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.

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Minnesota And Rutgers End Season On Different Notes (B1G Tournament Day 1 Recap)

Considering that Rutgers and Minnesota went a combined 3-33 in conference play (with two of those wins coming against each other), it should come as no surprise that the Scarlet Knights and the Golden Gophers were the first two eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament.

What is a little surprising is how differently those two teams played in their losses.


#12 Illinois 85, #13 Minnesota 52

While Minnesota has been the far more competitive of the two (even earning an upset win over Maryland), the recent injury to Joey King along with the suspensions of Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey, and Dupree McBrayer has turned the Golden Gophers into a junior varsity team, with the remaining players losing to Rutgers 75-52 to end the regular season.

It’s hard to have an uglier performance than losing by 20+ points to Rutgers, but the Golden Gophers somehow pulled it off on Wednesday when Illinois literally ran Minnesota off the floor on the way to an 85-52 Illini win. The 33-point scoring margin was more than twice as much as Illinois’ previous largest win of the season (16-point win over Rutgers).

For the Illini it was a great confidence booster for a team that has been mediocre at best this season. What was really encouraging was the three-point shooting as Illinois’ four main perimeter shooters Jalen Coleman-Lands, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, and Michael Finke went a combined 12 for 20 (60%) from deep. This isn’t just some fluke either as those four players went a combined 9 for 14 (64.3%) went they upset Purdue 84-70 earlier in the season. If the Illini can continue to have those four players shoot above 50% from behind the arc, they’ll have a legit chance to advance on Thursday when they face a slumping Iowa team that has lost five of its last seven games.


#11 Nebraska 89, #14 Rutgers 72

After beating Minnesota to avoid going winless in Big Ten play, Rutgers seemed to have renewed confidence as they gave Nebraska a lot of trouble in the first half. There were 12 lead changes and every time it seemed Nebraska was going to pull away Rutgers had a response.

However, Nebraska’s extra possessions just became too much for the Scarlet Knights to overcome. The Cornhuskers forced 17 Rutgers’ turnovers which turned into 27 points. They also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds as Tim Miles’ team ended up with 14 more field goal attempts than Rutgers.

While Shavon Shields (20 points) and Andrew White III (16 points) did their usual offensive heavy lifting, the Cornhuskers also received huge contributions from role players Tai Webster (18 points) and Michael Jacobson (14 points). If Nebraska wants to have a shot at upsetting Wisconsin, it will need players like Webster and Jacobson to help Shields and White III on offense.


Thursday’s Games:

#9 Northwestern vs #8 Michigan – 12pm EST (BTN)

#12 Illinois vs #5 Iowa – 2:30pm EST (BTN)

#10 Penn State vs #7 Ohio State – 6:30pm EST (ESPN2)

#11 Nebraska vs #6 Wisconsin – 9pm EST (ESPN2)

 

The Ten Biggest Storylines Heading Into The Big Ten Tournament

Originally when I first received my credentials for the Big Ten Tournament, I thought my access was going to be restricted to just the team I cover (being the Indiana Hoosiers). However, after learning that I have access to all 13 games, I decided I may as well cover the tournament as a whole.

For the next five days I will be publishing daily recaps of the day’s events and I will also live-tweet all 13 games. You can follow me on Twitter @QTipsForSports for all the fun.

So before the fun begins, let’s take a quick look at the ten biggest storylines heading into the Big Ten Tournament:

  1. Michigan State Tries To Earn A 1-Seed: During a season of chaos and upsets, Tom Izzo’s squad is as close to a championship contender as any other team in the country. Yet despite having a winning record against the RPI top 25 and 11 wins overall against RPI top 100 teams, the Spartans are far from a lock as a 1-seed. That’s because not only did Michigan State not win the Big Ten, but finished two games behind champion Indiana. A conference championship is really the only thing missing from the resume and the Spartans can still claim the conference tournament championship this week, which should satisfy that last requirement for a 1-seed. Now it’s up to Izzo on whether or not grabbing a 1-seed is worth pursuing.
  2. Indiana Tries To Win Its First Big Ten Tournament: Even though the Hoosiers are tied for the most regular season Big Ten titles (22), did you know Indiana has never won a Big Ten Tournament? Granted the Big Ten was one of the last conferences to adopt a postseason tournament ( the first one being in 1998), but it’s still hard to believe the Hoosiers have yet to win one especially since roughly half of them have been in Indianapolis, which is practically a second home for the Hoosiers. After a 15-3 record against the conference this year, you’d think this would be the year they’d have the best chance to get their first.
  3. Does A Big Ten Regular Season And Tournament Championship Earn Indiana A 1/2-Seed?: Indiana might also need to win the Big Ten Tournament to grab a 1 or 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which in itself is pretty incredible when you realize this team was very much on the bubble at the beginning of February. Four more wins against the RPI top 50 later and the Hoosiers are almost a lock for a top-4 seed. How Tom Crean’s group does this weekend will determine if they move up even more before Selection Sunday.
  4. Can Either Maryland Or Iowa End Its Late-Season Slump?: While Indiana has seen its stock rise, both Maryland and Iowa have seen its stock plummet over the last few weeks. The Terrapins have lost four of their last six games while the Hawkeyes have lost five of their last seven games. Both have shown to be very talented teams capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but that would likely require them to play well in the Big Ten Tournament to turn momentum in their favor. If either lose right away in Indianapolis, you’d be smart to avoid picking them when filling out your March Madness brackets.
  5. Ohio State And Michigan Both Need Multiple Wins To Help NCAA Chances: Even though Iowa and Maryland have struggled down the stretch, both are locks for the NCAA Tournament. That is not the case for Ohio State and Michigan. The Buckeyes have gone 4-4 in their last eight games while the Wolverines have gone 3-5 in their last eight games. In addition to not finishing the season strong, both have just three wins against the RPI top 100 and a ton of losses (Ohio State has nine vs RPI top 100 while Michigan has 11 vs RPI top 100). With the pool for the at-large bids getting crowded with all of the mid-major conference leaders who lost in their postseason tournaments, the Buckeyes and Wolverines will need to win multiple games during the Big Ten Tournament just to stay on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
  6. Will A Double-Digit Seed Win Multiple Games?: Upsets have been the norm in college basketball this season and some of the more surprising ones have happened in the Big Ten. Penn State has wins over both Iowa and Indiana, Illinois has a win over Purdue, Nebraska has a win over Michigan State, and Minnesota has a win over Maryland. All four of those teams are double-digit seeds and would have to beat teams of similar caliber to win multiple games this week. They’ve all done it before so it’s not out of the question it could happen again.
  7. How Will Wisconsin Respond To Starting The Big Ten Tournament A Day Earlier Than Usual?: Even though Greg Gard didn’t lead Wisconsin to yet another top four finish in the Big Ten, he’s done a great job taking over for Bo Ryan and deserves to be named the permanent head coach. That being said, after years of having off until Friday, how will the team react having to win one extra game? Will the fans remember to come root for their team on Thursday or will they forget out of habit? All joking aside, if the Badgers get to at least the semifinals  they might move up to a 6-seed, which is incredible for a team that had home losses to Western Illinois and Milwaukee to begin the season.
  8. Potential Indiana-Purdue Rematch In Indianapolis: There are plenty of great potential matchups in this year’s Big Ten Tournament, but when considering the location of the tournament (Indianapolis) and the likeliness of the matchup (both teams only need to win one game), an Indiana-Purdue rematch becomes the most intriguing. Due to unbalanced schedules caused by league expansion, the in-state rivals are no longer guaranteed to play each other twice a season. Recently both programs haven’t been good at the same time so the lack of a home-and-home likely prevented one team from sweeping the other. That wasn’t the case this year as both are ranked in the AP top 25 and are real threats in the NCAA Tournament which made the fact that they only played once this season a shame. That could be corrected if both win their quarterfinals matchups on Friday.
  9. Which Coaches Are Under Pressure To Perform Well?: Even though only one coach has a realistic chance of being fired after this season (that being Rutgers’ Eddie Jordan), there are still many coaches who will feel the pressure to perform at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend for varying reasons. Richard Pitino of Minnesota has been given a pass for this season, but after the recent suspensions and the loss to Rutgers, there’s definitely some pressure to end the season on a positive note. John Groce was just given a vote of confidence that he will return to coach Illinois next year but if the Illini get destroyed by Minnesota on Wednesday it may make his margin for error even less come next season. Missing the NCAA Tournament won’t put coaches like Thad Matta (Ohio State) and John Beilein (Michigan) on the hot seat but both would like to avoid any unnecessary pressure going forward. Lastly both Fran McCaffery (Iowa) and Mark Turgeon (Maryland) carry the burden of high expectations and with both teams stumbling towards the finish line, you can bet both want to avoid being considered underachievers with their talented squads.
  10. With The Final On Sunday, Could A Team Realistically Win And Cause An NCAA Selection Shakeup?: Did you know that in the history of the Big Ten Tournament, an eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th seed have all made the championship game? With the Big Ten so top-heavy this year, if an eighth thru 11th seed made the Big Ten title game that would have huge ramifications for the NCAA Selection Committee. While the committee would probably place the eighth seed (who is Michigan) into the bracket regardless of outcome, ninth thru 11th (Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska) are nowhere close to being at-large teams and would cause the selection committee to make two vastly different versions of the final bracket in the case of one of those teams winning the Big Ten Tournament. Of course this is true of any year, but considering what has already happened this season, this possibility should not be ignored.

Bryant Helps Hoosiers Survive Minnesota’s Upset Bid

Earlier in the week, when the Indiana Hoosiers played the Wisconsin Badgers, ESPN highlighted Thomas Bryant as a potential “green room guy”, meaning that he has a chance to be invited to the NBA Draft because he would be expected to be picked in the first 10-15 picks. Well Bryant looked like a “green room guy” on Saturday when the freshman big man helped the Hoosiers overcome a Minnesota Golden Gophers rally and win 74-68.

Bryant scored a career-high 23 points, including a huge bucket on an offensive rebound that gave the Hoosiers (18-4, 8-1) the lead again. Both him and Rob Johnson had a game-high eight rebounds.

“(Bryant) brings a lot of energy to everybody and the key is, when it’s not going so well, that he doesn’t get emotional the other way,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “That’s where he’s kind of continued to mature. I’m proud of him.”

Bryant scored the Hoosiers last three field goals of the game, which consisted of two in the final two minutes as well as one at the 8:08 mark of the second half. The last field goal was very interesting as OG Anunoby rebounded a missed three-pointer by Nate Mason with 37 seconds left and gave it to Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. Ferrell noticed the Minnesota team wasn’t getting back on defense and instead of running down the clock to five seconds with a one-point lead he pushed the ball up the court and found Bryant for a dunk that put Indiana up 70-67 with 27 seconds left.

“I felt like they thought we were going to call a timeout, and then I see all four of their players walking to the sideline so I decided to push,” said Ferrell. “Luckily, Thomas was down there and I got him the ball on the dunk. It’s probably one of the weirder plays I’ve ever seen playing in a basketball game.”

The Golden Gophers, who still have yet to win a Big Ten game this season, started the game well with a 7-0 run before the Hoosiers took control of the game. Yet Minnesota never gave up as they steadily turned a 12-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead on a Dupree McBrayer dunk with 3:54 left. That would be the last field goal for the Golden Gophers (6-16, 0-10).

Both Kevin Dorsey and Mason scored a team-high 21 points for Minnesota while Indiana also received double-digit points from Troy Williams and Ferrell as both scored 13.

Indiana is now 8-1 in Big Ten at the halfway point of conference play, but things get tougher in the second half of the schedule starting with a matchup in Ann Arbor on Tuesday against the Michigan Wolverines. Game will start at 9pm and will be broadcast on ESPN.


From The Boxscore:

  • One of the main reasons Minnesota was able to erase a 12-point halftime defecit is that the Golden Gophers were able to get to the rim at will in the second half, connecting on 15 layup or dunk attempts during the final 20 minutes.
  • Another reason the Hoosiers almost lost was due to some uncharacteristic ice-cold three-point shooting. Indiana connected on only 2 of 18 from behind the arc, with the only makes coming from Rob Johnson and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell.
  • Coincidently, Minnesota also shot exactly 2 of 18 from three-point range with the only makes coming from Dupree McBrayer and Charles Buggs.
  • Thomas Bryant not only scored a career-high 23 points but did it by making 11 of his 13 field attempts.
  • Bryant wasn’t the Hoosier to set a career-high against Minnesota. Johnson also set a career-high with 8 rebounds.

Three Observations From Indiana’s Road Win Over Minnesota

The Indiana Hoosiers started out cold in The Barn but were able to get hot enough to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 70-63. The Hoosiers (15-3, 5-0) found themselves in a nine-point hole early in the first half but were able to tie it up before halftime before ultimately winning a back-and-forth battle with the Golden Gophers (6-12, 0-6) in the second half. IU will try to improve upon this performance when Indiana hosts Illinois at 7pm this Tuesday. For now, let’s take a look at three things that really stood out to me as the Hoosiers improved to 5-0 in Big Ten play:

  1. Williams and Johnson Struggle Scoring Again: Both Troy Williams and Rob Johnson are good scorers but this season they haven’t been consistently good. James Blackmon Jr’s scoring made up for those games when neither Williams nor Johnson were feeling it offensively, but with Blackmon Jr. gone the Hoosiers have really struggled at times when they don’t get much from Williams and Johnson. On Saturday, those two combined for just nine points (seven for Williams, two for Johnson) as the Hoosiers scored a measly 70 points against a Minnesota team that had already given up 86 points to Penn State and 84 points to Nebraska. IU was still able to muster up enough points to beat Minnesota but against the elite teams in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers will need either Williams or Johnson (or maybe both) to be offensive threats for Indiana to have a chance to win those games.
  2. Zeisloft Finding His Stroke Again: To say Nick Zeisloft was in a shooting slump would have been an understatement. In the four Big Ten games before Saturday, Zeisloft was shooting a disastrous 4 of 25 (16.0%) from three-point range. However, in a game where many Hoosiers were struggling to make baskets, Zeisloft chose the perfect time to get out of his slump as he made 5 of 8 (62.5%) from deep against the Golden Gophers, including four in a row. Zeisloft, who shot 45.0% from long range last season, has actually been struggling for longer than just the Big Ten season. After a November where he made 18 of 33 (54.5%) from deep, Zeisloft has only made 12 of 40 (30.0%) over his last ten games (six of which were non-conference games) before this Saturday. Hopefully for the Hoosiers, Saturday was the day he found his shooting touch again.
  3. Yogi Ferrell Deserves More Attention In “Player Of The Year” Discussions: There are a lot of deserving candidates for not only the Wooden Award but also Big Ten Player Of The Year, but Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell should at least be acknowledged for both. Ferrell’s stats against Minnesota (20 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals) tells just how pivotal he was for the Hoosiers to be able to win, but the amazing thing is that these stats are becoming a common occurrence. Since the loss of Blackmon Jr, Ferrell has averaged a ridiculous 19.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.8 steals as he has led the Hoosiers to a 5-0 conference start. He’s also made most of his big plays in the second half when his team has needed a big play. Sure the turnovers are a little high (2.8 per game on the season and 3.8 during the last five games without JBJ), but there are few players in college basketball that mean more to their teams and he should start getting recognized for it.