Hoosiers Answer Every Spartan Challenege, Grind Out The Win

It had all the makings of a classic “Potential upset bid runs out of steam” game for the Indiana Hoosiers, who led by as many as 15, when with 11:06 remaining they found themselves trailing the Michigan State Spartans for the first time all game.

But with the benefit of hindsight, it made total sense the Hoosiers would respond, just like they did to every Spartan challenge.

The Hoosiers did just that and held on for the gritty 67-63 win. The Hoosiers now sit tied for third in the Big Ten at 5-3 (15-4 overall), but they had to earn it from Michigan State on Thursday night.

Down 15 midway through the first half, the Spartans went on a 14-2 run to make it a one possession game with five minutes until halftime. Then Armaan Franklin drove to the basket and converted a tough lay-up and drew the foul. After making the foul shot, Franklin recovered a Michigan State turnover and found Race Thompson on the fastbreak to push the lead back to eight.

The Spartans recovered and cut it to four with just 25 seconds left until the half but again the Hoosiers responded as Al Durham hit a contested three right before the buzzer went off to push IU’s lead back to seven. It was Indiana’s first made three of the game after missing its first four.

“I give Michigan State a lot of credit. They took a big punch early. And, as we knew they would, they came right back,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I give our guys credit though. We found a way to gut it out.”

Michigan State came out hot to start the second half, as the Spartans made their first five threes but yet still trailed Indiana until the 11:48 mark when Malik Hall tied the game on his dunk. The Spartan defense would force a long two-point attempt from Justin Smith on the next possession and finally went ahead on a three from Rocket Watts.

Yet despite seeming like the Spartans would finally put the pesky Hoosiers away, Indiana gutted it out yet again.

Despite shooting just 21.3% from three-point range on the season coming into the game, Franklin tied the game back up on his own three-pointer just a few minutes later. From there, both teams traded turns having the lead until Durham hit his second three of the game, a go-ahead dagger from the right wing that broke a 60-60 tie with 1:52 left.

Rob Phinisee assisted on the huge three and on the next possession, after a Xavier Tillman basket cut Indiana’s lead to one, Phinisee found Joey Brunk for a layup to push it back to three with a minute to go. Brunk was a huge factor for the Hoosiers on the night, leading them in both points (14) and rebounds (six).

“He’s given his absolute max on everything that he’s doing. You never question his effort,” raved Miller. “His everyday approach is something, as a coach, you marvel at, the work ethic.”

The Hoosiers would have to hold on one more time as the Spartans had possession down two with nine seconds left. Cassius Winston, who had 13 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, got a screen and had IU’s freshman star Trayce Jackson-Davis one-on-one, but was unable to shake him as he was forced to dump it off to Tillman on the fly and he missed the layup. It was a perfectly designed ploy by Coach Miller as explained by Jackson-Davis.

“When we came out of the timeout, Coach called blue. Blue is our switch everything. And so I just didn’t want him to shoot a three. So I kind of baited him downhill and he took it, and I made a good play on the ball.”

It was the kind of win that took a total team effort, one that required all of the Hoosiers to not back down when Michigan State started turning up the heat. It’s the type of win that will hold a lot of value going forward, both as a resume win and as an example to look back on and gather strength from in future times of need.

Green Looks Back To Normal As Indiana Beats Princeton

It only took his second game back for Devonte Green to start playing like himself.

Green fueled a second half charge for the Indiana Hoosiers, who turned a closely contested game at half against Princeton into a 79-54 rout by the time the final buzzer sounded.

The senior guard scored 16 points, including two of the team’s three three-pointers, and added 4 assists for a Hoosier team that improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.

The Hoosiers pulled away in the second half with an inspired defensive effort, allowing the Tigers to shoot just 7-of-25 (28.0%) after allowing them to shoot 12-of-26 (46.2%) in the first half.

Green played a huge part in the second half turnaround, playing 16 minutes in the second half and posting a +21 differential during that time (+29 differential for the game).

Joey Brunk was also a huge factor for the Hoosiers on Wednesday night as he had season-highs with 16 points and eight rebounds. Justin Smith added 14 points, Trayce Jackson-Davis had 11 points, and Al Durham dished out six assists.

However, the main story was finally getting to see a true glimpse of what Green brings to this Indiana team.

Green was seamlessly filling the role of playmaker, as his amazingly accurate passes and his ability to shake off his defender (including an incredible step-back three-pointer) had the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall buzzing with each play he made.

“He’s so aggressive and he knows he can impact the game,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I think the only thing I stress to him is to play smart and play simple. If he does that, he’ll play a big role with what we’re doing.”

Wednesday night also marked the first time this season that the Hoosiers’ four major rotation guards all played. Durham and Armaan Franklin got the start and played 29 and 12 minutes respectively. Green finished with 26 minutes and started the second half while Phinisee played 11 minutes before getting hit in the face midway through the second half and not returning to the game. He did return to the bench very quickly after getting checked on so it appears it wasn’t serious.

The Hoosiers will look to keep rolling next week as they finish The Indiana Classic with games against Louisiana Tech and South Dakota State before hosting Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Smith And Durham Show Tremendous Improvement In Win Over Western Illinois

Justin Smith scored the Indiana Hoosiers’ first points of the season a minute into their 98-65 opening night win over the Western Illinois Leathernecks by stealing the ball away from forward Ben Pyle and taking it the rest of the way for a dunk.

It was a sign of things to come as Smith stole the ball two more times in the first half and capped each one with a dunk.

“I feel like I’m at my best in transition,” said Smith after the game about his biggest strength, “so being able to create turnovers and really get out and run, use my athleticism to really benefit our team.”

Smith methodically and smoothly poured in 24 points, which tied his career-high. He was both under control and in-control the whole game, a vast improvement from his sometimes wildly inconsistent play through his first two seasons.

The Hoosiers will need players like Smith (8.2ppg last season) to step into much bigger scoring roles than they previously had after losing their top two scorers from last season in Romeo Langford (16.5ppg) and Juwan Morgan (15.5ppg).

Smith wasn’t the only one who looked ready to take a big leap in their junior season. Al Durham, coming off a knee contusion that forced him to miss Indiana’s exhibition game against Gannon, went a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor (including 3-of-3 from deep) as he finished with 21 points and posted a game-high +37 differential in 27 minutes of play.

Durham (8.3ppg) was named one of the two team captains along with Devonte Green (9.4ppg), who missed the season-opener with a hamstring injury. Both are the two highest returning scorers from last season and are expected to have huge roles both scoring and leading the team, the later of which impressed Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller after the game.

“Al (Durham) is an important part to what we do. I think he did a nice job, obviously, with our team in terms of leading them. But I think you can tell, he’s very comfortable right now in how we’re playing and he’s got to stay with it and I think that as we get some other guys around him and continue to get a little bit more experience he’ll have some help.”

Experience and building chemistry will be a huge focus for the Hoosiers moving forward with their non-conference schedule, especially for a team that saw four players play for at least 15 minutes during their IU debuts.

Highly-ranked freshmen Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin both started the game and each were major contributors as Jackson-Davis had 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks while Franklin had 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Meanwhile, after missing all of last season, Jerome Hunter finally played his first minutes for the Cream and Crimson as he had 7 points in 16 minutes. Joey Brunk, a transfer from Butler, also got the start in his Indiana debut and provided 11 points and 7 rebounds.

The Hoosiers will have a chance to build off the strong start they had Tuesday night with a relatively soft November schedule before the competition level heats up drastically starting in December with a clash against Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. But for now, it’s all about finding a groove and Indiana has started the season off on the right path.

Indiana’s Rollercoaster Season Comes To An End Against Wichita State In NIT Quarterfinals

You could call the Indiana Hoosiers’ 2018-2019 season many things.

Hopeful. Depressing.

Lucky. Cursed.

Fun. Funny.

Amusing. Exhausting.

Interesting. Agonizing.

Random. Repetitive.

All of these words not only described the Hoosiers’ overall season, it also described any one game during the season, including Indiana’s 73-63 loss to the Wichita State Shockers in the NIT Quarterfinals.

This rollercoaster of emotions finally came to a complete stop on Tuesday night, and now Hoosier Nation has exited the ride to differing results. Some had fun. Others ran for the nearest garbage bin and threw up. Regardless of the reaction, this season, for better or worse, will not be forgotten by those who took this ride.

Yet how did this wild ride come into existence? Why did games fluctuate so wildly? What does this season mean for the future? Now that the season is finally over, it is time to try answering these three questions:

1) How did this season become so unstable and unpredictable?

The truth is we never got to see the team that was advertised to us coming into the season. From the beginning, injuries have plagued the Hoosiers, taking countless games from potential rotation players, including the entire season from Jerome Hunter.

In fact, only Juwan Morgan and Justin Smith ended up playing all 35 of the Hoosiers’ games this season, and Morgan could have easily missed time but played through it.

Devonte Green missed four games in November and then was not allowed to play for three more in January. De’Ron Davis missed five games. Rob Phinisee missed three games. Al Durham missed one game but played half of the season with an injured hand. Zach McRoberts had an injured back most of the season. Race Thompson missed over half the season as well. Even Romeo Langford missed the final three games because injuries that he played through finally caught up to him.

Because of all these injuries, and the way they were spaced out, the team was constantly in flux as players entered and left the rotation constantly, hampering the creation of any kind of chemistry among the team.

2) Why did the team’s performance change so suddenly and often?

Injuries explain why the season was so uneven, but don’t explain why the team’s performance could change in the middle of a game. This is because this Hoosier team had a fatal flaw, one it wasn’t used to when compared to past seasons.

It couldn’t shoot well consistently.

“Shooting from the three-point line is the number one reason in many ways that our team could not get over the hump so many times (this season),” explained Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller about the biggest issue with the team’s consistency.

It’s easy to see this wasn’t a good three-point shooting team. On the year, the Hoosiers attempted 676 treys and only connected on 211 of them (31.2%), which was made even more painful by the team’s propensity for falling behind early, either because of committing turnovers or shooting (and missing) a lot of threes early in the game.

Needing to make threes became necessary to get back into games, and with only one player who hit above 35% from long range (Green hit 41% from deep on the season), it became easier for defenses to key in on that player and forced lesser three-point shooters to force up shots.

However, three-point shooting wasn’t the only type of shot that let the team down over the course of the season. Foul shooting was abysmal across the board, with not a single player hitting above 75% from the free throw line. Durham and Green ended up being the team’s most reliable free throw shooters and they only hit on 74% and 73.6% of their foul shots respectively. Such poor foul shooting made holding a small lead very hard.

3) How will the events of this season shape future IU seasons?

This is the question everyone wants answered the most, and unfortunately can’t be answered yet. Just like how every member of Hoosier Nation has reacted differently to this rollercoaster ride, so too will the players who experienced it firsthand. Will they leave to find new beginnings? Will they use the frustration they felt to fuel their motivation to get better and make the team better? Will it have no effect at all and we’ll have a repeat performance next season?

We’ll have to wait for the ride to open again next fall.

Hoosiers Overcome First Half Slump To Advance Past Saint Francis (PA) In NIT First Round

The first thing a number one seed in the NIT must get over is the fact it barely missed the NCAA Tournament. For some teams, they get over it immediately and get to work on trying to win the NIT. Some teams simply can’t get over it and get eliminated by a hungrier, low-seeded team on day one.

In between those two extremes reside the Indiana Hoosiers, who played relatively flat in the first half but played extremely motivated in the second half to beat the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash 89-72 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers led by as many as nine points during the first half, but the Red Flash outscored IU 27-12 during the final ten minutes of the first half to take a 40-34 lead into halftime. The cause for the huge run was a combination of lackadaisical defense and terrible shot selection which saw the Hoosiers attempt 13 first half threes, not something you want to see from a team hitting only 31.4% of its attempts from behind the arc.

The first half seemed to have ended in a total trainwreck as a missed call against Rob Phinisee combined with the same call being called on De’Ron Davis led to the referees giving Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller a technical foul that turned a two-point halftime deficit into a six-point halftime deficit.

Instead of being the nail in the coffin for Indiana’s season, it became the jolt of energy the team needed as it mimicked its coach’s fiery intensity by going on a 16-2 to start the second half as Saint Francis never got closer than five points the rest of the game.

Juwan Morgan scored 28 points, including a perfect 7-of-7 in the second half, and Al Durham poured in a career-high 22 points for a Hoosier team that needed scorers to show up as Romeo Langford sat out due to a back injury he sustained in the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State.

In Langford’s place, Devonte Green started his seventh game of the season and while he did have an off night shooting the ball (4-of-13), he was still a huge contributor hitting three three-pointers and adding a game-high six assists.

“We did a better job in the second half, and Juwan (Morgan) clearly established himself, and that’s what we needed to do pretty much the entire game,” said Miller about the major difference between the first and second half. He also praised his starting guards for all having great games, noting the scoring of Durham and the passing of Rob Phinisee and Green.

Saint Francis was invited to the NIT after winning the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season championship and the Red Flash played like a champion-level team in the first half, especially Senior Guard Jamaal King, who scored 16 of his 19 points before halftime. Isaiah Blackmon led the team with 21 points, including five three-pointers, Keith Braxton added nine points and nine rebounds.

With Indiana’s focus now set on the goal of winning the NIT, the Hoosiers next challenger will be a familiar one as they will face-off with the same Arkansas team that narrowly beat them 73-72 in Fayettevile early on in the season. The Razorbacks advanced to the second round of the NIT by defeating Providence 84-72 on the road and will need to do the same to advance again as they travel to Bloomington for this rematch. Whether or nor the Hoosiers have Langford for this game is yet to be seen, but the Hoosiers are more than capable of handling Arkansas if they play like they did in the second half on Thursday night.

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.