Morgan motivates IU in 70-53 win over South Florida

Hustle plays on both ends, toughness around the rim and a will to fight. The full scope of Juwan Morgan’s skill set was on display Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Indiana needed every bit of it.

After a lackluster first 20 minutes, Morgan’s effort sparked IU to a 70-53 win over South Florida before an announced crowd of 11,629 that made sure to show its appreciation of the junior forward.

Arguably the loudest cheers of the night were for Morgan after he blocked a shot then drew a foul under the basket early in the second half, demonstrating his Swiss Army Knife-approach to the game. For an IU team that is still recalibrating to the expectations of new coach Archie Miller, particularly his desire to cultivate a program of hardened players, Morgan is the perfect catalyst.

He certainly was on Sunday, posting his second career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, lifting the Hoosiers when they needed it most.

“I think everybody rallied around his energy and his effort,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “Once we built on that, it was good for us.”

Following a rough first half, during which IU ambled through sloppy offensive sets and offered poor defensive awareness, Morgan picked up the team early in the second half.

He scored 10 points, going 8-for-8 at the line, and added five offensive rebounds in the first nine minutes of the period. It was important production from Morgan, and the Hoosiers responded in kind.

“He was fantastic,” Miller said. “It wasn’t just about shooting 3s; it was about playing hard. I thought he played hard on both ends of the floor. The offensive rebounding was unbelievable effort. And then 10 free throw attempts kind of shows the aggressiveness that he played with tonight. And so just happy for him. I thought he played really well today.”

After Morgan’s play buoyed IU early in the period, Indiana used a 13-1 run midway through the second half to create the separation it rode to the finish line.

“Juwan Morgan, they don’t run one play for him, not one,” South Florida coach Brian Gregory said. “All he does is set ball screens and roll, but he gets a double-double tonight because he plays so hard and he’s accepted that role. You know what, he’s going to make a lot of money with that role, because there’s not a lot of guys who will play that hard and do those things.”

Morgan and Johnson headlined a mostly encouraging performance from IU’s available upperclassmen.

Johnson, who scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday at Seton Hall, led all scorers with 21 points.

He fought for his points and performed well on the defensive end, too. After South Florida leading scorer Payton Banks posted 15 points in the first period, Johnson helped hold him to merely three in the final 20 minutes.

Johnson is among the many still finding their way in a new era for the program, but Sunday was a good step forward.

“When things got stagnant, we’d see Rob slice the defense and get an easy layup,” Morgan said. “It was like alright, we can do this. Rob’s killing it for us right now. We just have to help him out. That’s what really ignited us right there. We knew Rob needed help and couldn’t do it alone. As one (player) piggybacked off Rob, then another came and another came. It was just a domino effect.”

With senior guard Josh Newkirk banged up and only playing 10 minutes Sunday, freshman Al Durham continued his strong start to the season.

Durham turned in nine points, while recording four assists against zero turnovers. Sunday’s second half also saw some of the prettiest halfcourt offense of the young season.

The Hoosiers found their way in the second half, making smart passes — the extra passes, too — that helped cut down on their errors.

After committing nine turnovers in the opening period, IU had only three in the second. Led by Morgan’s career-best 9-for-10 performance at the line, Indiana made 19 of its 25 free throws as it moved the ball and attacked inside.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to get comfortable with rolls and still figure out what is good opportunity to take a chance and when to slow it down,” Miller said. “Especially late in the second half, I think we had some opportunities to slow it down a little bit and see if we can work the clock a little bit more. We’re probably a couple of open shots away from scoring 75 points in the game. We’ve got to keep working.”

On Sunday, it was Morgan doing the difficult work, picking up his teammates when they needed a hand.

“He continues to play like that, he’s got good days ahead of him at this moment,” Miller said.

5 comments

  1. Johnson starting to come around. Morgan showing some upperclassmen leadership. Pretty decent D some of the time. Miller’s coaching starting to show an affect. Progress measured in inches. Towel slam an emotional throwback to the days of RMK.

  2. Behind scenes in practice to A.M. expectations to game perspective to positive caring encouraging comments post game building player, team trust and confidence.

  3. It wasn’t that they started playing better, it was how. There were a couple of offensive sets that I haven’t seen in AH for decades. This team moves without the ball. In the 2nd half you can see it all come together for them.

    Also, nice to see the substituting is back to normal. Case in point: Josh Newkirk whiffs on two defensive possessions resulting in 5 points for USF. In comes Al Durham. He plays fast better. Al stays in the game. Josh stays on the bench. Josh isn’t 100%, but he’s also stinking up the joint. Durham has stepped up.

    1. Right, it is fun watching motion offense again. We’re seeing stability and consistency beginning to take place with the IUBB program. Creating an environment for improved performance. I’ll bet Miller really amps up critical coaching over the next couple of games. Indiana BB on the way back.

  4. What’s most impressive to me is the defensive effort IU displayed against USF. IU was undersized in yesterday’s game, but they continued to work really hard on defense, apply ball pressure and just flat out scrap on every possession, and their effort paid huge dividends in the second half. Hopefully the light bulb has now clicked on, and this young team can clearly see how they can win games going forward. Hopefully, they now understand that they don’t have to be an offensive juggernaut in order to win basketball games. As for IU’s turnovers, some of the ones committed in the first half were just profoundly stupid. The good news is that those should be easy to eliminate going forward. This team’s progession and improvement won’t be linear, but it will continue at a faster pace and will be fun to watch.

Comments are closed.