Whether it was tryptophan or lingering fatigue from a roster that has been stretched to the limit, IU got off to a shaky start on Friday night against UC Davis. Down 24-10 with eight minutes to go in the first half, senior forward Juwan Morgan did the same thing he did on Tuesday against UT Arlington — he took the game over.
Morgan scored the next 11 points of the game to cut the margin to three. While the game would hang in the balance until late in the second half, IU went on to win by 14, meaning that they outscored UC Davis by 28 over the last 28 minutes of the game.
The win brings the Hoosiers to 5-1 on the young season, with a road trip to Duke looming next week followed by the opening of Big Ten play. With several players back from injury tonight and others seemingly ready for next week, IU appears to be rounding into form at just the right time.
Nobody wants to hear excuses, but there is no denying that Indiana has had a rough go of things lately. With as many as eight different players battling various injuries, nothing has come easy for IU. Head coach Archie Miller described it this way after the win over UC Davis.
“We haven’t been able to really, really — it’s been a really tough week on the available guys so we’ve been trying to manage, but you have to work every day, you have to consistently bring your habits to the floor and I think you’ve seen a little bit of slippage due to our inability on either end of the floor, really, to be working hard at it every day. We’re trying. I think this will be a good weekend obviously if we can get a couple guys back, even if it’s just for non-contact, just more bodies in practice.”
With a fatigued team that was unable to practice in any manner resembling normal, is it really a surprise that they came out flat?
Indiana trailed for 31 minutes in this game, but ultimately found a way to fight through a difficult situation and win. While things are not going as well as we might have hoped right now, this team is gaining close game experience that will pay dividends down the road.
With 11 assists on 15 turnovers, it wasn’t a great offensive day in any kind of purist sense. But yet again IU shot above 50% from the field, including an impressive 58.8% from long range. Several guys stepped up late with big three pointers, including Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan and Justin Smith.
Although Morgan had 31 points, balance was once again a story with four players in double figures despite still missing several key players.
Despite committing 21 turnovers, UC Davis got back on defense really well, limiting IU to just five fast break points. Miller has emphasized using defense to create offense, and those opportunities weren’t there tonight.
Fortunately, the Hoosiers were able to turn an aggressive UC Davis defense into free throw opportunities, getting 17 more attempts from the line on the night.
Miller called it the worst defensive effort that the team has played this year in terms of getting stops. Fortunately for Indiana, the players played much harder during the final eight minutes to shut down the Aggies.
In an approach that felt similar to Arkansas, UC Davis was able to get to the rim routinely on straight line drives off of ball screens, with little help side defense.
Finally IU had seen enough, and with an energetic home crowd urging them on, they stepped up the defensive intensity. This is how Miller described the effort in the final eight minutes:
“We did a little better job guarding the ball. I thought the last six minutes, seven minutes we were a little better on the ball which kept them in front of us, which hopefully was causing challenge two-point shots and draw a couple fouls, as well.”
UC Davis shot 48% from the field including 10 of 20 from long range. On the plus side, IU forced them into 21 turnovers, with 15 of those coming in the second half.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (A) Miller said “it was a great performance by Morgan and he’s had two this week, two senior performances.” He played the entire 40 minutes on the night, and Indiana is probably sitting at 3-3 without his consecutive double doubles. He showed a lot of versatility, playing inside and out and setting a new career high with five 3-pointers made.
- Justin Smith* (B) Miller is a big believer in plus/minus stats, and Smith led the team at +19. When asked what contributed to that, Miller went immediately to defense. Smith was also more efficient on offense, although he still had some issues being ball strong around the rim, and needs to become more impactful on the glass.
- Romeo Langford* (A-) He denied it after the game, but Langford looked understandably hesitant early in the game playing with his injured nose. As the game wore on he seemed to play through it and was a force down the stretch, including big 3-pointers.
- Rob Phinisee* (A-) It wasn’t a big night scoring the ball, but that’s not always what is needed from a point guard. He is a natural at that position, and with 8 assists and 3 turnovers, continues to be highly effective there. He struggled some on defense staying in front of the UC Davis point guard off of ball screens.
- Al Durham* (A-) Durham showed no ill effects from a hard fall against UT Arlington and he continues to stroke the ball from long range with confidence. He continues to amaze with his ability to play extended minutes with no turnovers.
- Evan Fitzner (C) In the first few games Fitzner seemed to always be in the right place and able to knock down a big shot. He had some moments last night that showed bad judgment, including dribbling up the floor on the fast break. The bottom line — he’s in a funk, and IU needs him to be better.
- Damezi Anderson (B-) Anderson got limited action on the night. With a quick missed shot and a turnover, Miller decided to go another direction in a tight game.
- De’Ron Davis (B-) It was good to see the big fella back after missing the UT Arlington game, but he looked like he had regressed some with the new Achilles strain, and the matchups were not favorable in this one.
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