How A Gutsy And Short-Handed Indiana Hoosier Team Survived UT-Arlington’s Epic Comeback

Merely looking at boxscores can be very misleading. What ended up being a 78-64 win for the Indiana Hoosiers over the UT-Arlington Mavericks looks like a somewhat comfortable win on the surface, but anyone who watched the contest can attest to the fact that there was nothing comfortable about this game.

That can be interpreted in a literal sense too as before the game started, news came out that De’Ron Davis would be unable to play, bringing the total of injured scholarship players to five and leaving IU Coach Archie Miller with just a seven-man rotation.

Which quickly became a six-man rotation when Al Durham fell awkwardly on his back after scoring the first basket of the game. He would stay in for a little while longer but when he was subbed out with 7:58 left in the first half, he never returned to the game.

Still the six-man rotation of Romeo Langford, Rob Phinisee, Juwan Morgan, Justin Smith, Evan Fitzner, and Damezi Anderson pressed on and pushed a 24-14 lead from when Durham went out to a 39-22 halftime score.

Yet the Mavericks didn’t panic. Despite shooting a horrendous 1-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half, they kept to their gameplan and were rewarded as the shots from deep finally started to fall. Combine that with a suffocating defense against a fatigued Hoosier squad (remember IU was just over 48 hours removed from a grueling loss at Arkansas) and in the span of 12 minutes, Indiana’s lead went from 48-28 to just 61-60 with 6:33 left.

During those dozen minutes, the Mavericks played with swagger. Confidently launching threes when the stats said otherwise. Forcing the Hoosiers to commit turnover after turnover. They believed they were going to come back and win.

Then Hoosier Nation stepped into action.

Despite the student section being absent due to Thanksgiving Break, the seats at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall were still occupied with thousands of IU fans who cheered on the Hoosiers throughout the game. Yet with Indiana’s lead dwindling, the crowd became louder and louder as they tried to encourage their Cream and Crimson warriors.

“Without question, the energy our crowd gives our players, they feed off of (it),” said Coach Miller. “(The crowd) knew in that last seven, eight minutes we needed them. I thought they stepped up.”

As soon as UT-Arlington cut the deficit to just a single point, Indiana immediately countered on the next possession when Smith converted a layup off of a lobbed pass from Fitzner to end a 6-0 Maverick run.

That basket sparked a loud reaction from the crowd and suddenly that confidence in the Mavericks started to waver, so much so that UT-Arlington Head Coach Chris Ogden smartly called a timeout to ice the crowd and draw out a play for his team.

However, it didn’t work. Hoosier Nation retaliated by being even louder after the timeout and it was at that point that all that confidence waned.

Sensing the chink in the armor, Morgan asserted himself, scoring once and assisting on the other two IU baskets as the Hoosiers pushed the lead back to seven.

“When things aren’t going real well, you need your aces to kind of stick their head out and say let’s go, and I thought he did,” said Miller.

Even an incidental headbutt that caused Langford to leave the game with a bloody nose couldn’t stop the Hoosiers from gutting it out as Anderson hit a huge three just a minute later that basically iced the game as the lead returned to double-digits.

Morgan demonstrated his senior leadership not just at the end but throughout the game, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Langford added 16 points and eight rebounds, while Phinisee had eight points, four assists, and three steals.

The final result was a well-earned victory in the face of adversity. Yet that adversity won’t be going away with the addition of three more scholarship players on the injury report and no guarantee any of them will even be available to play Friday vs UC Davis. Yet Morgan and his team remain undaunted.

“If it gets to the point where we have to play five people 40 minutes a game then that’s what we’ll do,” said Morgan. “Our bodies are in condition well enough to do it, but if it comes to it then that’s what we’re going to do, and we’ll fight as hard as we can.”

Underclassmen Guards Shine During Indiana’s Impressive Rout Of Marquette

With upperclassmen guards Devonte Green and Zach McRoberts out, it was up to two freshmen and a sophomore to hold down the fort against one of the most dangerous scoring guards in college basketball.

Despite the troubling outlook, the trio of Romeo Langford, Rob Phinisee, and Al Durham put on exceptional performances as they led the Indiana Hoosiers to a 96-73 win over the 24th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles on Wednesday night.

Langford led all scorers with 22 points while Phinisee and Durham orchestrated an extremely efficient offense by producing a combined 13 assists (eight for Phinisee and five for Durham) compared to just one turnover.

“You’re starting two freshmen and a sophomore, to say the least, I couldn’t be prouder of them,” exclaimed Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller about his young backcourt.

Phinisee and Durham not only helped set up teammates for baskets but also scored a few of their own as they recorded 12 and 13 points respectively.

Yet probably their biggest contribution was holding Golden Eagle standout Markus Howard to just 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including just 1-of-5 from three. Heading into the game, Howard had been averaging 26 points per game and had just won Big East Player of the Week.

“Going in, we knew how good Markus Howard was and we knew how capable he was of scoring, so we prepped for that all week,” said Durham. “So that just translated to the game. I feel our coaches really set us up to execute the game plan.”

The trio were also helped out by a standout performance from Evan Fitzner, who scored 16 points in just 18 minutes of action, including a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the arc.

“He’s a terrific offensive player,” said Miller. “Without question he fits our style. I knew it from day one. He’s a confident guy.”

Overall the Hoosiers looked both comfortable and confident throughout their first game against a formidable opponent. IU will need to bring both attributes with them when they travel to Arkansas on Sunday for what will be the Hoosiers’ first road game of the season.

IU Showcases A Deep And Talented Team In Win over Chicago State

On a night that saw our first taste of Romeo Langford lighting it up for the Cream and Crimson, there was plenty more to be excited about regarding the Indiana Hoosiers after their 104-55 win over the Chicago State Cougars.

Langford led the way with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, yet he was just one of many Hoosiers who showcased their talent on Tuesday night.

Fellow freshman guard Rob Phinisee had a rough first half with early foul trouble, but rebounded in a big way during the second half as he finished with six points, five assists, and five steals in 20 minutes of play.

“I felt Rob played real well,” said Langford about his freshman backcourt teammate. “He basically translated his game from high school into college.”

It wasn’t just the freshmen newcomers that stood out. Graduate Transfer Evan Fitzner was a huge spark off the bench as he added 14 points on a hyper-efficient 5-of-6 shooting, which included a diverse shot selection from hook shots in the post to corner threes.

“Very high IQ, very skilled offensive player,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “He has size and length and great touch with either hand around the basket. He obviously can stretch the floor (too). I thought he did a nice job of throwing over the zone at times, catching it in the middle and skipping it out at times.”

Yet the most encouraging thing from Tuesday night was that this group of newcomers fit in so seamlessly with Indiana’s returning key players, creating a team that looks eons better than the one that was blown out by Indiana State during last season’s opening game.

Juwan Morgan may have had a quiet night on the scoring front with just nine points, but he was still an essential part of the team, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds (five of which were offensive) and also added three assists and two blocks.

Zach McRoberts is making good on his promise to be more aggressive on offense, and it paid off as he sank both of his three-point attempts and grabbed seven rebounds.

Justin Smith put his explosiveness on full display, and while he didn’t play a perfect game, he still played a huge factor for the Hoosiers drawing seven opposing fouls and finishing with 13 points.

Last, but not least, Devonte Green was able to come off the bench and bring instant-offense through his scoring and his passing, finishing with 15 points and three assists. Even more impressive, his time on the floor paired alongside Phinisee presented a unique and dynamic look for the Hoosiers that saw both players thriving off of each other.

“Devonte, he’s a real good scorer as well as passer, but I feel scoring is his main thing,” remarked Langford. “So just letting Devonte play without the ball for a little bit, when they’re both in the game at the same time, opens the court up even more for guys like me and Evan and J-Mo (Juwan).”

Yet the roster appeared even deeper as Damezi Anderson (five points, four rebounds) and De’Ron Davis (four points) played solidly for 20 and 12 minutes respectively. Also don’t forget the injured Al Durham, who looked like a prime breakout candidate during Hoosier Hysteria.

What this all means is that Coach Miller looks to have a squad that can legitimately run 10-men deep and won’t see their effectiveness wane when Morgan or Langford need a rest.

Indiana has a lot of talented players, and while they neither played perfectly (19-of-33 from the foul line) nor faced a challenging foe in Chicago State, the potential shown off on Tuesday night should make Hoosier Nation giddy with excitement for this new season.