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.

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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.

Juwan Morgan Has Near Perfect Senior Day As Indiana Dominates Rutgers

Juwan Morgan has risen to the occasion numerous times over his four-year career for the Cream and Crimson, so it should come as no surprise that on his Senior Day he put up one of his best performances yet as he lead the Indiana Hoosiers to a much-needed 89-73 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday.

Morgan made his first 10 shots on his way to a game-high 25 points in what might be his last game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers would only play at home again this season if they host an NIT game, something the Hoosiers are trying desperately not to do as they continue to make their case for the NCAA Tournament.

Morgan played just 22 minutes due to foul trouble but made the most of it, outscoring Rutgers as a whole during the first eight minutes of the game 12 to 10 and scored nine straight points for the Hoosiers early in the second half to push the Indiana lead to 20.

The Senior forward isn’t originally from Indiana, instead coming from Missouri, but has been the textbook definition of a Hoosier from day one, always making the hustle play and playing for the good of the team. Morgan was a glue guy off the bench his first two seasons, but during his final two seasons he has become the team’s unquestioned leader. Now he ends his final regular with 1,298 points, just one point shy of tying Tom Bolyard for 29th on IU’s all-time scoring list.

“I think the way he works. His leadership. His attitude. He’s a competitor,” said fellow Senior Zach McRoberts about what impresses him most about Morgan. “I think he wants to be the best in everything he does and guys see that and it’s contagious. He’s been a great leader and I appreciate everything he’s done for us.”

Devonte Green was also a huge contributor for the Indiana Hoosiers [17-14 (8-12)] as he added 16 points off the bench. The Junior from New York has scored in double figures the last three games and has assisted on 11 baskets compared to just four turnovers during the four-game winning streak.

“He’s really settled in,” said Indiana Coach Archie Miller. “He knows we need him to not make flashy plays or do anything crazy. He knows we need him to score baskets when he’s open, and we need him to make plays for others.”

This might have also been the curtain call for Romeo Langford in Bloomington before he jumps to the NBA. The freshmen wing struggled from the floor early, making just one field goal in the first half, but was able to get to the foul line numerous times, where he went 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. He would find his rhythm in the second half and finish with 20 points and six rebounds.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights [14-16 (7-13)] received 18 points from Eugene Omoruyi and 17 points from Caleb McConnell, but received little help elsewhere as the rest of the team made 13 of 36 (36.1%) from the floor and the team as a whole committed 12 turnovers that turned into 14 points for the Hoosiers.

The Indiana Hoosiers will now take that four-game winning streak into the Big Ten Tournament and must win a few more to solidify an NCAA Tournament bid. However, considering how well they have been playing lately as well as how unorthodox this season has been, don’t be surprised if this is the year the Hoosiers finally go on a run in the Big Ten tournament.

Unlikely Heroes Smith And Green Give Indiana The Season Sweep Against Michigan State

Coming off the second ever home loss to the Indiana Hoosiers during the Tom Izzo era, there was no way the Michigan State Spartans wouldn’t come into Bloomington and get revenge in a much needed game for the Spartans’ Big Ten Conference Championship chances.

However it looks like Justin Smith didn’t get that memo.

The sophomore forward scored a career-high 24 points, including 3 three-pointers, as the Hoosiers once again stunned the Spartans, this time 63-62 to give IU its second straight win over a ranked opponent as well as the season sweep against Michigan State.

“Attitude is everything,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller when explaining how Smith broke out against the Spartans. “When your attitude is great and you’re focused in on just doing whatever you can to help, good things tend to happen, and I think that’s where Justin really changed his mindset.”

A lightning rod for criticism this entire season, Smith single-handedly shouldered a floundering first half offense that saw players other than Smith hit just 4-of-19 (21.1%) on field goal attempts while he scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. It would end up keeping the Hoosiers in the game long enough for his teammates to get going as a combination of clutch shooting and fantastic defense helped Indiana [15-14 (6-12)] overcome an 11-point second half deficit.

What’s even more impressive is that most of that clutch second half shooting came from fellow “fall guy” Devonte Green.

Known for being consistently inconsistent, Green played a vital role in the second half comeback scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime and hit two momentum-shifting threes during the final six minutes.

The first one ended a quick 5-0 Michigan State run that had turned a one-possession game into a three-possession game, while the second one occurred with four minutes left and started the final 7-0 run that ended the game.

“When he’s engaged, he’s as talented of a guy as you can have,” said Miller about Green. “When he’s not engaged, obviously he’s like everyone else, it sticks out. I think he was engaged today, made some plays. Devonte hit some really big shots for us in the game to keep us hanging around.”

That 7-0 run spanned the final 4:13, as the Spartans never scored again after a Matt McQuaid jumper. The Hoosiers would finally tie the game on a put back layup from Juwan Morgan, who finished with 7 points and 11 rebounds, and also drew a foul on the basket which led to the go-ahead free throw.

Cassius Winston had an exceptional game for Michigan State [23-6 (14-4)], scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and also dishing out 11 assists. However, one of his four missed shots came at the worst possible time as his potential game winner with less than eight seconds left was expertly defended by Rob Phinisee.

During a season where the longer it goes the less sense it makes, it’s only fitting that the two most controversial players on the team came to IU’s rescue with the season on the line. Now, as if things couldn’t get more confusing, the Hoosiers find themselves somehow back on the bubble thanks to now having seven Quadrant 1 wins, which are the most prestigious types of wins on an NCAA Tournament resume.

The Hoosiers still need to win their last two regular season games (at Illinois, vs Rutgers), but after two months of disappointment, hope is finally here now that it is March.

Hoosiers Need To Regain Confidence After Home Loss To Nebraska

Confidence.

It’s an intangible that is taken for granted until it is gone, which is what has happened to the Indiana Hoosiers recently, most notably on Monday night when they were blown out at home against the Nebraska Cornhuskers 66-51.

Whether it’s because of a never-ending flow of injuries preventing the team to gel with each other or that being nationally ranked has inspired opponents to play the Hoosiers tougher without Indiana adjusting, confidence was missing from this IU squad as the Cornhuskers were able to do as they pleased.

“To be honest with you, we have some guys that have lost some confidence,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller, “whether it’s been in and out of lineups, in and out of practices, (we’re) not real sure what we are getting out of certain rotations.”

Indiana’s tendency for slow starts hit rock bottom when the Hoosiers found themselves in a 25-7 hole more than 10 minutes into the first half. The Hoosiers were able to get the deficit down to as little as six points in large part due to the Cornhuskers missing 12 shots in a row but ultimately settled for being down nine at the half despite shooting 29.6% from the floor.

The Hoosiers [12-5 (3-3)] looked to have found their rhythm at the start of the second half when they cut the lead to 35-32 with 16:31 left, but Glynn Watson Jr. helped the Cornhuskers recover quickly as he hit back-to-back threes during a Nebraska 8-0 run that basically iced the game as Indiana never got closer than nine from there.

Watson Jr. ended up scoring 12 of his team-high 15 points in the second half for the Cornhuskers [13-4 (3-3)] and almost got a triple-double out of James Palmer, who finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. In total, Nebraska had six players score at least seven points.

Meanwhile, Indiana had just two such scorers as Romeo Langford (18 points) and Juwan Morgan (17 points) combined for 35 of the team’s 51 points. The lack of help around Langford and Morgan again seems to point to lack of confidence.

In fact, Morgan and Langford scoring the majority of the Hoosiers’ points is trend that has inflated during the past four games. On the season, Morgan and Langford have combined for 600 points (46.6% of the team total) while the rest of the team has scored 688 points.

However, the numbers have drastically shifted since the calendar changed to 2019, with the duo scoring 162 of the Indiana’s 262 points (61.5%) against Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, and Nebraska. The only other player to score in double-figures in the last four games was Devonte Green when he scored 15 against Maryland.

Even if you remove all games against weaker mid-majors, you still have Morgan and Langford accounting for 248 of Indiana’s 508 points (48.8%) it scored against Marquette, Arkansas, Duke, Northwestern, Penn State, Louisville, and Butler.

This seems to indicate a lack of confidence in the Indiana role players as well as an overreliance on Morgan and Langford, something that is not necessarily bad in a vacuum (some teams are built around the scoring of one or two players) but goes against what the Hoosiers had previously succeeded with earlier in the season.

“We’ve got to get our grip on our identity. We’ve got to start to play harder again,” said Miller. “We just need some guys to play with some confidence, and tonight we didn’t have enough guys playing at a high level. Hopefully we can get there and get it back.”

There is no easy solution to regaining confidence, one must find it through hard work and determination. The Hoosiers will need to find that confidence quickly as four of the next five games are on the road with the only home game being against Michigan. Hopefully the loss to Nebraska was a wake-up call that the Hoosiers need to compose themselves in the face of adversity. If they can do that, then their confidence should return.

Langford, Hoosiers Shake Off Illini To Improve To 3-0 In Big Ten Play

At least it wasn’t another one-score game.

Despite some sloppy play during the game’s first 11 minutes, the Indiana Hoosiers were able to enforce their will defensively during the final nine minutes of the first half and used Romeo Langford’s career-high 28 points to get past a feisty Illinois Fighting Illini team 73-65 on Thursday night.

The Hoosiers [12-2 (3-0)] fell behind 25-15 halfway through the opening half as the Illini used a frantic pace and made eight of the team’s first 13 shots to take control of the game early. Yet the offense and pace would flipped the other way for the remainder of the game as the Hoosiers clamped down on defense and took the ball to the basket instead of settling for long jump shots.

In fact, the Hoosiers’ defense was so suffocating that it forced the Illini to commit five shot clock violations during the final 30 minutes of the game and six in total. Indiana’s ability to prevent Illinois from getting up shots was not just the result of inspired play, but instead was the payoff of many tough practices.

“We work very, very hard in practice on 12-seconds-or-less-on-the-clock defense and at the end of the day you sort of know what you’re going to be dealing with,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “You’re going to deal with high ball screens. You’re going to deal with some type of an action where you’re picking and popping; and for us we work on it every day.”

While the Fighting Illini [4-10 (0-3)] offense was blanketed, their defense was assaulted by Langford’s strong drives to the basket, especially in the second half where the freshman scored 19 of his career-high 28 points, including IU’s first 10 points after halftime.

“We knew going into the game, (the Illini) are a real aggressive team, so they like to play the passing lane. So that’s going to leave open driving lanes,” said Langford. “When we had that little slump scoring on the offensive end, I felt we weren’t driving. So when I got back into the game, Coach (Miller) told me I needed to get more aggressive to get us going, and that’s just what I did.”

Coming off his historic triple-double against Jacksonville, Juwan Morgan continued to fill up the stat sheet as he recorded his sixth double-double of the season, contributing 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoosiers.

Both Langford and Morgan will need to perform as well as they did Thursday, if not better, for the Hoosiers to have a chance on Sunday when they travel to Ann Arbor to face unbeaten Michigan.