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.

Advertisements

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.

Third Time Is The Charm As Indiana Pulls Off The Upset In Double Overtime Over Wisconsin

After close hard-fought losses to Purdue and Iowa, the Indiana Hoosiers finally got over the hump by finishing off the Wisconsin Badgers 75-73 for their second win of the month, both of which have come against ranked teams in overtime.

However, this time it took two overtime periods.

In a season where the Indiana Hoosiers refuse to have a game that doesn’t raise their fans’ blood pressure, IU saw the ball in their possession with under 10 seconds on three different occasions:

  • Five seconds to go in the second half
  • 13 seconds remaining in the first overtime
  • Nine seconds remaining in the second overtime

Each time the Hoosiers had a chance to finish off the Badgers, but it wasn’t until attempt number three that Indiana succeeded.

Here is how those possessions played out and why Indiana was able to win a close game after so many close calls:

Attempt #1: Five seconds to go in the second half

The Hoosiers had already executed in draining the clock down while getting the go-ahead bucket when Rob Phinisee made a huge layup with eight seconds remaining. However, all of that was undone when Al Durham was almost immediately called for a foul that put D’Mitrik Trice to the foul line, where he tied the game by making both free throws.

Having played the role of hero in the past (remember the Butler game) and also feeling confident after hitting a go-ahead layup just earlier, Phinisee took control of the ball during the final five seconds and launched a three from the right wing. However this time the shot did not fall because he never got set when attempting the shot. The bigger problem with this possession was that Romeo Langford never touched the ball, something Indiana Coach Archie Miller would try to remedy if given the opportunity again.

Attempt #2: 13 seconds remaining in the first overtime

The Hoosiers found themselves up by three with 20 seconds remaining after a tough bucket from Langford in the paint. However, as has been the case for the Hoosiers since the calendar hit 2019, IU’s hard work was countered by a back-breaking three-pointer as Trice yet again saved the Badgers with a fast break three-pointer to tie with 13 seconds remaining.

This time with the clock winding down the ball was in Langford’s hands at just above the foul line. Yet Khalil Iverson made the bold move to try and poke the ball away from Langford and succeeded as both scrambled for the loose ball. It ended up going out of bounds with two seconds left.

While the ball remained in Indiana’s possession the damage was already done as the Hoosiers were forced to in-bound and immediately shoot. This ended very badly as only Durham was able to get open a good 35 feet away from the basket and chucked up an air ball. Yet again, Langford didn’t get to attempt the final shot.

Attempt #3: Nine seconds remaining in the second overtime

A missed Iverson layup was rebounded by Race Thompson with less than 30 seconds remaining and immediately given to Langford. Wisconsin then tried to trap the talented freshman and almost forced a turnover but a couple of nice touch passes by Thompson and Phinisee directed the ball to a wide open De’Ron Davis who absorbed the desperation foul and made the layup.

Davis would miss the free throw, giving the ball to Wisconsin down three with 15 seconds remaining. Trice would yet again draw the foul, this time getting Devonte Green on a three-point fake. The Wisconsin sophomore would make all three of his foul shots, tying the game yet again with nine seconds remaining.

Like in the first overtime, Langford brought the ball up the court but this time, with the help of a fake screen by Phinisee, Langford used Iverson’s hesitation to blow past him and get to the rim, where Langford banked the layup with 0.8 seconds left.

“Finally I hit one,” said Langford with a sigh of relief about the game-winner. Langford had previously come up short during the last couple of games when taking the final shot. He said he learned from his past mistakes to not settle for the jump shot.

“We talked about it after the Iowa game,” said Miller. “Don’t settle. Get to the rim.”

Miller was also quick to praise Phinisee for his role in the game-winner.

“Rob did a great job, we asked him to come up and interfere a little bit and get out. The minute he did that, I thought their guy just flinched just a quick second. And the minute he did it, I knew Romeo’s shoulder was going to get by him.”

It’s unclear if this is the start of an end-of-season run for the Hoosiers or just a respite from a cursed season, but we know for sure that this will be a game to look back on in the future whenever the Hoosiers need to find confidence in themselves.

Freshmen Phinisee And Langford Give Indiana A Huge Win Over Louisville

The freshmen again came to play for the Indiana Hoosiers, as the freshmen backcourt of Rob Phinisee and Romeo Langford played crucial roles in IU’s 68-67 win against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.

Aside from an early 2-2 tie, the Hoosiers trailed throughout most of the game, narrowing the deficit to just two points on four different occasions before finally crossing that hurdle on a Phinisee three-pointer to give the Hoosiers a 49-47 lead with 8:36 left in the second half.

Phinisee would give Indiana (8-2) the lead for good when he hit another three with just 1:25 remaining to put IU up 60-58. The freshman from Lafayette made 3 of 5 (60%) from behind the arc while the rest of the Hoosiers shot a combined 1 of 9 (11.1%) from deep.

“He’s a good shooter,” said IU head coach Archie Miller. “The two (three-pointers) he hit in the second half were big. You need your point guard to be able to do that.”

Langford, facing the team once thought to be the favorite to land him earlier in his recruitment, finished with a team-high 21 points and four assists. Most impressively, he steadied his shaky free throw shooting (5 of 10 during the first 39 and a half minutes) during the final 30 seconds to hit his final four foul shots.

“It started in the summer when they came in willing to work, willing to learn,” said Juwan Morgan about his freshmen teammates’ ability to perform well in pressure situations. “Closer and closer to the Big Ten, they’re becoming more like veterans. We can’t call them freshmen any more because the plays they’re making down the stretch are big plays for us.”

The Louisville Cardinals (6-3) nearly made an unbelievable comeback when Christen Cunningham sank a half court shot at the buzzer while trying to get contact against the nearby Hoosier defenders but was unable to draw that contact. He finished with 16 points while Jordan Nwora had an amazing game with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds.

The Hoosiers also got great contributions from Morgan (15 points and 5 rebounds), Justin Smith (9 points and 9 rebounds) and De’Ron Davis (8 points in 14 minutes of play).

The Hoosiers will get a week to prepare for their next game, which will be a matchup with Butler in the Crossroads Classic. It will be another tough game but if Phinisee and Langford play like they did today, the Hoosiers have a great chance of adding another signature non-conference win to their resume.

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.

IU Showcases A Deep And Talented Team In Win over Chicago State

On a night that saw our first taste of Romeo Langford lighting it up for the Cream and Crimson, there was plenty more to be excited about regarding the Indiana Hoosiers after their 104-55 win over the Chicago State Cougars.

Langford led the way with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, yet he was just one of many Hoosiers who showcased their talent on Tuesday night.

Fellow freshman guard Rob Phinisee had a rough first half with early foul trouble, but rebounded in a big way during the second half as he finished with six points, five assists, and five steals in 20 minutes of play.

“I felt Rob played real well,” said Langford about his freshman backcourt teammate. “He basically translated his game from high school into college.”

It wasn’t just the freshmen newcomers that stood out. Graduate Transfer Evan Fitzner was a huge spark off the bench as he added 14 points on a hyper-efficient 5-of-6 shooting, which included a diverse shot selection from hook shots in the post to corner threes.

“Very high IQ, very skilled offensive player,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “He has size and length and great touch with either hand around the basket. He obviously can stretch the floor (too). I thought he did a nice job of throwing over the zone at times, catching it in the middle and skipping it out at times.”

Yet the most encouraging thing from Tuesday night was that this group of newcomers fit in so seamlessly with Indiana’s returning key players, creating a team that looks eons better than the one that was blown out by Indiana State during last season’s opening game.

Juwan Morgan may have had a quiet night on the scoring front with just nine points, but he was still an essential part of the team, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds (five of which were offensive) and also added three assists and two blocks.

Zach McRoberts is making good on his promise to be more aggressive on offense, and it paid off as he sank both of his three-point attempts and grabbed seven rebounds.

Justin Smith put his explosiveness on full display, and while he didn’t play a perfect game, he still played a huge factor for the Hoosiers drawing seven opposing fouls and finishing with 13 points.

Last, but not least, Devonte Green was able to come off the bench and bring instant-offense through his scoring and his passing, finishing with 15 points and three assists. Even more impressive, his time on the floor paired alongside Phinisee presented a unique and dynamic look for the Hoosiers that saw both players thriving off of each other.

“Devonte, he’s a real good scorer as well as passer, but I feel scoring is his main thing,” remarked Langford. “So just letting Devonte play without the ball for a little bit, when they’re both in the game at the same time, opens the court up even more for guys like me and Evan and J-Mo (Juwan).”

Yet the roster appeared even deeper as Damezi Anderson (five points, four rebounds) and De’Ron Davis (four points) played solidly for 20 and 12 minutes respectively. Also don’t forget the injured Al Durham, who looked like a prime breakout candidate during Hoosier Hysteria.

What this all means is that Coach Miller looks to have a squad that can legitimately run 10-men deep and won’t see their effectiveness wane when Morgan or Langford need a rest.

Indiana has a lot of talented players, and while they neither played perfectly (19-of-33 from the foul line) nor faced a challenging foe in Chicago State, the potential shown off on Tuesday night should make Hoosier Nation giddy with excitement for this new season.