A slow start for Indiana on Friday night was anything but a surprise.
Coming off of Wednesday’s upset of No. 3 North Carolina and playing without injured sophomore starter OG Anunoby, a letdown seemed almost inevitable for the 13th-ranked Hoosiers.
The first three minutes and 48 seconds lived up to those expectations, as IU missed its first eight shots from the field and spotted visiting SIU-Edwardsville a 4-0 lead.
But a 7-0 run, fittingly capped by Juwan Morgan’s layup, gave Indiana a lead it would not relinquish en route to an 83-60 win over the visiting Cougars (4-4) at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers’ 22nd consecutive home victory, tied for eighth-longest in the nation and seventh-longest in IU history.
Morgan got the start in place of Anunoby, who twisted his ankle late in Wednesday’s win over the Tar Heels, was declared “out indefinitely” by IU on Thursday and used crutches to walk with a boot on his left foot Friday, and made the most of the opportunity with a career-high 18 points and a career-high tying 10 rebounds.
The sophomore forward scored nine points in each half, and his 8-of-8 shooting is tied with Jared Jeffries for the second-most made field goals without a miss in Indiana history behind only Will Sheehey’s perfect 9-of-9 against Purdue on Feb. 16, 2013.
“I think it goes across the board for everybody on the team. When somebody goes down, we all have to be ready to step up,” Morgan said. “I don’t think it takes just one person to do everything that OG does for Us, but I think collectively we all have to do that for him.”
IU coach Tom Crean would normally agree with that assessment, but he made an exception for Morgan on Friday night.
“One of the main questions you get when a good player’s out is how are you going to make up for it?” Crean said. “And there’s never any real answer. The bottom line is no one is ever going to come in and get the points, get the rebounds for that player. It’s gotta come from a lot of different areas, but that was proven different tonight, because as I said after the game, with losing OG, Juwan rebounded for two.
“That was a tremendous hustle performance, because everybody left it out there on Wednesday night (against North Carolina).”
Morgan wasn’t alone in raising his level of play, as freshman De’Ron Davis added a career-high 14 points, 10 of those coming in the first half as the Hoosiers (6-1) eventually built a 43-21 halftime lead.
“I just think we have to continue to grow and build in aspects of the game,” Davis said. “I don’t think that would be the last time (career highs) will happen for either one of us.”
Zach McRoberts came off the bench to bury a corner 3-pointer to end the game-opening drought for Indiana, subbing in for Thomas Bryant, who got a brief lecture from Crean.
Bryant learned the appropriate lesson, because when he returned to the game three minutes later, a 20-6 run ensued. Bryant beat everyone down the floor for a layup, drew a foul, got a steal that triggered a fastbreak layup, muscled through traffic to score, hit a 3 and blocked a shot in the sequence, while Davis scored eight points in that same time frame to give the Hoosiers control.
“I was worried about our start. It could’ve gone either way,” Crean said. “We did something yesterday I’ve never done as a coach, always had some sort of live the day before a game, but when you play a game, have a day off, play a game the enxt day … The bulk of the main guys playing didn’t do anything and we didn’t do much in our walkthrough today.
“We had a slow start with our movement, we were getting good shots other than maybe one, then we picked it up. Then that energy and second wind came.”
The second wind in the second half was all Morgan, who scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in just seven minutes. By the time the Waynesville, Mo., native left the game for good with 10:03 remaining, the Indiana lead was 29 on the way to reaching its peak of 33 and the game in such firm control that crowd favorite Tim Priller checked in at the 9:18 mark, recording a career-best four rebounds in the process.
“I think just mentally I’ve been thinking too much about shooting, things like that,” Morgan said of his breakout game. “I just got back to what I was last year and things that helped the team, and I didn’t have to make plays or anything. And if I ran hard and set a screen, I knew my teammates would find me.”
Bryant finished with 11 points, and James Blackmon overcame an off shooting night to add 10 points for the Hoosiers, who face another quick turnaround when they host Southeast Missouri State Sunday at 4 p.m.
Burak Eslik scored 18 points to lead SIU-Edwardsville, which was coached by Jon Harris, a former player and grad assistant for Crean at Marquette.
“We have a lot of respect for them,” Crean said. “I likened that team to an Eastern Washington from a couple of years ago where they came in here, they executed, played with great edge and they made shots and they played fast and we ended up losing that game.
“We didn’t want anything like that to happen. Our guys really responded.”
Especially Juwan Morgan.