IU take-aways: Indiana 68, Penn State 60

There’s been good. There’s been bad. But it could be enough.

In the afterglow of yet another win over a ranked opponent, Indiana coach Archie Miller was back in a positive space.

It was a moment where he could talk about Race Thompson’s physicality, and Justin Smith’s commitment to rebounding and defense, and a myriad of other positive indicators that pushed IU over No. 9 Penn State.

Then again …

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to stink it up again. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to play poorly,” Miller said. “But I would say you have to have the bounce-back mentality. And you have to have a group that understands that we have a lot of great things in front of us, if we continue to hone in and get better.

“It’s not about what just happened — it’s about what can happen.”

The ups and downs of the Hoosiers’ season have been extreme at times. They haven’t just lost games, but they’ve lost in lopsided fashion, displaying little fight in the process.

But what can happen, as displayed Sunday, is the Hoosiers can find another side of that coin. They can beat the best in the Big Ten and pull through a hard a counterpunch, like PSU’s 30-5 run in the game’s middle third.

The good and the bad are difficult to square, but the balance could be more than enough to get the Hoosiers into the NCAA tournament. In the NET rankings, No. 52 IU has wins over No. 12 Florida State, No. 13 Michigan State, No. 19 Ohio State, and No. 25 Penn State, and No. 27 Iowa.

No. 45 Arkansas, No. 36 Purdue, and No. 34 Rutgers are the Hoosiers’ only losses outside the top 30.

As bad as some of their losses have looked, IU has found a way to carry on and build the resume. And some resilience.

“Worked hard this week, had a great attitude. Just keeping our mouth shut and basically grinding it out,” Miller said. “That’s all you can do.”

Race Thompson continues to be IU’s ‘tough guy.’

Underneath the basket, Penn State’s bigs were making life difficult for the Hoosiers. Miller needed a guy to get in there and start returning some metaphorical haymakers.

Thompson, the 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore, was that guy.

“If you look at our wins here recently, he’s played a big role, because the physicality in our league is above, like, any other league in the country,” Miller said. “There’s not another league in college basketball that plays the league as physical as this.”

So it’s no surprise that when Thompson is on the floor, the Hoosiers play better. He was a plus-13 against PSU, tied with senior De’Ron Davis in that metric. This is IU’s third win in a row where Thompson has led in plus-minus.

IU is just better when Thompson is on the floor, especially on the defensive end, bodying up opposing posts and putting himself in position to either tap out a rebound or pull it down himself. Offensively, his game seems to be expanding, as he hit 4-of-6 from the field Sunday.

Thompson wasn’t available (as well as redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter) when the Hoosiers played Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center, during a four-game losing streak.

“He gives us a lot of energy on the defensive end,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “He’s always willing to make the dirty play, the extra play, the hustle play. He’s been a valuable part of our team and it’s good to have him healthy.”

The only downsides to Thompson’s performance versus Penn State: an 0-of-3 effort from the free throw line and one “touchdown” he gave up on a press, as Miller put it.

Otherwise, it was hard for the third-year coach to overstate Thompson’s positive impact.

“He’s changed the course of our season here as we’ve been able to get through February,” Miller said.

In general, the Hoosiers found their roles.

Like with Thompson, there were multiple players displaying their strengths versus PSU.

Rob Phinisee helped create turnovers on the defensive end. Al Durham and Hunter hit critical shots. Jackson-Davis didn’t shoot a great percentage (6-of-17) but he didn’t back away from a scorer’s role.

And the 6-foot-7 junior, Justin Smith, was pivotal in guarding Lamar Stevens and pulling down rebounds in Sunday’s second half.

“Sometimes Justin wants the game to go a certain way and it doesn’t. And it takes him a minute,” Miller said. “But when the energy was up and we needed the plays to be made, I thought last eight minutes he stepped up, did a great job.”

IU needs individuals to play their roles, but they also need to embrace the right approach as a team.

Protecting and scoring the ball is one facet, but the bits in between are just as important as the Hoosiers finish this regular season. They need to defend and rebound, and Smith can play an outsized role there.

“Can we get defensive stops and can we play in transition defense to offense,” Miller said, “because right now we’re taking care of the ball a little bit better.”

What’s next?

Purdue, 7 p.m. Thursday, at Mackey Arena

The Boilermakers (14-14, 7-10 Big Ten) haven’t won in a while.

In fact, they haven’t won since beating the Hoosiers in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Feb. 8.

Of course, the Boilers’ four-game skid has something to do with the strength of the Big Ten conference. Purdue’s last two losses are by four points to Wisconsin and eight to Michigan, the latter at home.

These defeats have been marked by poor starts. In the first halves of the Boilers’ last three losses, they have shot a combined 27-of-89 (30.3 percent) from the floor.

24 comments

  1. There’s been good and there’s been bad. But it could be good enough. WRONG (good enough to get into March Madness only. That’s not good enough just to clarify.

  2. I’m just curious where all this “not good enough” in terms of March Madness was when the rest of the Midwest was doing this from 2010-17?

    I’m also curious to how a collective 23 Elite Eights and 15 Final Fours to our zilch from 2010-17 was “good enough” to help Midwest/Indiana recruiting during the nine seasons preceding Archie taking this job? (Now up to 28 Elite Eights and 17 Final Fours to our zilch ..with the adding the last two years lost ground hardly attributable to Archie).

    I’m also curious to how it all the above helped in rebuilding Indiana when high school recruiting from within the state of Indiana was also being further and further alienated by Archie’s predecessor?

    And now Archie is just supposed to flip a switch? What dreamworld are you people living in and where were you when the rest of the Midwest was tearing it up in ‘Conference Midwest Elite’ while, even when we made a tournament with highly ranked teams, we still weren’t measuring up to anywhere close to our Midwestern counterparts and “peers” (yes, those lovely peers of ours we hear so much about) in March Madness?

    Inquiring minds need to know…. Observe Conference Midwest Elite. You thought standards were being met from 2010-17? And you didn’t notice bipolar basketball then? And you didn’t notice teams with more turnovers than Pillsbury? And you didn’t notice the low b-ball IQ and the numerous projects at the end of the roster killing our bench production? What good is a “filled” roster when it’s full of toe-trippers or trapeze acts needing cue cards for the basic of basketball fundamentals?

  3. It definitely wasn’t good enough then. Wasn’t good enough for now about 2 decades. (except maybe for a season or 2).

  4. Agree, t.
    But as we use the term “now,” I’m not sure if that’s completely fair in assessing Archie Miller. In a couple years, we’ll be able to say he “now” has a team assembled of, solely, his own recruits. At that time, I believe we can more fairly take our shots at what is “good enough” or “not good enough” as it pertains to a higher standard of March Madness excellence we all are hoping to return.

  5. Work in progress. However, winning out in regular season, two tournament big ten games and a sweet 16 March Madness yes this year is not out of question. That could spring board into next season.

  6. Have we ever won two BigTen tournament games? Yeah, I know that’s not true but it sure feels that way. I do know there’s been plenty of early exits…and we’ve never won the thing. Honestly, I see it as totally pointless. Bob Knight saw it in much the same fashion. It’s more than kids already playing a 20 game conference season need on their plate (physically and mentally).
    I see it as a barometer of nothing…A team should argue their case for postseason play long before the overkill of the conference tournament.

    You’re big on the greed topic, t. Don’t you see the BigTen tournament as nothing other than repetitive overkill mostly fueled by the raw greed to simply get at more dollars? Is there any concern whatsoever for the added wear and tear on the young athlete who has already experienced a very taxing season?

    I don’t put a lot of stock in the BigTen tournament. It’s useful for “bubble teams,” I suppose….but if we’re securely in the Big Dance prior to the conference tournament, I just assume we bow out early rather than go through exhaustive overkill against teams faced plenty of times already.

  7. I’m a big fan of great coaches stemming from my IN childhood in the 70’s – 80’s. I like to see the similarities & differences & how they all add up to what “great” means to me. One thing that stands out, in every sport, is accountability.

    Kirk Gibson managed the Dbacks for a few years before he fell ill. That dude never threw his players under the bus. He would respond to reporters with “you’ll have to ask him/them”. He was consistent. I spoke to him about how I liked how he was making his young team better. He told me “They’re really working hard to get better, stick with them.”

    I see a lot of the same in Archie. He’s honest & accountable.

    It does take a while to change the culture of a program. He’s slowly but surely doing it. He was left with guys who signed up to run & gun & not play anything close to defense. 99% of us had seen enough of that. How do you teach defense to 12 of those kinds of kids? Even Durham & Smith were these kinds of kids. They were athletes brought in to follow the same footsteps of Troy Williams, Vic, Sheehey, etc… To his credit he is still trying to teach these same dudes the same things.

    In contrast, look at TJD, Race, Phinisee, Hunter, Franklin, Brunk. All of these kids can play D & they are starting to see the results of steals & rebounds & running the floor turn into high flying dunks & hard takes & layups to the bucket. All high % shots. Even Demezi started to play D this yr. I just wish he would’ve turned into the assassin he was recruited to be.

    I’ve been clamoring for 3/4 to full court pressure all year & some zone. But over the past month I’ve realized that Archie is a helluva lot smarter than I. He doesn’t want to give up easy transition buckets via the press nor diminish the strengths of this team, which are the paint presence & rebounding. He knows damn well we can’t shoot & the way to the W is through the paint & offensive rebounding. I’m already looking forward to a front line that includes TJD, Race, Brunk & Smith next season with another yr under their belts. It’ll be more of the same dosing to the opposition.

    I hope these kids are learning just how good it feels to play your butt off & get a team-earned win. We need that memory on Thr. night.

    1. Great post. Honest and accountable are definitely to very strong traits of our hoops coach. Here’s resilient too.

      Is it enough? I sure hope so. That’s what is required to turn things around.

      What else is needed? A little luck. I’d say we’re due.

      We’re in for a couple more years and I hope this is what a program on the mend looks like.

  8. Very good post, AWinAZ. Find a lot of agreement with your perspective. I think Archie is finally getting the trust of those he did not recruit…Trust takes time. Recovering from a certain feeling of disenfranchisement for ‘holdovers’ has taken time. Archie has fostered trust via accountability and not playing favorites..whether his recruit..or a roster member inherited. He has adopted their bad habits as curable tendencies and embraced their positives. He’s helping guys become better basketball players and valuable believers in each other.

  9. I remember Knight believing big ten tournament was useless. I never did like it either nor did I like it before big ten tournaments with season ending tournaments regarding other conferences. However, maybe not when he was there and some other years I assumed that IU usually along with other teams tried to win it because that’s what teams do. Yes it is a great example of over kill and think it’s detrimental to the whole process. However, the funny thing is I have watched some of them.

  10. The BigTen tournament is an absolute waste of time for all involved except the folks who make money on it.
    Greed always wins, as players are chatel.
    Did anybody read the article on who gets paid what at IU?
    I hate to guess how many of them now make more than Knight did in his heyday.

  11. I didn’t think that Knight ever made tremendously/OBSCENE amounts of money just for coaching. He did make a lot of money by other means that coaching gave him opportunities to make.

    It seems that it started again with the sinful Hollywood/Music Entertainment, top or near the top of the pyramids CEOS, long ago followed by professional sports in multi areas and the political arena (that includes things other than just the politician himself or herself), followed by college administration and coaching contracts. As for coaching contracts meaning all the money garaunteed without doing anything else other than coaching type duties…it seems they accelerated at breaking sound barrier speed at about the time BK ended his career at IU….It depends how things are defined. I always thought Bob Knight was an Angel for what he brought to Indiana University in relationship to how much money he made as in garaunteed salary for being a coach. Don’t get me wrong because I do think Bob Knight was paid well….but
    Bob Knight vs all the so called Do Gooders with their OBSCENE GARAUNTEED CASH COW CONTRACTS.

  12. Nowadays. Be politically correct, a lot of flexibility for job performance after often flash in the pan success, get in the eliteness club and enjoy the financial ride. Sure one still has the emotional ups and downs but it is still a hell of a financial ride.

  13. And let’s not forget that we’re playing a BigTen tournament under an expanded BigTen (now with 14 teams) and an expanded 20 game conference season. If a team goes all the way through the BigTen tournament, they will have played 24 to 26 total conference games….Seems rather insanely redundant.
    And if there’s extreme parity in a conference, doesn’t that mean every night/weekend of a season is a very competitive night/weekend? Unlike some top-heavy conferences, there is never a ‘night off’ in the BigTen. Nearly every game is a war…Rarely is there garbage time to sit down starters for some extra rest at the end of a contest.
    And we wonder why the BigTen hasn’t had better results in March Madness? Could it simply be burnout? If you’re in the BigTen, you’re almost playing a tournament-type game every regular season game. Can’t even sit down for Rutgers or Penn State anymore. Every night is heavyweight fight. It’s doesn’t really surprise me that the BigTen has struggled in March Madness. More parity…More games…Expanded conference…Zero chances to back off the throttle and give some guys physical and mental rest in games. Now go play a BigTen tournament and have four heavyweight fights in one week…Now go win four straight to get to a Final Four. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

    If we truly want the BigTen to be represented at Final Fours (which was Tarheel Delany’s complete opposite desire/intention/hope), then maybe ease off these kids a bit.? Being the best conference (along with all its demanding parity), should allow kids the advantages of some rest rather than require them the disadvantages of additional physical tests of their endurance preceding the biggest reason to put on a uniform-March Madness.

  14. I had a sort of off-topic…on-topic question. The photo of Archie atop this story/recap of the Penn State win reminded me of something I was also wondering during the game.
    Why was Archie holding a Hallmark card for most of the game? Archie’s Hallmark Defense: “When you care enough to send defend your very best”….?
    Maybe it was one of those ‘talking cards’ …?
    Maybe when it’s opened it plays a repeat of Bob Knight cussing out Dakich? “You’re here to attach yourself to his jock itch, Dakich! I didn’t bring you here to shoot the damn ball!…..I love you so much.”

  15. I do remember before big ten had end of season conference tournament some were saying (don’t no how many) that a reason other conferences, (mainly ACC) were doing better than big ten was result of those conferences were prepared better for March Madness because they had end of season conference championship tournaments. In that respect it may be a back and forth based who is doing better or worse.

  16. But did the ACC have as much parity….and did they have a shorter season back then to fit in the conference tournament?
    It’s all about parity (depth of competition) and wear and tear….And then there’s talent…And then there’s a certain amount of luck (upsets working in your favor and bracket placement)…And then there’s momentum.

    End of the day, I just simply think it’s overkill. We followed the “example” of what other conferences were doing. It’s very, very rare that any conference tournament winner from the BigTen would have never been given an NCAA bid had they not won. The winner is almost always somebody who was in the top of the standings to begin with. Do you think we have a shot in hell? I honestly don’t…Then again, I don’t care. It’s March Madness that matters to me.

    Our last Final Four run under Davis…(2002?)? How did we do in the BigTen tournament that year? Won one game (vs. MSU) after receiving bye. Lost in semi to Iowa. Yippee.

  17. OSU won the BigTen tournament in 2002….Blew out Iowa 81-64 in the championship. OSU went on to get blown out by Missouri in the second round of the NCAA tournament, losing 87-63 (Missouri would later lose to Sampson’s Oklahoma, 81-75 in the West regional final).

    My guess is that the BigTen conference tournament is never indicative of how a team will fare in March Madness. It certainly wasn’t when referencing our last major success in the Big Dance in 2002 when we would take down #1 Duke at a regional semi….nor did it measure what OSU would do as they got manhandled by Missouri.

  18. Speaking of the Big 10 Tournament, my wife and I decided to attend it this year because of all of the parity is going to make for 13 compelling games. There will be some good teams fighting for their lives to make the dance. Then others fighting for 2, 3 or even 4 seeds in the dance. We will be fighting for seeding, I hope. All in all, I’ve always wanted to go and find our IN venue compelling vs. United Center & MSG (as awful as that was the Big Ten is going back!).

    I’ve always thought the BTT was exploitation. Outside of Indy, no other venue offers a draw. The real $ is made based on the TV rights. They should give away the tickets, but believe me, they don’t. Same reason we now play every night of the week with no rhyme, reason or otherwise given to the student athlete. Gone are the Thr./Sat. or Fri./Sun. tilts in the same vicinity & a once or twice a year Big Monday. It’s sad. Part of this chaotic scheduling leads to the trouble winning on the road this season & in this conference as if it weren’t tough to do already. It’s tough to go to Iowa, come home and then go to Rutgers. Which could happen. I don’t think the Big Ten has an algorithm to prevent such lunacy. If you go to Rutgers, you should go to MD. If you go to Iowa, you go to Neb. If you go to IU you go to Purdue. C’mon now, how hard is it??? Sprinkle in a Wed. game here and there and you still have TV games all but 2 nights a week. Speak of me well as the next commissioner.

    And instead of this silly tournament, which has only 2 viable purposes ($ & someone getting in that wouldn’t otherwise), why not go to a full round robin schedule playing everyone twice, home and away??? That would seem to me to be the best option. Or, break the league into two divisions, play everyone in your div. twice & the other div. only once, rotating each yr. with the venue.

  19. Have fun at the tournament, AWinAZ….I’ve also attended a couple even though all my preachy ideas of what’s flawed and wrong with it.

    They’re young…If you don’t throw your guts to the wind when young then you’ll have no memories. Guess I shouldn’t cry in their beer too much…They have a free ride through college and some will go on to make millions in the pros.

  20. As the way it’s suppose to be in IU men’s basketball program. Things have just gotten much better in IU men’s basketball program. 2 game win streak. Team is playing some ball both individually and as a team. A rational chance for some more good wins. Recruiting has just trended up.

  21. I knew kids from our state would come around to believing in the Hoosiers again. We just needed a genuine coach who was about coaching and Indiana first…rather than operating as a “project camp” for every NBA longshot spotted by Galileo.

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