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.