Hoosiers debut with 98-65 win over W. Illinois

When the quick hands of Rob Phinisee skimmed the ball, the sophomore point guard went from pesky to gung-ho.

Face-first, he took a fight for the basketball to the hardwood. In a scrum with his opponent from Western Illinois, the orange orb fell loose for an opportunistic Justin Smith, who went the rest of the way for a windmill slam.

In the first few minutes of a 98-65 win Tuesday over Western Illinois, the Hoosier defense wasn’t quite as frisky. Those happened to be minutes where Phinisee, still working his way back from an abdominal issue, wasn’t on the floor.

But when the 6-foot-1 sparkplug entered, so did a much more aggressive demeanor for Indiana in its opener at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“I really pride myself on defense, so whenever I can get on the floor and be the first person to the floor, I feel like that gives our team a boost,” Phinisee said.

Coming into the season, the health of the Hoosiers’ backcourt was a top concern for third-year coach Archie Miller. IU isn’t quite back to full strength yet, because senior Devonte Green was still absent with a hamstring issue.

But the additions of junior Al Durham, who missed the Gannon exhibition, and the continued progress of Phinisee, who was limited to 13 minutes in that contest, had a noticeable effect in Game 1.

Durham was not just good on the offensive end — he was perfect, hitting 7-of-7 from the field, 3-of-3 from deep, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line on his way to 21 points. Smith, both a beneficiary and instigator of defense-to-offense in the transition game, produced 24 points to lead the Hoosiers (1-0).

Phinisee, who added 14 points, brought another level of pressure on the defensive end. While he isn’t 100 percent, Phinisee showed the backcourt may be getting closer to full strength sooner rather than later.

“You get a little bit more comfort level as a coach looking out there and seeing Rob and Al. We hadn’t had that,” Miller said. “In all reality, it’s the first time the two guys have played together all year. They haven’t been part of a practice together, to be honest with you.”

IU’s early-season injuries, combined with several new faces, do leave Miller’s squad with some room to grow. The Hoosiers weren’t particularly fast out of the gate Tuesday.

They fell behind 15-12 midway through the first half, but increasing their defensive pressure eventually tipped the balance. Phinisee challenged the ball, while freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis blocked four shots. Smith had three steals, and freshman Armaan Franklin, who had eight assists, kept the ball moving in transition.

IU claimed a 31-5 advantage in fastbreak points. Smith, in particular, knows how well his high-flying skillset fits the Hoosiers’ offensive equation.

“I’m at my best in transition, so being able to create turnovers and really get out and run, use my athleticism to really benefit our team,” Smith said. “But just in general, we got to use defense to create our offense, especially with the kind of versatility that we have and the kind of athletes that we have.”

IU went on to outscore the Leathernecks, 34-10, in the final 10:16 minutes of the first half.

Coming out of the locker room, Smith continued to produce. He had 12 points in the next 11 minutes of the second half, getting out ahead of the defense and getting into the paint for feeds from his teammates.

“I didn’t even notice that he scored 24 points,” Miller said. “I think at the end of the day, I was just watching how he approached things there in a certain point of time. Defensively he’s very, very active and made plays for us. So as we keep going here’s, he’s an important cog in our wheel. He’s got to stay with it and just keep getting better.”

Phinisee, on the other hand, continues to build. Miller said the plan for him was to play between 15 and 20 minutes, an upgrade over his 12-minute goal last time out.

He finished with 17½.

“He did a good job,” Miller said. “He’s starting to work his way back here a little bit in practice. Hopefully, he continues to feel good. We’ll see how it goes here in the next 48 hours with his recovery. If all that goes well, and he keeps practicing, obviously, his role will continue to increase.”

Even without Green, Miller thinks the Hoosiers’ depth continues to shine through. Nine players played 14 minutes or more, while De’Ron Davis had an eight-minute outing.

“As we get a little bit more healthy and get Devonte back, I think everyone can tell that there’s not a guy that doesn’t belong out there,” Miller said. “So hopefully it continues to give us confidence and that what we’re doing is working and we can keep getting better.”

36 comments

  1. W. Illinois won 8 games last season with an RPI of 335. Who is scheduling these games? Other games last night…. Michigan State vs Kentucky, Kansas vs Duke, Wisconsin vs Saint Mary’s. I guess this is the level of the IU program right now.

    1. And Illinois had to struggle to get past that powerhouse Nicholls. Good tweet from Seth Greenberg on scheduling:

      “League games to open the season : not easy but its the same for both teams. Gurus complain about playing guarantee games and soft schedules too. Scheduling is not easy but most of those who complain have never had to put together a schedule. It’s not easy.”

  2. Po, announced attendance 17,222. with close to 8000 of I U Student tickets, check the box score when the students on winter break for a true indication of tickets sales when the mini pack sales have to cover the attendance number. While U of K, Michigan State, Duke and Kansas were cashing big checks, I U was writing a check for a chump team come play at Assembly Hall. Years away from the elite teams and cashing a check for I U Basketball.

  3. Glad to see that attendance was good and that the game was a blowout. The margin of victory for the first seven games should be the same, if not higher. But even if that turns out to be the case, I question how playing seven consecutive weak opponents will prepare IU for the level of competition they’ll face in December and beyond.

  4. I’m beginning to wonder if the strength of schedule and marquee match ups are a bit over played. I know the SOS is important for the tournament concerns, but I’m not sure how much in terms of hanging banners. Posted on another thread, we get all out of proportion with the glitz of the MSU/KY and Duke/KU games, but how many banners have those 4 programs hung this century combined?

    Look at the recent banners Villanova has hung, then look at their non-conference schedule. Not much different than IUBB. Even defending champ VA, has a very pedestrian non-con.

  5. Separate discussion. Rather watching marquee games is just much more fun, exciting and feeds the fan ego. Doesn’t matter who IU opens up with and a few weak teams on pre conference schedule is expected. However, expectations are some elite games on schedule as well. If IU is taking a pass this year to get stabilized, we’ll ok but following years marquee and ranked pre conference opponents wanted.

    1. IUS,
      Yes, I am aware of the ancient history, but have you looked at the cumulative total for all 4 programs since the year 2010? That is a lot of talent flowing through those programs to only have 3 banners in the last 10 years between the 4 programs combined!

      1. But how many Final Fours? Final Four weekend is the biggest weekend in college sports.
        We’ve not been to a Final Four or an Elite Eight since a Mike Davis coached Hoosier bunch in 2003. It will be 17 years come March ..

        Banners are the goal…but Elite Eights and Final Fours keep recruiting pretty damn alive. This sounds like more apologizing for a very bad coach preceding Archie.

        In the last decade, eleven different Midwestern basketball programs have gone to a collective 28 Elite Eights and 17 Final Fours….to our zilch.

        Yeah, I’ll take being on ESPN to debut the college basketball season….Kids want to play where the national spotlight cameras are rolling.

        1. IU has made it to the elite 8 once in the last 27 seasons. Seems like making the NIT isn’t even a sure thing at this point. This program needs to be rebuilt. You can’t live on the General’s last century accomplishments forever.

  6. The some IU fans talk about IU talent one might ask…where is IU banner in last 10 years.
    All the hoopla that some IU fans give IU recruits during the last 10 years surely IU should have 1 banner. Oh, that IU banner is hanging somewhere else…but wait til next year. How long this year will it be til as the old saying goes wait til next year or we will get them next year.

  7. Suggest everyone read the article on IndyStar.com that chronicles how IU’s once blue blood BB program fell from the ranks of elite college BB programs. It really didn’t fall, it was dropped repeatedly, by a succession of incompetent University Presidents, Athletic Directors and Trustees. For those of us who were around during the glory days in the 70’s and 80’s, reading it will either make you mad or make you want to cry.

    One thing is clear; regaining IU’s elite BB status won’t be quick, easy or inexpensive.

    1. Early 90s weren’t half bad either. I was a senior when the ’92 team went to the FF and got hosed by TV Teddy.

  8. For those who grew up with McCracken, Watson, Oliver, and adult years with Knight there is no need to read another stupid rehashing pointless article about how “once blue blood program fell from the ranks of the elite college B.B. programs.”
    The IU B.B. program has been and still is in hibernation and hasn’t come out from its long winters nap from the 20th century of McCracken and Knight. This was a time when you knew what you had….for better or worse…making a play for the grass being greener on the other side…be careful what you ask for because you just might get it…One has seen , observed, and analyzed the IU B.B. program fall from grace as it continues to be in a deep sleep snoozing away while kinda turning over and becoming a little more restless in its sleep. Maybe the sleeping giant will wake up someday. The problem is it only stored enough food for its body for one winter not a quarter of a century (as what’s his name myles brand and his GANG and others around the GANG suggested).

    1. Archie is building it back up slowly but surely. Recruiting three and four year type players IMO, is how IU is going to get back to being a perennial contender. I think the media is very low on IU this year but I’d bet my bottom dollar that they make the dance.

  9. Ok. Making the dance gets a ranking approximately in the top 68 counting play in games. That gets another snore in a deep sleep

  10. Reality. It sucks until it’s finished sucking according to the standards put forth that it doesn’t suck anymore.

  11. You don’t need the posts on this site just look at the results to define the status of I U Basketball, we are a “use to be program” not a top program currently, and I wonder what’s going to happen to I U when the program to compensate players is started by the NCAA brain trust.

    1. IUS,
      While the ncaa is a circus in it’s own right, the program to compensate players is not of their doing. They are being dragged to the table kicking and screaming in an effort to avoid the issue. However, as I have been warning for quite a while now, the player compensation issue is coming at us whether we like or not, whether we agree with it or not.

  12. This discussion is so boring.

    IU played their first game and not a single comment on the game. They’re playing tonight.

    I’ll watch the game and try to enjoy 2019. There are youtube videos of the 1976 championship game for the rest of you who can’t get past it.

    I’m enjoying watching Archie rebuild this program. Not a single Indiana fan is arguing that we aren’t what we were. The long road to sustainable success isn’t a flash point moment, but a series of deliberate strategies that don’t just boil down to the head coach. It takes people with agile minds and the fortitude to absorb the blows as the remnants of past neglect work their way out of the program.

    These constant negative posts just get old. My yawn is so wide you can assign a hurricane name to it.

    1. I agree 100%, Double Down…. There was a lot of “neglect.” But isn’t the college game as a whole being somewhat neglected with so much glorifying of “individual” talent?
      It’s not that anyone doesn’t deny we needed…and had talent to accomplish those beautiful banners…But we needed something else that’s being eroded from the spirit of the collective. I think what you often identify as “negative” against IU…is something else from the “old” crowd.
      I think some just miss the youthful glow of teams loving to be teams. Teams don’t look young anymore. They are comprised of remaining “seniors” watching creepy coaches strutting out a new NBA trophy wife every season ….The college game is far from young and it’s far from ‘one for all.’
      It’s old capitalism. It rewards beyond the financial for the few.
      It rewards nothing for those never making mock drafts or “lottery” status. It’s now simply a product for the elite “individuals” of the game built of created obsessions with “levels” and “ceilings” to divide and discriminate differences in talent. It (as in college basketball) serves to remind the majority in the corporation(the team) they matter little.
      I don’t see anything “youthful” in turning basketball into mere adulation of the next trophy wife. That’s Calipari style basketball…Next trophy wife (she’ll get cash fat real fast) Next…Next…Next…Next.
      Where’s the home to return? Where’s the basketball that matters as a front door in any of this?
      Where is the desire to pursue something as a collective? Sure, there will be winners based on more trophy wives…But what is happening to the game as a result. Death of a Super-Sub. When will a guy off the bench ever be a “star” again? Stars are all taken…5-star…4-star…3-star…NBA star…Star coach.
      Bench star? Hell no.
      Thankful we have Archie…But I see him as a dying breed. I see Hoosier and McCracken…and whatever spirit once embodied in Knight’s team game as on life support. Narcissism is an old disease…and it’s come to steal all joys in collective accomplishments and lifelong brotherly bonds found in team pursuits.

  13. Imagine being both Syracuse and Virginia. Opening game of the season is against a conference foe and it counts towards conference standings. It would be like IU opening up against Maryland and it counts toward conference standings.

  14. NARCISSISM IS THE NORM nowadays. It has moved from a disorder into the norm. I prefer 2 points for a bucket (no 3 pointers unless 3 point play via foul) (bucket+free throw), no shot clock (I really enjoy a 29 to 28 score) (the ball handling strategy after getting a one point lead, and the stall).

  15. I really like Archie. I like the style of BB he coaches. The players he recruits seem to be of excellent character. But I chuckle every time I read comments about how Archie is “building IU BB back up slowly.” It’s the slowly part that brings a smile to my face. It’s really just a thinly veiled justification for two consecutive under-achieving seasons, his inability to recruit enough top-20 talent, and IU being picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten this season (i.e., not make it to the NCAA Tourney). In other words, it’s a way to manage our own expectations and guard against disappointment.

    Why would any coach try to build their program slowly? That’s just silly. Archie seems like a smart guy. He knows he can’t afford to “slowly” rebuild IU BB, because the Hoosier Nation has very high expectations and a sense of urgency. We forget that Archie has worked very hard to recruit a bunch of top 5-star talent (a.k.a. one-and-done type players), only to be rejected in favor of those tradition-rich schools like Memphis and Alabama. Why would he try to recruit that type of top talent if he was content to rebuild his program slowly?

    OSU, Louisville and IU all got new coaches around the same time. OSU and Louisville are ranked in the pre-season top 20. IU is not even close! That kind of stuff does not sit well with Hoosier BB fans, young or old, and they’re not going to tolerate it indefinitely. If Archie’s team produces another 18 or 19-win record this season, he’s not going to have the luxury of rebuilding his program slowly.

  16. Crean did leave Archie with a very nice set of cue cards…That brings a smile to my face.

    Facts are facts…During Crean’s reign, nine different Midwestern teams went to a collective 25 Elite Eights and something to the tune of 15 collective Final Fours( now up to 28 Elite Eights and 17 Final Fours if you include Archie’s first two years to file and organize the cue cards).
    “Everything Hinges” had long left ‘Disappointment Land’ and entered the “Everyone Cringes” years of ‘Weaves to Nowhere” and “Cue Cards for the Clueless.”

    I will never take the sort of patience it took to experience 10 years of Crean…but I’ll certainly give Archie a chance to get a full team of his own recruits minus props and assistants so demeaned as to hold cue cards. God bless it’s going to be about basketball again rather than slogans, DVD’s of Hoosier Rising..or ‘We’re Back’ t-shirts. God bless no over-the-top theatrics for things basketball players should do without a second thought. God bless a cue card never insults the classroom of McCracken ever again.
    God Bless I don’t have to watch a Dasani bottle get capped and recapped 18 times in one postgame press conference.

  17. Is Bryant playing? Yogi? OG..? I’m pretty sure OG is playing, but he sure doesn’t make SportsCenter. Vonleh? I think he gets some PT. Cody looks done(watching some of Hornets vs Celtics tonight). Troy Williams? Dipo is the Jay Cutler of the NBA….Ton of talent but earns most his money from the sidelines.
    Just goes to show how the big bucks in lottery don’t necessarily follow the best/reliable/improving talent. Some of these guys are very fortunate to play in this era of the NBA…
    To think that a guy like Bob ‘Butterbean’ Love (the first of only four retired jerseys of former Chicago Bulls) left the NBA broke and was washing dishes in a Nordstrom’s.
    He’s a great story of inspiration …if you care to research him.

    None have done anything memorable at the next level. All rather pedestrian. So much legendary stardom could have been in their hands had they

  18. Not to harp too much on scheduling, but there was 20 D1 college basketball games last night and 12 of those were D1 teams playing non-D1 teams. Look at who Duke, Kentucky and MSU have next on their schedule. The only one of the 4 that played the other night and has a decent opponent is Kansas who is playing UNC Greensboro.

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