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.

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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.

Bielfeldt Helps Short-Handed Hoosiers Hold Off Rutgers

The Indiana Hoosiers avoided a bad start to conference play by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-72  in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday to win IU’s first Big Ten game of this season.

The close score and the quality of opponent (Rutgers was ranked as the 245th ranked team according to Kenpom) may have Hoosier Nation very worried going forward but the truth is that this was a good win considering the circumstances.

The Hoosiers faced an uphill challenge from the beginning of the game when James Blackmon Jr. was ruled out due to a knee injury he suffered during one of the practices heading into conference play. The Hoosiers faced even more adversity when Thomas Bryant got in early foul trouble and stayed in foul trouble all game before fouling out in the second half. In total, Bryant played all of six minutes and only contributed three points and a single rebound.

Then there was the turnovers. The Hoosiers finished the game with 23 of them and the biggest problem was that they came from players you’d least expect. Starting Guards Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Rob Johnson combined for 11 turnovers (six for Ferrell and five for Johnson) and Troy Williams, who does have a tendency to get too careless with the basketball, had a shockingly bad day even for him as he committed more turnovers (7) then he grabbed rebounds (6).

While most of these troubles were self-inflicted, the Hoosiers should still be given credit for overcoming everything to win their first conference game as well as their first road game of the season (the Maui Invitational counting as neutral site games).

Collin Hartman did a good job filling in for the injured Blackmon Jr. as he finished with nine points, including two three-pointers in the first few minutes of the game, and also added two rebounds.

However, the biggest story was Max Bielfeldt.

Unlike Hartman, Bielfeldt didn’t come into the game knowing he would have to make up for a starter’s lost production. Yet Bielfeldt filled in magnificently for the foul-plagued Bryant by tying a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. His combination of passing, scoring, and interior defense was almost Zellerish at times and was greatly needed for the Hoosiers to beat a very aggressive Rutgers team.

While Bryant didn’t have a great first Big Ten game, O.G. Anunoby did. The freshman from Missouri played his best game yet as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals while also making two more three-pointers.

Longtime reserve Ryan Burton also made two three-pointers for an Indiana bench that nearly outscored the starters (42-37). Ferrell had a terrible first half but played significantly better in the second half as he ended up leading the Hoosiers in points (20) and assists (7).

The Hoosiers will get to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will play again on Saturday at Nebraska before returning home to face Wisconsin next Tuesday.