The crowd was alive, the game was entertaining, and they played their hearts out. Despite ending in a 91-81 home loss to Duke, the Hoosiers could hold their heads high at the end of the night.
Indiana’s performance was more than just pushing the number one ranked team to the brink, it was about the drastic turnaround the team has made over the course of a single month.
Twenty days ago, things were looking very uncertain. In the same building they would three weeks later lead 1# Duke late into the second half, the Hoosiers were destroyed by Indiana State 90-69. In that game, the Sycamores made 17 three-pointers and forced the Hoosiers to commit 19 turnovers.
On Wednesday night, the Hoosiers held the Blue Devils to 3 of 17 shooting from deep and committed only nine turnovers, marking the third straight game IU committed single-digit turnovers for the first time this century, and they did this against a well-coached team known for its insane length.
“If we continue to grow up and continue to keep getting better”, said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller, “tonight should be the norm in Assembly Hall.”
Part of the reason for the improvement is the stellar play of the upperclassmen.
Collin Hartman, the redshirt senior playing in his second game of the season after returning from multiple injuries including a groin injury right before the Indiana State game, scored 11 points and made several huge plays when it looked like Duke was starting to pull away.
“He’s a big, big part of what we’re doing because of who he is as a teammate, his leadership, his experience level; he’s fearless,” said Miller about Hartman’s intangibles. “I think once you start to see him get in there, more and more you’ll see our team get a little bit better and look a little bit better.”
Robert Johnson has also stepped up and has embraced the role of senior leader, going from being a non-factor against Indiana State (7 points and 4 turnovers) to leading the Hoosiers in scoring on Wednesday with 17 points, including a huge three right before half to cut into Duke’s lead.
Adding to those two key pieces is the breakout play of Junior Juwan Morgan and Sophomore De’Ron Davis.
Morgan provided a little of everything finishing with 14 points, six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Davis meanwhile went right at potential lottery picks Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. and dominated both of them on the offensive side of the ball, finishing with 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting and getting Carter to foul out.
“He’s a big weapon for us,” said Johnson about Davis. “Whenever we feel he has an advantage inside he has to get the ball. That’s something we’ll continue to do.”
At a record of 4-3, the Hoosiers now look ahead at a December filled with big-time matchups against Michigan, Iowa, Louisville, and Notre Dame among others. Yet despite ending the month of November on a loss, the improvement in this Hoosier squad in evident, as stated by the legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski himself.
“That was a heck of a game. I thought Indiana played great. You could see in watching their tapes how they have just gotten better every game. How they are buying into Archie’s foundation work defensively and offensively.”
As long as the Hoosiers continue to buy in to Archie’s foundation, these kind of games will eventually turn into huge wins.