnover on Sunday, just six turnovers in the last ten games, and he hasn’t had a multiple turnover game since January in the last game against Rutgers.
- Al Durham* (B) Did a nice job of pushing the tempo and attacking the rim, but Durham is still in an overall slump from the field. He did have a cleaner floor game in this one with the two assists and no turnovers.
- De’Ron Davis (B) Davis did the dirty work against the Rutgers big men, and he continues to be a safety valve in the post. His free throw shooting has improved substantially since his return from injury. He’s above 70% since the first Michigan State game.
- Devonte Green (A-) It was the third straight solid game for Green who has been an integral part of this four game winning streak. There was a stretch in this one where it seemed like everything was falling, including shots off the dribble that he has struggled with throughout the season.
- Race Thompson (B) The redshirt freshman continues to show that he can be relied upon. 3 rebounds to go with a block and a steal in 11 minutes, Thompson is always active.
- Zach McRoberts (B) It hasn’t been the season that McRoberts had hoped for, but he get in a few productive minutes in his final home game.
- Evan Fitzner, Johnny Jager, Jake Forrester, Quentin Taylor, Clifton Moore, Damezi Anderson, and Vijay Blackmon also played in the game.
(Note: Recruiting targets Anthony Leal, Pierce Thomas, Kiyron Powell, Jalen Blackmon and Khristian Lander were in attendance.)
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