IU pulls out 57-54 win over UConn

NEW YORK — The arms of UConn forward Josh Carlton wrapped around the chest of Indiana guard Al Durham as he rolled toward the rim Tuesday, a physical play that kept the game where it was.

A slugfest.

Durham, the junior guard, rose from the hardwood at Madison Square Garden with a smile on his face. A low-scoring second half would have to be won the hard way, just as the Hoosiers wanted.

After a tough road loss at Wisconsin, Durham talked about bringing “hard hats” with them as they looked for a bounce-back victory. Down the stretch of a 57-54 win over UConn, the Hoosiers attacked the rim and found redemption.

“We knew it was going to be like that, we knew they were going to come and, say, hit us in the mouth,” Durham said. “We wanted to be there to answer the punch, answer the bell. We wanted to play just as physical with them and, you know, win the game.”

Durham took the flagrant foul and made a free throw. A possession later, Justin Smith was hanging on the rim after a two-handed slam. It was a continuation of what the Hoosiers had received from junior forward Joey Brunk, who recovered from a lackluster first half by depositing scrappy, hard-earned post buckets and roaring at his UConn adversaries.

Durham, who had nine points, tied for the Hoosier lead in scoring in a game that didn’t have one breakout star. Brunk added nine, as well, all in the second half. Smith and Trayce Jackson-Davis added eight points apiece. But the individual outputs — and IU’s 36.8 percent shooting — didn’t matter as much in a game like this.

“I can’t say enough about the response,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “It’s not easy to sort of take the medicine we had to take on Saturday by not really playing the right way.”

In the aftermath of an exceptionally dismal outing at Wisconsin, the question was how the Hoosiers would respond in another road game, at a neutral site, but on a national stage. Could an IU defense that failed to assert pressure on the Badgers offer some resistance? Would the Hoosiers find their pace in transition and find an offensive surge that was never found in Madison?

In some ways, the Hoosiers answered in the affirmative. They forced 21 turnovers, getting moving in transition more than in their previous outing. Defense turned into offense, until both teams lost their touch in a second-half slugfest.

And when the final tally was counted, the Hoosiers were good enough to bounce back from a rough road loss with a gritty road victory, improving their record in the Jimmy V Classic to 3-1. They also avenged IU’s last loss to UConn, the eventual national champions, who won a 59-58 contest at the Garden in 2013.

“We had a big emphasis on us growing up in practice after the Wisconsin game, and we tried to make a statement tonight,” Durham said. “That’s what I feel like we did tonight.”

IU (9-1) had to sustain a UConn attack that was initially potent from the inside and the outside. Josh Carlton, the 6-foot-11 forward, scored 10 of his 12 first-half points in the first dozen minutes. But there were also a trio of 3s in UConn’s 15-2 run to erase an early 4-0 IU lead.

The Huskies (6-3) continued to play frontrunners for much of the first half, leading 26-16 with a handful of minutes left. But the Hoosiers’ defense picked up, and the Huskies started to play loose with the ball. Five of UConn’s 14 first-half turnovers occurred in the final four-plus minutes, and the Hoosiers outscored the Huskies 18-3 heading into the locker room.

As the ball continued to spill out of the Huskies’ hands, the Hoosiers’ pace only accelerated. Smith and Rob Phinisee went hard to the rim to force a pair of free throw makes. Smith and Devonte Green then hit consecutive 3s — the right arm of Green extended, his wrist bent, as he soaked in the shot that gave the Hoosiers’ a 30-27 lead in the Garden.

Phinisee, who missed IU’s last four games to injury, was a big boost at the point and on the defensive end.

“His demeanor, the way he plays, he has a confidence,” Brunk said. “We all believe in him.”

IU kept its foot on the gas to end the first half. Jackson-Davis scored a pair of buckets in the final minute-plus to give IU a 34-29 advantage heading into the half. The 6-foot-9 forward was jiggling his shoulders, flapping his arms around as he backpedaled to the defensive end, like a boxer ready for the next round.

When neither team could find its shot to open the second half, it became a scrum. IU opened the final period by hitting two of its first 13 shots. UConn connected on two of its first 10. But a three-point play by Sidney Wilson cut the IU lead to 38-36 with 12:15 remaining, and an alley-oop dunk from Wilson brought the UConn partisans to their feet as the score tied 38-all.

Small sequences were all the difference. Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter provided one boost, knocking down a turnaround jumper on one end and blocking a shot on the other to put the Hoosiers back on top, 40-38, with 7:52 left.

UConn scored four unanswered points, but then Brunk converted a three-point play to flip the lead back to the Hoosiers. He then pulled down his own miss on the next possession, screaming as his second-chance bucket went in.

“Really happy for Joey. He had struggled there a little bit, getting his feet on the ground, and getting some easy baskets,” Miller said. “It gave him that second run, and things became very stagnant, it became a very tough game to score. I thought he went back to the basics of what he’s been doing well for us all year.”

Miller not only credited Brunk for running to the rim, including a key transition post-up down the stretch. The Hoosiers’ coach noted it was Brunk who created a lane for Durham on the flagrant, forcing Carlton under the basket.

Layups by Durham, and Smith’s alley-oop dunk, gave the Hoosiers a 52-47 lead with 3:27 left. IU hung on from there, including a clutch offensive rebound and two free throws by Phinisee to make it a five-point lead with 19 seconds remaining.

It wasn’t pretty. But when the powers that be examine the Hoosiers’ win over UConn, the details won’t matter a ton.

“I thought tonight we probably left about five in transition that we have to convert, and probably left another three or four chippies that, like, we gotta get them down,” Miller said. “But hey, man, they don’t ask you what it looks like come down the line. We got this done today, it was a hard-fought game.

“Give UConn credit, too, they are a young team. Danny (Hurley’s) teams always play very, very hard. They are going to have a good season, as well.”

24 comments

  1. Both of those games last night were ugly. I have seen a pattern of low scoring games in this early part of the season. Not sure if that is good or bad.

  2. I’m all for the Hoosiers winning, but that sure looked like a moving screen to me even without Joey sticking his butt out while moving sideways in the lane. Whatever! We got the call at Madison Garden and we deserve it because of our massive fan base. Go Big Red.

  3. Congratulations to IU for winning a tough, hard fought game. It was bad basketball but nice to see a resume building win. Brunk, with limited athleticism, fought hard and showed grit and determination. He along with Davis are completely overmatched against athletic big men. Davis looks cumbersome as if he is wearing cement shoes. I really hope Thompson can play meaningful minutes and play defense and rebound. To me , the keys going forward are Jackson-Davis and Phinisee. Phinisee keeps the team under control. Jackson-Davis needs to impose his will in the blocks. I am not sure where consistent outside shooting comes from. Maybe Hunter, Anderson and Green? Nevertheless, the blueprint for this particular team seems to be tough defense and getting to the foul line. Good win for IU!

    1. After 10 games Devonte and Al are over .400 on 3’s; Rob and Damezi are over .365; Justin is about .333. Armaan is struggling on 3’s but he is the best on the team at Assists/TO.

  4. More potent scoring will come from Anderson and Hunter if they can displace Smith on D for longer stretches of minutes. Rob makes all the ingredients meld together along with providing the assists to the 2’s and the 4’s. He D is damn strong too. He has to stay healthy for this team to overachieve.

  5. It was a continuation of what the Hoosiers had received from junior forward Joey Brunk, who recovered from a lackluster first half by depositing scrappy, hard-earned post buckets and roaring at his UConn adversaries.

    Hope he saves some roaring for Nittany Lions….But kidding aside, it is the sort of ‘gladiator’ mentality that’s been missing from Indiana Hoosier basketball for a very long time. I honestly haven’t seen much of this sort of fire since DJ White. I damn hope he can instill some in the rest of the bunch.
    Though his fire seems a bit more latent, I think Franklin brings the same mental toughness beyond doing so for selling to cameras or looking ‘individually’ tough(as in protecting your own turf rather than the teams’ turf).
    I hope there is a spark soon to be a “roaring” fire throughout our roster. Far too long has there been a weird sense of entitlement branding the candy stripes(as if merely being asked to coach here or wear the uniform has anchored a claim to being something beyond special). It’s not Indiana until you make it Indiana.
    There is no fire without the humility that raises a collective flame to the height of rafters and banners. I’m very thankful we have a coach who finally purges the disease of excessive individualism so pervasive throughout sports. Even in the midst of ugliness a slug fest, a team game shakes to the core old passions once thought died with those banners. Bring all the ugliness in your arsenal, Joey. Roar into our long too sleepy souls where NBA draft nights and the spectacle of what one talent can do somehow became more salient at such a storied place of undaunted spirits proud to not have their name on the back of a humble warrior’s jersey.

    Roar AGAIN Hoosiers!

  6. IU won because it played good defense and because UCONN committed 22 turnovers, many of which were ridiculous unforced errors. It was a very ugly performance by both teams.

    It should now be clear that we can not rely on our centers to score a lot of points, not even garbage points in the paint. Brunk can’t jump over his shoelaces and Davis …… well, I just don’t know about Davis. I counted at least eight missed dunks or layups when our two centers were right at the rim. How can that be when you’re 6’10” and 6’11”? Archie must find a way to recruit athletic bigs if he’s to build his program to where he wants it to be.

    Green continues to play well, but as a senior guard, shooting 65% from the free throw line is a liability.

    Glad we got the tough win outside of Bloomington, and I’m sure it provided Archie with a lot of coaching material, but as evidenced by Penn State’s upset over Maryland last night, this roster is going to have to get a lot better if it wants to finish in the top five of the conference. Can IU win 14 more games this season?

    1. ^^^Classic example of obsessing over “ugly” stats in a ragged clumsy December brawl(and there’s been plenty of clumsy performances of late from very “overrated” teams) …”Big Handsome” was a handsome heavenly Jolly Green Giant gifted from a cloud and a prayer into the arms of Tom Crean….But let’s not confuse a divine gift with successful recruiting and building a team.
      Let us now relish in hard-nosed defense.
      Let us relish in chip on the shoulder and spit in the face.
      Let us relish in a kid who will punch back when he is hit (or, more directly, when candy stripes are hit).
      Let us relish in the beautiful roar of Joey Brunk who doesn’t come from the clouds but arrives as a deliverer of collective purpose calling to all in candy stripes to play a team game again. It was long ago the ‘Indiana Way’ before it was hijacked by Brad Stevens and Bulldogs to be a ‘Butler Way.’

    2. Jackson-Davis isn’t an “athletic big”…..? Brunk wasn’t brought in by Archie to be the star of this show. Think of him as a Mack truck version of Austin Etherington.

      But I wouldn’t discount Brunk’s abilities too much. I do believe Archie will get the most out of Joey Brunk. And Joey will win a lot of brawls which will preserve and enhance our other front line guys to catch their wind and evolve within their own games as the season progresses.
      If you don’t see the value of Brunk on this team, you can’t tie your basketball shoelaces. Brunk is a March Madness shot of steroids.

      1. I agree with your assessment of Brunk H4H,

        From what I can tell he is going to bring a much needed physicality to the front line which IUBB has needed for a while in their bigs. You need someone who can mix it up especially when the B1G season hits full swing. Hopefully can get DD back into gear as well, going to need them both in that role.

      2. A last bit of obsession in the Brunkgate debate….

        Brunk is also still in the midst of transforming his body and his pace of play. He came to Indiana from a place allowing him to be a paint blob. Archie is using a very accelerated scale in attempting to transform Joey’s physique and motor into something Butler neglected as worth the time and investment. I don’t think any of us have a clue on just how far he’s already come. And within that process of transformation(becoming a guy who must sprint the floor and come back for more), the “clumsy” aspect hates said attempts at transformation and fights to remain
        by attaching to fatigue.
        Will a different Brunk emerge once the war against being a paint blob is won…and his legs no longer feel like rigid old maple trees stuck in concrete? For all the work Joey put into weight rooms and conditioning, he’s still not there. Nothing of weight rooms or practice fills in for the toll a fast pace game will rush upon the legs, lungs and struggles for finesse upon body.
        It’s obvious some of you have never played the game….or never had the shock of what playing at pace will do to stamina.
        I’m quite amazed just how much Brunk is fighting the war of transformation. I concerned he’s gonna drop over with a heart attack. It’s easy to tell he’s giving it all …and then some.
        I can’t guarantee he’ll get there ( a place clumsy goes from cement to blossoms of a tree alive again), but it’s sort of cool to see how Archie stirred something into his heart to be more than a paint blob of flailing arms with no fanfare.

  7. I like Franklin as our starting point guard…There, I said it. Phinisee is pretty darn solid(if we can keep him healthy), but I’m simply more sold on Franklin’s skills evolving from his very low key steady motor/purpose. I guess I would call it more “ice in the veins”….or “it factor.”
    Franklin, Franklin…and more Franklin. I know you’re starting to see it, Archie. Tough being a coach….

  8. My comment above was just a slightly different way of saying what Archie said in the press conference,

    “I thought tonight we probably left about five in transition that we have to convert, and probably left another three or four chippies that, like, we gotta get them down,” Miller said.

    Brunk is a valuable member of this team and he does a lot of great things, but he’s got to learn to finish at the rim. He left eight to ten points on the court last night from what should have been easy “chippies.”

  9. I’m really struggling with that comment about TJD as well. UCONN was basically using the same strategy last night that our Big Ten foes did last year in packing the paint. TJD didn’t miss any easy dunks. The first 6 plays where we fed the ball into the paint saw UCONN collapse on the postman. There were at least double-teams with another defender collapsing on the outlet.

    The difference this year is that we adjusted with ball movement. Rob Phinesse was KEY when he came in. Once we could get some ball movement, we negated those double-teams and we started getting our guys AT LEAST to the foul line. When you don’t have great shooters, this is a solid adjustment. By doing that, we ended up reversing the issues that plagued us in Madison the previous game.

    TDJ is a solid “big”. He’s money. He might be the best frosh in B1G. I don’t see how anyone can look at him and fault him for not dunking through double and triple teams.

  10. The “chippies” that AM talked about were mainly referring to DD fumbling a perfect, wide-open pass for a dunk, as well as another wide open play in the 2nd half.

  11. Double agree with both of Double Down’s comments…

    TDJ is a solid “big”. He’s money. He might be the best frosh in B1G.

    Indeed. Double indeed.

  12. DD, just to be clear, I wasn’t talking about TJD missing chippies, I was talking mostly about Brunk and DD. I speed-watched the game a second time (DVR) and counted at least eight “chippies” that should have been easy baskets for veteran guys that are 6’11” and 6’10” respectively. My point really was, if IU makes six of those eight chippies, the game really isn’t close and IU wins going away. The team works so hard to get the ball to those guys that deep into the paint, the “easy” part should be to slam it home or draw a foul while making the attempt.

  13. I recall Jackson-Davis missing some “chippies.” It happens…Sometimes there’s just a lid on the rim. Dunking is not always an option.
    Nobody has claimed Brunk is a finesse guy. His value will be in garnering attention, taking up space and providing more force on the boards.

    Wisconsin shot the ball very well against us ….I think the game in Madison will remain an outlier. I think we’ll be one of the top rebounding teams in the conference. Unless an opponent shoots the ball very well, it’s going to be difficult to get separation against our Hoosiers (we’ll limit their opportunities and we’ll benefit from our own second chance points).
    We should be very strong on the offensive and defensive glass season-long. Missing “chippies” is a hell of a good sign this early…It means we’re getting chippies and rebounding strong.

    There are always flaws in most big men….I would suggest revisiting the IU vs. Syracuse Sweet 16 game. Witness the problems Cody had against a very long and athletic team. He lunged at the basket and never got into a comfort level.

    Also keep in mind DeRon Davis was not an Archie Miller recruit. Jackson-Davis is a hell of talent…and a very athletic and capable “big.”
    Brunk will prove very valuable. He will serve well as an inside enforcer and motivator. He may miss some “chippies” while transforming his game and getting conditioning at a maximum. We’re lucky to have a big with a high ‘Butler Way’ IQ for the game …and one who plays with a CHIP on his shoulder.
    Those bunnies will start to fall…

  14. And let’s not forget Justin Smith…Man, alive….Smith and Jackson-Davis could arguably be the most athletic side-by-side “bigs” in the conference. And we’re very long in complementing their abilities.
    Maybe one of the most individually and deeply athletic teams we’ve ever had.
    Nobody is slow in the backcourt. Smith can leap to the rafters. Green is a phenomenal athlete.

    A stellar point guard with experience and maturity is really our major weakness. Would have also been nice to have a lights out marksman from the perimeter. The inside presence is deep and evolving…The outside game is still a bit wanting.

    All in all…there is still a ton to like about this team. More Franklin!

  15. Is TJD’s brother a nonathletic quarterback like his nonathletic “big” big brother part of the subset group of nonathletic bigs Archie has only been able to recruit?

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