Hoosiers Pass First Big Test As They Beat The Seminoles

After a November of warm-up games against low-level mid-major teams, Tuesday night set the stage to see whether or not the 7-0 Indiana Hoosiers would be able to handle facing high-level competition such as the 17th-ranked Florida State Seminoles.

Turns out the answer was a resounding yes.

The Hoosiers’ 80-64 win over the Seminoles in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge wasn’t always pretty, and for large stretches of the game was a closely contested slugfest. Yet one thing was for certain: the Hoosiers were not intimidated by their super long, athletic opponent.

After a reasonably understandable adjustment period that saw the Seminoles dart out to a early 11-4 lead, the Hoosiers calmly countered with a mixture of tight defense and great offensive ball movement to string together a 12-0 run that put Indiana in the lead for the rest of the game.

The catalyst for this run and every other huge run made by the Hoosiers on Tuesday night was senior Devonte Green, who scored five points and added an assist during the initial 12-0 run.

It was extremely important for Green to have a hot start, as his unflappable confidence was needed against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Florida State came into the night allowing just 27.7% on opposing three-point field goals, something that loomed as a big hurdle for a overall inconsistent three-point shooting team like the Hoosiers (34.7% on the season).

The outlier on the roster was Green, who had made 9 of 20 (45%) from deep in the four games he’s played this season and is a career 39.3% shooter from behind the arc. If the Hoosiers were going to find success spacing the floor and thus allowing for better ball movement, Green would need to be a problem for Florida State’s wings.

Green did that and a whole lot more as he sank five out of his seven three-pointers and drew fouls on two additional attempts. It all added up to a career game for the senior guard as he finished with 30 points.

“That’s the type of guy he is,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “To be honest with you, those are the games he relishes, those (games) when he can have the ball in his hands and make those kinds of shots.”

In addition to the mountain of points he poured in, Green also added six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, having his first test against big men just as athletic as him, rose to the occasion with 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

“I thought I felt good,” said Jackson-Davis about facing more athletic big men. “Really big compliments to my teammates for putting me in open positions to score.”

Justin Smith added 14 points and five rebounds while Armaan Franklin had a season-high nine points, with five of those coming during that important 12-0 run early in the game.

“(Franklin) grew up tonight,” praised Miller about his freshman guard. “He played on a big-time stage and a big environment and made big plays. He made some things happen that weren’t probably visible to the spectator as much as they were to our staff.”

The Hoosiers were able to pass their first big test but more tests are on the way. Next up is Indiana’s first road game of the season as well as their conference opener as they travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Considering that the Kohl Center has been a den of misery for the Hoosiers for quite a long time, the chances of the Hoosiers winning that game seem problematic. However, so were IU’s chances of beating an ultra-athletic Florida State team. Maybe this is a Hoosier squad built to defy expectations.

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.

Improved Free Throw Shooting Key As Indiana Blasts Past North Alabama

The Indiana Hoosiers had what could best be described as a “sloppy” first half against the North Alabama Lions. The Hoosiers committed nine turnovers, tied on the boards with just 12 for each team, and allowed the Lions to shoot 7-of-10 from three-point range. Yet despite all that, the Hoosiers held a seven-point lead at half before turning up the defensive intensity in the second half to win 91-65.

So how did Indiana survive that first half?

Believe it or not, it was great free throw shooting that kept the Hoosiers afloat in the first half. Indiana made 17-of-20 (85%) foul shots during the first 20 minutes compared to North Alabama’s 5-of-6 foul shooting.

It didn’t turn out to be just a first half trend as the Hoosiers finished the game having made 37 out of their 45 free throw attempts (82.2%), including an incredible 14-of-15 foul shooting performance from Freshman Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

“He’s a unique player,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “I’ve been telling him since 10th grade, he’s going to get fouled a ton (because he’s a left-handed post player). Proud of him tonight, 14 of 15 from the line, that’s a huge deal.”

Jackson-Davis, who made just 3-of-6 from the foul line during the Hoosiers first two games, didn’t just excel at the free throw line on Tuesday night. He also made 3-of-4 field goal attempts to give him a game-high 20 points while also leading everyone in rebounds (8) and tying for most blocks (3) with Race Thompson.

“Coach really put an emphasis on not starting the ball so far down low, but kind of putting it up. Less room for error,” said Jackson-Davis about his improved shooting, especially from the foul line. “It was really (about) concentration for me, and I did really well tonight.”

Tuesday night’s foul shooting performance wasn’t just a product of Jackson-Davis’ amazing night. Nine of the 10 Hoosiers that played made multiple free throws and all but De’Ron Davis (who was still a decent 4-of-6) missed no more than one free throw during the game.

The reason this is so noteworthy is because last season’s Indiana Hoosiers were a rather bad foul shooting team, hitting 455-of-695 (65.5%) over the course of the season. In addition, they had just as many games shooting above 70% as they did games shooting below 60% (12 for both).

That’s what made the free throw shooting display against North Alabama so impressive, as even if you remove the players who didn’t play the previous season, you are left with a combined 16-of-21 (76.2%) from Davis (4-of-6), Thompson (3-of-4), Justin Smith (3-of-4), Al Durham (3-of-3), and Rob Phinisee (3-of-4).

For comparison, last season Davis shot 41-of-71 (57.7%), Thompson shot 2-of-4 (50.0%), Smith shot 36-of-70 (51.4%), Durham shot 54-of-73 (74.0%, which was the highest on the team), and Phinisee shot 35-of-53 (66.0%).

Admittedly one game doesn’t guarantee this will be a much better foul shooting team than the 2018-2019 team (which despite a low season percentage did go 16-for-16 in a game against Maryland). However, for now the Hoosiers are shooting 76% through their first three games and have two games above 70%, having shot 22-of-30 (73.3%) against Portland State on Saturday. If the Hoosiers are to succeed this season, this will need to be a trend that continues.

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.

Devonte Green Comes Up Big Again As Hoosiers Hold Off Razorbacks In Second Round Of NIT

March has been Devonte Green’s month.

The Indiana Hoosiers’ great March continued on Saturday afternoon, as the Hoosiers outlasted the Arkansas Razorbacks 63-60 to advance to the NIT Quarterfinals. If they win in the Quarterfinals, the Hoosiers will head out to New York to play in Madison Square Garden.

Now wouldn’t that be a perfect present for the player most responsible for Indiana’s end-of-season turnaround.

Green comes from North Babylon, New York, which is just less than 50 miles away from where the Hoosiers would play at the beginning of April if they advance to the NIT Semifinals. To make it to New York, Indiana will need Green to continue his March Magic.

Through his first 21 games, Green, much like the Hoosiers, were in the middle of a lost season. Instead of taking a big leap or showing gradual improvement, Green’s numbers stagnated or in some cases were even worse than his sophomore campaign:

  • Devonte Green’s Sophomore Season: 7.6ppg (36.4% FG) (33.7% 3FG) (70.5% FT), 1.9rpg, 2.5apg, 1.03spg, 1.9tpg, 22.5mpg
  • Devonte Green’s Junior Season (November – February): 7.4ppg (34.7% FG) (34.7% 3FG) (76.9% FT), 3.1rpg, 2.8apg, 1.10spg, 2.3tpg, 23.7mpg

However, in the month of March, Green seems to have turned a corner and has been a huge part of the Hoosiers’ 5-1 record this month. In fact, even during the lone loss against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, Green helped dig the Hoosiers out of a 20-point hole to make it a one-possession game in the final seconds behind a career-high 26 points and eight made three-pointers.

Saturday was no exception, as Green was not only the Hoosiers’ leading scorer with 18 points, but was also their leading rebounder as he hauled in a career-high 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.

Green, who scored in double-figures six times during his first 21 games, has now scored in double-figures for six straight games, all of which have taken place in March.

  • Devonte Green’s Junior Season (March 2019): 16.0ppg (54.1% FG) (55.3% 3FG) (81.8% FT), 3.8rpg, 3.8apg, 2.00spg, 2.0tpg, 29.5mpg

“We’ve won six out of seven, and we probably don’t win any of them without Devonte’s ability on both ends of the floor,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller referring to the Hoosiers’ March games as well as their late February win over Wisconsin. “He’s our most important cog in the wheel right now.”

Green’s performance on Saturday could be considered his most impressive yet by the fact he was only able to practice once between games due to being sick all week long.

Juwan Morgan had another stellar game as he added 15 points and eight rebounds, while De’Ron Davis added 10 points and six rebounds for a Hoosier team that was missing leading scorer Romeo Langford for the second straight game. In his place, Coach Miller opted for a dual point guard lineup, as Rob Phinisee (seven points, seven rebounds, five assists) along with Green have worked well together to keep the offense moving even without the team’s star freshman.

Indiana now awaits to host the winner of Clemson-Wichita State on Tuesday night, with the winner of that contest earning the opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden. No doubt Green will give his all to make sure that is a reality for the Hoosiers, just like has all month long.

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.