The freshmen again came to play for the Indiana Hoosiers, as the freshmen backcourt of Rob Phinisee and Romeo Langford played crucial roles in IU’s 68-67 win against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.
Aside from an early 2-2 tie, the Hoosiers trailed throughout most of the game, narrowing the deficit to just two points on four different occasions before finally crossing that hurdle on a Phinisee three-pointer to give the Hoosiers a 49-47 lead with 8:36 left in the second half.
Phinisee would give Indiana (8-2) the lead for good when he hit another three with just 1:25 remaining to put IU up 60-58. The freshman from Lafayette made 3 of 5 (60%) from behind the arc while the rest of the Hoosiers shot a combined 1 of 9 (11.1%) from deep.
“He’s a good shooter,” said IU head coach Archie Miller. “The two (three-pointers) he hit in the second half were big. You need your point guard to be able to do that.”
Langford, facing the team once thought to be the favorite to land him earlier in his recruitment, finished with a team-high 21 points and four assists. Most impressively, he steadied his shaky free throw shooting (5 of 10 during the first 39 and a half minutes) during the final 30 seconds to hit his final four foul shots.
“It started in the summer when they came in willing to work, willing to learn,” said Juwan Morgan about his freshmen teammates’ ability to perform well in pressure situations. “Closer and closer to the Big Ten, they’re becoming more like veterans. We can’t call them freshmen any more because the plays they’re making down the stretch are big plays for us.”
The Louisville Cardinals (6-3) nearly made an unbelievable comeback when Christen Cunningham sank a half court shot at the buzzer while trying to get contact against the nearby Hoosier defenders but was unable to draw that contact. He finished with 16 points while Jordan Nwora had an amazing game with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds.
The Hoosiers also got great contributions from Morgan (15 points and 5 rebounds), Justin Smith (9 points and 9 rebounds) and De’Ron Davis (8 points in 14 minutes of play).
The Hoosiers will get a week to prepare for their next game, which will be a matchup with Butler in the Crossroads Classic. It will be another tough game but if Phinisee and Langford play like they did today, the Hoosiers have a great chance of adding another signature non-conference win to their resume.