Morgan delivers again in IU’s 87-70 win over Arkansas State

De’Ron Davis calls them “dog points.”

They’re hustle plays, essentially. Rebounds and 50-50 balls, too.

“Everything we need as a team,” Davis said.

On Wednesday, for the second consecutive game, Morgan filled up on the dog points.

The junior forward scored a career-high 28 points with eight rebounds to lead Indiana to an 87-70 victory over Arkansas State before an announced crowd of 12,646 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

As this IU team continues to search for its first complete performance of the season, while adjusting to the new teaching points and expectations of Archie Miller’s coaching staff, Morgan is quickly asserting himself as a player Indiana can lean on.

That’s an encouraging early-season development as the rest of IU’s approach continues to work itself out.

“He’s playing with great confidence right now and it has nothing to do with jump shots or anything like that,” Miller said. “He’s playing hard. He’s got the ability right now to really get on the glass and I thought, just in general, he’s finished better. He’s kind of done that not only this game. I thought we saw signs of it Seton Hall as well, where he was able to really mix it up and get on the glass and finish. We gotta keep him going.”

Morgan followed Sunday’s double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) against South Florida with a career-best effort on Wednesday. Hustle is the key word with Morgan, who fought his way to the foul line, where he made each of his 10 free throws.

Morgan, who has gone 19-for-10 from the line across the past two games, said after the game that he’s drawn inspiration from watching Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant do a little shimmy prior to shooting free throws.

He also connected on nine of his 11 shots from the field, declining to attempt a single 3-pointer. In other words, Morgan hit the shots and made the plays that Indiana (3-2) needed him to make, all while supplying the hustle that has endeared him to this program.

“Coming from my high school here, I knew right away I wasn’t going to be the man just playing with Yogi (Ferrell), Troy (Williams) and then the year after, James (Blackmon Jr.), Rob (Johnson), OG (Anunoby), Thomas (Bryant). I just knew I was going to be in the background, but that’s just fine with me. If I can get us extra possessions and everybody else shines, as long as the team is winning I’m fine with that.”

Morgan provided the calming presence on a night when IU turned in another topsy-turvy showing. The Hoosiers have one more game — Friday’s 4:30 tip-off with Eastern Michigan — before next Wednesday’s showdown with Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Indiana’s transition defense wasn’t what it needed to be against the up-tempo Red Hawks (2-3). The Hoosiers also struggled to hit 3-pointers over the Arkansas State zone, leading to some hairy moments early in both halves.

On the bright side, IU turned the ball over only eight times — and not once during the final 11:41 of action — opting for the simple plays rather than the high-risk, high-reward moments that have appeared through the first few weeks of the season.

Devonte Green added 12 points, while Davis and Robert Johnson each posted 10 points.

Through the first nine minutes, Indiana committed only one turnover. But it also struggled to hit shots, going 6-for-15 from the field in that span.

The Hoosiers, who went 5-for-18 from beyond the arc, didn’t collect their first 3-pointer until the 8:10 mark of the first half, when Green connected from the corner.

From that point, the Hoosiers found traction, particularly inside the arc. They closed the half by connecting on 10 of their final 12 shots, taking a 47-33 lead into the locker room.

“I thought we worked the ball into the paint pretty good,” Miller said. “They played a couple different types of zones. They weren’t giving us the same look every time down, whether they were spread out or whether they tried to match up in the middle. For the most part I thought we did all right.”

But Indiana didn’t do much to build on that advantage until late in the second half.

Back-to-back turnovers by Green to start the period had the sophomore guard on the bench 40 seconds into the half.

By the 9:43 mark, IU’s lead had been whittled down to three. At one point, Indiana’s coaching staff erupted in frustration on the bench at the sight of the team’s poor halfcourt defense. Arkansas State leading scorer Deven Simms scored eight of his 21 points in the first 10 minutes of the half.

Meanwhile, Johnson was working through a shooting slump.

Johnson missed five straight shots, including four 3-pointers, midway through the period before scoring five quick points approaching the final media timeout, building IU’s lead back to double digits.

“They started to really double down on me second half pretty hard,” Davis said. “Rob not hitting those first five shots kind of gave them that leeway, (saying), ‘OK, we’re going to double the post.’ But I just kept telling him to shoot it.”

16 comments

  1. I agree. Everyone have a great Thanksgiving. I love Archie. He is a real coach. TC is a great analyst. I hope he stays in that role. He is good at it. Plus. Now he can get a natural tan since he lives in Florida. A win for all

  2. Interesting game.

    My first instinct is to be gravely concerned with this season, especially after seeing us within a couple shots of a team projected to be bottom-middle of the pack in the Sun-Belt Conference. But I’m seeing flashes of what, gulp, looks to be fundamental basketball. And, when they play fundamental basketball, they look like they can run a lot of teams out of the gym. When they don’t, they go even-steven with a sub-150 Ken Pom team.

    Crean’s teams were encouraged to chuck the rock regardless of the opponent. If they were hot, AH records fell. If not, Amnesty International would come in and take all the leftover bricks to rebuild Haiti. The constant was the turnovers and the poor defense. Some nights, the hot shooting would mask the underlying flaws. There’s a reason why Crean could never beat Wisconsin. The buzzcuts were built to expose a team’s fundamental flaws. Every game vs Wisconsin Indiana was left wondering why the shots weren’t falling. Or blaming the refs.

    AM is not just building a program, he’s building a team that plays with true strength. By March, no one will wonder if AM’s team is losing its legs. They’ll be playing smarter, harder and, hopefully, hone in and be that team that exposes frauds who are over-talented and underdeveloped.

    The margin of victory, or the early loses aren’t the story here. I’m seeing a team coached by someone who’s looking at the long game. And with each game, they are playing a little bit more like the team he wants them to be. In each game, there are stretches when they revert back to old habits. But film and practice are whittling those moments down less and less each game.

    The upcoming Duke, Iowa, Michigan, Louisville and ND stretch is going to be really fascinating…

  3. I don’t think it could be summed up better Double Diwn. I really enjoy watching this team turn into a team.

  4. Hope all Scoopers had a great Thanksgiving and are enjoying a great holiday weekend.

    DD, really good comment above. My take on this season is that we’d better enjoy watching this team transition from what was to what will be, and not worry about the number of wins produced. Because as pleased as I am with how they’re improving under Archie, they don’t have enough experienced talent necessary to win 20 games this season. I doubt they will win 18 games this year. Every team in the Big Ten is a lot better than any of the teams we’ve defeated so far. And IU is going to get a wake-up call from the Duke, Iowa, Michigan, Louisville and ND part of the schedule. How they handle those losses, and how much they learn from those games will determine how successful they are through the remainder of the season. Having said that, next year’s roster will be deeper, more talented and obviously more experienced playing Archie’s style of basketball, and that will be something to look forward to.

    1. Wrong as usual…They’ll easily win 20 games. They’ll finish high enough to get an NCAA bid(6th or 7th). And if they somehow could make it to a Sweet 16 with half the talent of Crean’s best teams, I would be far from surprised to witness an Elite 8 appearance.
      Morgan is already performing at a higher level on both ends of the floor than Crean could get out of Hanner, Holt, Hollowell, and Bryant.

  5. I also noticed Carter Skaggs(a.k.a. Larry Bird of Logansport) only had 3 pts. in WSU’s upset win over Saint Mary’s.

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