Indiana head coach Archie Miller sent senior guard Devonte Green to the bench and started sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee in his place on Saturday.
Both players would end up making their head coach look good as Miller picked up his first win as the IU head coach over Ohio State.
After an uncomfortably close win over Northwestern on Wednesday night, a clearly frustrated Miller said that “we’re just searching for ourselves again” as his team seemed to lack focus and a commitment to the gameplan.
An apparent part of Miller’s solution was to send Green to the bench. But the New York native didn’t stay there long.
Green checked into the game at the 14:49 mark of the first half, and he scored the game’s final points with an emphatic dunk that set the final margin at 66-54.
Phinisee wasted no time making an impact in the game in Green’s place, hitting three 3-pointers in the first four minutes to give the Hoosiers an early 13-5 edge.
“I told him last night, go in there and do what you do. Stop worrying about everything,” Miller said.
Phinisee has struggled with various injuries throughout the season and appeared to be bothered again with an issue on Saturday.
But his early heroics in the game gave his teammates a lift and energized a sizable crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“He’s a warrior, and he’s stuck with it through the hard times,” Justin Smith said. “He was due for one of these games. He came out hot, and that really set the tone for the rest of the team going forward during the game.”
The first 10 minutes of the game provided a glimpse of how good Indiana can be this year when they are clicking on all cylinders. IU had a 25-16 lead on the No. 11 Buckeyes with just under 10 minutes remaining in the opening period.
But as they have been prone to do, another Indiana offensive dry spell quickly halted their momentum and allowed Ohio State to rally back. After Green’s layup with 9:57 remaining, the Hoosiers failed to make another field goal for the remainder of the half.
Indiana was trailing 34-31 at the break, and once again, seemed to be searching for itself.
This time IU found answers, and it came in the form of the player that Miller had benched.
Green scored 15 of his team high 19 points in the second half, something that didn’t seem likely just a few days ago. After sitting on the bench for the final 11 minutes of the win over Northwestern, it wasn’t clear whether Green would see the floor at all on Saturday.
But when his head coach gave him the opportunity on a big stage against Ohio State on Saturday, this time Green capitalized.
“Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad. And you’ve just got to bounce back from the bad ones,” Green said after the game. “So that was the mindset I had coming into today, to the next day, and to every day moving forward. I always want to have a better day than the last, bad or good.”
While the offense continues to be erratic for Indiana, Miller was particularly pleased with the effort on the other end of the floor.
“Probably as good of a defensive game as we’ve played overall if you look at the numbers,” Miller said.
Indiana was able to hold OSU to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and forced 16 Buckeye turnovers, 11 of which came from steals by the Hoosiers.
The stout defensive effort allowed Indiana to weather their offensive slumps, and then finally midway through the second half IU’s guards got things rolling again.
Trailing 45-43 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Green made a layup to begin the game’s decisive stretch. Green contributed five points to a 14-1 Indiana run over five minutes that allowed the Hoosiers to pull away.
Miller credited Indiana’s ability to grind out the win to his guards.
“To play and beat the best you’ve got to have good guard play, and I thought today we had very good guard play. Phinisee got us going, he was good on both ends of the floor, and then Devonte Green was really good as well. So you had two guys today in the backcourt play the right way and made guys better.”
Inside The Numbers:
Ohio State’s 17-of-52 (32.7 percent) day from the field was well below their season average of 46.1 percent.
For the game, Indiana was much improved from beyond the arc, making 6-of-12, or 50 percent. Major factors in the Hoosiers improved three-point percentage were Phinisee shooting 3-of-4 and Green shooting 2-of-3 from distance. Overall, IU shot 40.8 percent from the field.
Although they produced a high number of attempts, Indiana struggled mightily at the charity stripe, making only 20-of-36, or 55.6 percent.
Phinisee was the only other Hoosier in double figures besides Green, with 13 points. He also led IU with 7 rebounds.
IU had just 11 turnovers for the game.
See also: Final stats and highlights
Indiana (13-3, 3-2) travels to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in a Big Ten conference matchup. The game tips off at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
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