Juwan Morgan ended up leaving Indiana’s Big Ten opener against Northwestern with a leg injury and it became apparent that the Hoosiers would have to overcome their three-point deficit during the final three and a half minutes without their senior leader, who had accumulated 17 points and 12 rebounds to that point.
Naturally the responsibility would fall upon Indiana’s star freshman Romeo Langford, but considering the responsibility was thrust upon him in the closing minutes of his first ever Big Ten game and with his team trailing, it would be understandable if he faltered.
Yet he didn’t.
Instead, Langford scored a team-high 20 points, including the go-ahead basket on a running floater with 39 seconds left to give the Indiana Hoosiers a 68-66 win over the Northwestern Wildcats to start Big Ten conference play.
“I feel like (it) was already stated without saying,” said Langford about if Indiana Coach Archie Miller asked him to step up in Morgan’s absence. “We just knew that it was crunch time and we still gotta do what it takes to win, and Coach (Miller) drew up a play and we executed a play down low.”
It wasn’t the only time last year’s Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana took over when the Hoosiers needed him.
IU took a quick 9-4 lead over Northwestern, but the Wildcats made it known right away that the whole game would be a dogfight as they quickly tied it less than four minutes later and took the lead midway through the first half.
It was then when Langford took over scoring duty for the Hoosiers, as he scored seven straight points for his team during a four-minute stretch and followed it up with a big assist on an Evan Fitzner three that, combined with Rob Phinisee’s steal and layup, tied the game at 31 with three and a half minutes left in the first half.
Langford did more than just score as he also finished with five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. He also shot 8-of-13 from the floor and made all three of his free throws.
“The guy’s absolutely a heck of a guy to be around everyday,” praised Miller, “He works hard. Doesn’t say much. Continues to get better. (He) had his best all-around game tonight without question, offensively and defensively.”
While the severity of Morgan’s injury is currently unknown, at the very least the Hoosiers know they can start relying on Langford more and that his star is ready and willing to shine bright.