Freshmen Smith And Durham Step Up In 78-68 Win Over Illinois

Justin Smith and Aljami Durham have had very up-and-down freshmen seasons, sometimes providing a huge spark and other times being non-factors.

On Wednesday night, both players were at their best as they helped the Indiana Hoosiers beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 78-68 as the duo helped counter two separate runs by the Illini when the Hoosiers needed someone to step up.

The first time happened in the first half when Illinois jumped out to a 9-6 lead over the first four minutes of the game. Smith would score the Hoosiers’ next eight points as Indiana tied the game up at 14-14. After that, Durham made back-to-back baskets, one of them from three, to push the Hoosiers’ lead to 19-14 and force an Illinois timeout.

The second time came in the second half when the Illini cut a 10-point halftime deficit down to 47-45 with 14 minutes left. Smith and Durham scored 10 of the Hoosiers’ next 12 points as IU pushed the lead to 59-51 and never let Illinois get within four points for the rest of the game.

“Freshmen, they go through ups and downs. That’s what a freshman season is,” said IU coach Archie Miller. “But moments like tonight, (a) hard-fought win where guys make winning plays, they stick with you — that’s how you learn how to win.”

The freshmen duo weren’t the only ones who helped Indiana get above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time in a month. Josh Newkirk had 11 crucial points, including a huge three-pointer during Illinois’ run to start the second half to help the Hoosiers stay ahead before Smith and Durham went to work.

“It’s nice to have him play the amount of minutes he did (21 minutes) and also put up some points on the board and also make some crucial shots for us,” said Miller.

Also, despite not scoring as much as he usually does, Juwan Morgan played a huge role as he played amazing defense and in the process really stuffed the stat sheet as he finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 5 blocks.

To Miller it was just another day of Morgan carrying the team.

“If he’s not a first-team, all-conference member maybe it’s because of our record. But I have a hard time imagining there’s an impactful player on a team that’s done as much as him for us.”

The Hoosiers now must go on the road for their next two games, starting with a trip to Iowa on Saturday. But they’ll enter that stretch now having won three games in a row by 10+ points.

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Hoosiers Dish Out 21 Assists During 80-56 Win Over Golden Gophers

The Indiana Hoosiers earned their second straight 20+ point win Friday night by defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 80-56 and they did it by sharing the ball.

The Hoosiers finished with 21 assists, their most in a Big Ten game this season. Devonte Green and Juwan Morgan led the way with seven and five assists respectively, both of which were career-highs for the players.

“We’ve really just been emphasizing sharing the ball and making the right read,” said Green about team’s improved passing.

Green and Morgan each added a game-high 19 points as the Hoosiers used their great passing to shoot 30 of 53 (56.6%) from the floor. All seven players that scored at least four points for the Hoosiers shot 50% or better during the game.

  • Juwan Morgan – 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting
  • Devonte Green – 19 points on 5 of 7 shooting
  • Robert Johnson – 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting
  • Justin Smith – 9 points on 4 of 7 shooting
  • Freddie McSwain Jr. – 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting
  • Aljami Durham – 7 points on 2 of 4 shooting
  • Josh Newkirk – 4 points on 2 of 4 shooting

Johnson also had 4 assists as Indiana’s retooled starting lineup of McSwain/Morgan/Johnson/Green/McRoberts 17 of the team’s 21 assists.

“To me that five gives us the best chance,” said IU Coach Archie Miller. “That’s why we’re working with that five right now to start the game.”

The Hoosier defense also continued to lockdown the opposing team as the Golden Gophers made just 20 of 60 (33.3%) on the night. Over the past two games the Hoosiers have allowed just 99 points, the first time since January of 2002 that Indiana held back-to-back opponents to under 100 combined points (IU held Northwestern and Penn State to 98 combined points back in 2002).

The Hoosiers will look to see if they can make it three dominant wins in a row when they host Illinois on Wednesday night at  Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Grit, Toughness, And A Lot Of Rebounds Aren’t Enough For Hoosiers To Overcome Shooting Woes In Close Loss To Spartans

“In East Lansing they punked us. We came to this mindset, this can’t happen (again).”

Those were the words of Juwan Morgan after Indiana’s 63-60 loss to Michigan State in regards to the team’s performance, and what a performance it was on Saturday night.

Just a few weeks ago, the Spartans obliterated the Hoosiers 85-57. Indiana was outrebounded 45-27, outscored 17-6 on second chance points, and outscored 38-18 in the paint.

On Saturday night, the Hoosiers wouldn’t be pushed around. Instead they pushed back. The Hoosiers outrebounded the Spartans 53-29, outscored them 14-0 on second chance points, and outscored them 24-22 in the paint.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

The Hoosiers dug themselves a first half deficit thanks to some horrendous shooting as IU made just 6 of 35 shots (17.1%) during the first 20 minutes. Yet despite a gigantic disadvantage in shooting (Michigan State shot 12 of 24 in the first half), the Hoosiers were still within striking distance going into the second half down just eight points.

The reason for this was because of Indiana’s huge rebounding advantage. Despite being blocked nine times in the first half, the Hoosiers kept crashing the offensive glass and were rewarded with 15 first half offensive rebounds, which is just one shy of how many total rebounds the Spartans had in the first half.

However there is a Yin to every Yang. The absurd amount of offensive rebounds meant that the Hoosiers were missing a lot of shots, which contributed to the low shooting percentage.

To counteract that and keep the Hoosiers in the game, Indiana grabbed all but one of Michigan State’s missed shots in the first half, preventing the Spartans from getting a single second chance point.

The Hoosiers would shoot much better in the second half, hitting 13 of 31 field goal attempts (41.9%) while continuing to own the boards 25-13, yet the Spartans were able to hold on thanks to their extremely efficient shooting.

Despite taking 19 fewer shots over the course of the game, Michigan State stayed ahead thanks to 48.9% overall shooting (23 of 47) compared to the 28.8% overall shooting (19 of 66) of Indiana. The Spartans were also 50% (9 of 18) from three-point range compared to the Hoosiers’ 21.1% (4 of 19).

“(Michigan State) had a lot to do with the (low shooting) numbers, just in terms of impacting the rim and the field goal percentage offense with their shot blocking and their size and they made it hard on us,” said IU Head Coach Archie Miller, who despite having narrowly lost yet again to an elite opponent, was very proud of his team’s toughness.

“Credit our guys. I thought they fought hard and played hard. We’re getting, especially against some really good teams, to the last two or three minutes and just have to find a way to make a couple of plays. And I think that’s what teams who know how to win do, teams like Michigan State and Purdue. With two minutes on the line they know they’re going to win. And right now we’re still trying to figure out how to make those dagger plays to find a way to win.”

Hoosiers Check All The Boxes, But Still Fall Just Short Against Purdue

It was an incredible effort from the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday afternoon against their archrivals the Purdue Boilermakers. Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough as Purdue held off Indiana 74-67.

The Hoosiers checked all the boxes they needed filled if they were to have a chance of beating the third-ranked team in the country.

  • They out-rebounded Purdue 31-30.
  • They held the second best three-point shooting team in the country (44.2% shooting coming into the game) to just 5 of 18 (27.8%) from long range.
  • They turned the ball over only 10 times.
  • They got excellent performances from their two best players in Juwan Morgan (24 points and 7 rebounds) and Rob Johnson (21 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists).
  • They held Carsen Edwards (averaging 17.0ppg) to just 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting.
  • They held Purdue to just 74 points, tied for the second lowest amount the Boilers have scored in a Big Ten game this season.

Yet it just didn’t end up being enough.

The Hoosiers shot 50.0% for the game but were ice cold on three-pointers, hitting only 3 of 16 (18.8%), including 0 of 7 in the second half. The Hoosiers also struggled at the free throw line again, hitting only 10 of 17 (58.8%) free throws.

Then there was senior giant Isaac Haas. The 7’2″ center took full advantage of his seven-inch height advantage and tied his career-high of 26 points during a game he played a career-high 30 minutes.

“We were in a catch 22 there with the big fella (Haas),” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “He’s a tough cover, especially for our guys in terms of size differential. We didn’t do a good enough job in our post coverages.”

Miller also had praise for the Boilermakers, who he acknowledged didn’t play their best game.

“Hats off to Purdue. Give them credit. That’s what really good teams do. They find a way when it’s not their day, in a tough environment, and they are able to get the job done. Our guys played really hard.”

Meanwhile on the other side, Purdue Head Coach Painter had a lot of praise for the performances of Morgan and Johnson.

“They are good players; Juwan Morgan is the most improved guy we have seen all year. He is unbelievable from where he was to where he is now. Sometimes that happens between opportunity and natural growth, but man he’s good. I’ve always been a huge fam of  Robert Johnson (too).”

The Hoosiers can’t let this close loss dwell on them, as they still have to face two more of the top teams in the Big Ten (Ohio State on Tuesday and Michigan State on Saturday) this upcoming week.

“For us we have to have short-term memory loss,” said Miller. “It’s all about recovery, we have a quick turnaround. You’re playing against the best teams in your conference. The stage is big.”

Juwan Morgan Plays Role Of Superman Again And Helps Hoosiers Hold Off Terrapins

In a game where there was a good chance he would be unable to play, Juwan Morgan once again showed his value to the Indiana Hoosiers by leading them to a crucial 71-68 win over Maryland to improve 12-8 on the season and 5-3 in Big Ten play.

“Obviously you see how important he is to us,” said Zach McRoberts about the impact Morgan brings the Hoosiers. “He played great for us tonight, on defense and offense.”

In a back-and-forth game between two Big Ten teams fighting for position in the middle of the conference standings, Maryland (15-7, 4-5) looked to have taken control of the game during a 9-0 run that saw the Terrapins take a 62-57 lead with 4:53 left in the game.

That’s when Morgan donned the red cape and took over the game.

Morgan immediately responded by scoring on the next two possessions, including an “and-1” that tied the game up at 62-62 just 40 seconds after being down five.

A Robert Johnson layup gave the Hoosiers the lead with 3:15 left. Johnson also played a huge role in the game contributing 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

“He’s really taken it to another level in terms of what we’re asking him to do,” said IU coach Archie Miller about Johnson. “I think his play speaks volumes.”

The Hoosiers then went back to Morgan to close the game, as the junior went 3 of 4 from the free throw line during the final minutes. Yet the Terps continued to stay with the Hoosiers as Jared Nickens hit a huge three-pointer to close Indiana’s lead to just 67-66 with 1:03 left.

Things looked grim when Josh Newkirk missed both free throws for the Hoosiers with 38 seconds left but that’s when Morgan one last time swooped in to grab the missed foul shot and got the bucket to push the lead back to three and basically clinch the game.

“We have a really good player in Juwan Morgan that you can go to in the last four minutes of the game and he can get some things done for you,” said Miller, “which was the case tonight.”

In the final five minutes of the game, Morgan accounted for 10 of the Hoosiers final 14 points and finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.

With a game at Illinois coming up on Wednesday, the Hoosiers hope that their Man Of Steel will be ready to don that red cape again after leaving everything on the court on Monday.

Defensive Domination Helps Indiana Beat Northwestern And Earn Third Straight Conference Win

The Indiana Hoosiers flexed their defensive muscle on Sunday as they dominated the Northwestern Wildcats 66-46 to win their third straight conference game.

“I think on the defensive end it’s probably been our best game thus far,” said Robert Johnson, who lead the Hoosiers with a game-high 17 points, including five made three-pointers.

The Hoosiers (11-7, 4-2) immediately got into foul trouble from the start and had to play all but two minutes of the first half without Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts.

Without Morgan’s scoring and McRoberts’ passing, the Hoosiers survived the first half by turning the game into a grind-it-out slugfest. The Hoosiers shot just 30.0% (9 of 30) from the floor in the first half, but was able to hold the Wildcats to 24.0% (6 of 25) and took a 24-19 lead into halftime.

In the second half the Hoosiers got both Morgan and McRoberts back and the offense took off, hitting 60.9% (14 of 23) of their second half shots while continuing to disrupt Northwestern (11-8, 2-4), which shot only marginally better at 29.0% (9 of 31).

Here is a closer look at the defensive numbers, at least tracking back to the 1996-1997 season:

  • The 46 points allowed are tied for the third lowest allowed by the Hoosiers in a Big Ten game since 1996-97.
    • The lowest was 43 points allowed to Iowa in 2008.
    • The other games were against Northwestern in 2002 (44 points allowed) and against Illinois in 2014 (46 points allowed).
  • The Wildcats were held to 15 of 56 shooting, which comes out to 26.8% shooting.
    • That’s tied for the second lowest shooting percentage allowed by the Hoosiers in a Big Ten game dating back to the 96-97 season.
    • The Hoosiers held Michigan to 25.0% shooting in 2000 and held Ohio State to 26.8% shooting in 2002.
  • No Northwestern Wildcat scored double-digit points.
    • Leading scorer Scottie Lindsey shot an abysmal 1 of 15 from the floor and missed all seven shots from deep, finishing with just two points.
    • Vic Law and Isiah Brown got the closest as each scored nine points.

The Hoosiers now are tied for third in the Big Ten with their 4-2 conference record. And according to Johnson, the team has the ability to play even better.

“I think if we can build on (our defensive effort) and continue to tighten a couple of things up on the offensive side we’ll be in a good spot.”

Morgan And McRoberts Shine In Win Over Penguins, But Need Teammates To Follow Suit For B1G Success

In what is usually a meaningless game against a low-major school right before conference play picks up again, the Indiana Hoosiers saw two players still give 110% on the floor and help the team finish non-conference play with a 79-51 win over Youngstown State.

To nobody’s surprise, those two players were Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts.

Morgan finished with a game-high 16 points while adding six rebounds, three steals, and 2 blocks and McRoberts scored seven points as well as grabbed a team-high eight rebounds as the Hoosiers overcame a terrible first half showing to earn their second straight win.

This season has been a coming-out part for Morgan, who is the team’s leading scorer (15.3ppg) and leading rebounder (7.2) after averaging just 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds last season. Meanwhile McRoberts has continued to see his role increase as his hard work has earned the respect of Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. Hard work that Miller would like to see his other players emulate.

“We need to get some other guys on this team fired up and ready to go and playing like that. I think Zach (McRoberts) embodies that and we need to get some other guys on this team fired up.”

It’s not just effort either as Miller is aware that some players have regressed as the season has gone along, particularly De’Ron Davis.

“We got to get De’Ron (Davis) going right now. (He) really, in my mind, isn’t playing anywhere near where he was a month ago.”

Just comparing Davis’ scoring stats from November to December is eye-opening. Davis averaged 12 points per game on 75.6% shooting in the month of November but has seen those numbers go down to 7 points per game on 50% shooting in the month of December.

“We’ve got to get him rolling again, get him back in practice competing. If you (don’t give maximum effort), you’re going to struggle; you can’t cheat the process.”

However, Davis isn’t the only Hoosier that needs to find consistent success.

Robert Johnson has been fairly consistent this season but it’s worrisome that during a three-game stretch against Michigan, Iowa, and Louisville he averaged just five points per contest, including a scoreless game against the Louisville Cardinals. He’s also been extremely streaky from deep as he has hit on just 32.4% (23 of 71) of his three-point attempts, a considerable drop from his career average of 38.6%.

Josh Newkirk has only reached double-digit points in four of the 14 games he has played despite starting every game and averaging 23.9minutes per game. Devonte Green shot 43.6% from deep in his freshman year, but has become such a streaky shooter that his shooting percentage from behind the arc is down all the way to 29.6% (16 of 54) after going one for his last 14 during the last three games.

The talent is there for the Hoosiers to have a competitive Big Ten season. All the team has to do is follow the example set by Morgan and McRoberts.