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Wisconsin at Indiana: The Report Card

Not on this night.

Not even the angry voodoo demons that have seemingly possessed this team and sabotaged this season could hold back Indiana on Tuesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Not even the Wisconsin Badgers, who came into the game winners of 19 of the last 21 over IU could come away with a victory on the Branch McCracken Court where the Hoosiers had lost five in a row, and 12 of 13 overall.

Not even a sick De’Ron Davis or fouled out Justin Smith, Al Durham and Juwan Morgan was enough.

It took double overtime, but this Indiana team just would not quit — and there was finally cause for celebration in Bloomington.  *Exhales*

Indiana (14-14, 5-12) will host Michigan State on Saturday at noon.

OVERALL (B)

Indiana got off to a great start in this one and led by 13 in the second half.  But a quick 20-3 Badger run after Indiana led 47-34 had Hoosier fans thinking “here we go again.”  But this time Indiana had their own answer.  IU head coach Archie Miller discussed the runs —

“For about 30 minutes, we played probably as well as we have in a Big Ten game, especially at home here recently, just in terms of being able to get stops and obviously offensively getting a cushion,” Miller said.  “Good teams make runs. That’s what we talked about. And being able to respond to that in those last four minutes and then in the overtimes, it was great to see that we didn’t sort of lay an egg as we came out not on top on a couple of those plays.”

Indiana has developed a resilience about them in the last few games, even after tough losses, that seems to have all stemmed from giving maximum effort throughout the game.

Miller described his team as a much more confident group that is carrying over effort a mindset from practice into games.

It is probably no coincidence that the Hoosiers have had more players practicing here recently than at any time all season.

Injuries have been a major topic of discussion this year — but in this game you clearly saw why they have impacted this season.  With De’Ron Davis missing the early portion of the game, and three players fouling out, Indiana was still able to hang on.  This is the healthiest this team has been all season.

OFFENSE (C+)

IU had six turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game, missing an early opportunity to get separation from Wisconsin.  But to their credit, the Hoosiers only committed seven more miscues over the games final 42 minutes.

Indiana was by no means perfect on the offensive end in this one, with many of the same issues that have plagued them throughout Big Ten play.  IU shot just 40.6% overall, 30% from long range, and 63% from the foul line.  And again IU had a low assist total with just eleven.

You aren’t going to win many games going away with numbers like that.  But Indiana just needed a win, and they learned from past mistakes to finally close out the game.

Miller wasn’t afraid to go back to Langford on the game winning play.  The freshman guard had been schooled on how better to handle those situations —

“We talked about it after the Iowa game. Don’t settle. Get to the rim. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but he made a great play on the finish,” Miller said.

DEFENSE (A-)

The Hoosiers continued their run of excellent defensive play over the last three games.  They have allowed an average of just 57 points per game through regulation in those contests.

Miller promised “drastic changes” after the loss at Minnesota, and you would have to say that he has delivered —

“We’re playing extremely hard right now, Miller said. Rob Phinisee is playing as good of a perimeter defense as you can probably play as a freshman in this league. He’s doing it in a lot of minutes tonight. We’ve started to see the old Rob come back here a little bit in terms of his aggressiveness. I think that Al is obviously doing a nice job on the perimeter as well. It starts there with us. We have to be able to really work hard and pressure the ball.”

That defensive pressure out on the perimeter is translating into poor shooting nights for IU’s opponents.

For the third straight game, Indiana held their opponent to under 30 percent from the three-point line.

“Our toughness on the ball has been excellent. Our ability to get over screens and be there on the catch and our ability to chase shooters right now is as good as it’s been all year. So we’re eliminating some of the easy ones that we were giving up,” Miller said.


OTHER GAME COVERAGE


THE PLAYERS

(players with meaningful minutes)

  • Juwan Morgan* (B-) Morgan continues to struggle from the floor, but the effort that he is giving right now is off the charts.  He had a career high 15 rebounds to go with 2 blocks and a steal.  His effort is also leading to foul trouble.  He continues to struggle from behind the three-point line and he had 4 turnovers.  As much as there were struggles, you saw his value to the team, especially on the defensive end — as Wisconsin mounted their big run when he sat with foul trouble.
  • Justin Smith* (B) Smith had one of his better games.  He showed a left hand on a couples plays that has been sorely missing from his repertoire, his defense was better, and he played within himself in the flow offense, generally using good judgment on when to attack.
  • Romeo Langford* (A-) Langford continues to improve defensively, and he continues to rebound. This is not a guy that is just waiting for the NBA Draft.  He is getting better as the season progresses as he learns the grind of the Big Ten.  After missing big late shots against Ohio State and Iowa, it took a lot of confidence to take the game winner after playing 45 minutes — but he was up to the challenge.
  • Rob Phinisee* (A-) No turnovers from your point guard in 43 minutes of action in a Big Ten game is an incredible statistic.  And it wasn’t for being passive.  Phinisee was looking to attack and got to the rim.  He has 7 steals in his last two games, and his defense on Brad Davison was exceptional.  This is the best Phinisee has looked all year — including back in December.
  • Al Durham* (B) Durham hit several big shots in the first half to give IU early confidence and momentum.  He was quiet on the offensive end the rest of the way, but he was strong on the defensive end throughout.
  • De’Ron Davis (B) You have to give Davis a ton of credit.  He threw up just moments before a game that he was going to start.  He may not have even ever played, but Smith and Morgan’s foul trouble necessitated it.  Happ was a tough cover for Davis, but he did reasonably well, especially considering the circumstances.
  • Devonte Green (D-) Devonte did, well Devonte things.  Careless play sent him to the bench for what seemed to be the rest of the game — but with Durham fouling out, Green was forced back into the overtime where he proceeded to commit a really bad foul on a three-point shooter when IU led by three late.
  • Race Thompson (A-) Indiana really has someone for the future here.  Thompson played nearly as many minutes in this game as he has played in the last two years.  His defense was solid, and his rebounding was exceptional.  He still needs to find his offensive game — but it is there and will emerge along with his stamina.
  • Evan Fitzner and Zach McRoberts also appeared in the game briefly.

*Denotes Starters


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