Hoosiers ready to get back to work vs. Fort Wayne

Not one hour after his first big win as Indiana’s coach, Archie Miller was already looking ahead to Monday.

Saturday’s victory over No. 18 Notre Dame was nice and very much needed, but Miller knew what had to come next.

“Get back off the clouds,” he said, “and get back to work.”

For as uplifting as the 80-77 overtime win was, it can only serve as a springboard if the Hoosiers make it so. With a quick turnaround Monday night against Fort Wayne, a team that shocked IU with an upset victory last season, Miller is determined to see it through.

“We have some guys that aren’t playing particularly well that, if they do start to play a little bit better, then our team gets better,” Miller said. “There’s got to be a focus right now on improvement. There’s got to be a focus as a group that we can become cleaner in our stuff.”

It’s not that Miller is trying to be a curmudgeon. It’s more likely that he sees the team he’s sought to craft is coming into shape.

Miller called the recent five-game stretch against power conference teams — beginning with a narrow loss to No. 1 Duke and ending with Saturday’s win over the Irish — a pressure cooker. It forced what had been a struggling, unconfident team to grow up quickly.

Taking the five games in summation, it appears the Hoosiers have done exactly that, while beginning to play with the end-to-end toughness that Miller requires.

“Without question,” Miller said. “We’ve been in the pressure cooker for about four weeks. You’re going against Duke. I think four, five games ago, whatever it may be, you’re right there and disappointed you weren’t able to get it done. Struggled on the road against Michigan. Battled back and had a good win against Iowa.

“At Louisville, I thought we were prepared to play. Guys competed and played really hard. We just weren’t sharp enough, being able to finish it off. I thought (Saturday), we were sharp enough to finish it off, and we also did it on both ends. We had key plays, being able to get key stops, and continuing to score when we were down.”

Juwan Morgan, of course, was the primary reason why.

The junior forward, who is on the way to earning All-Big Ten consideration, scored 14 consecutive points at the end of regulation and into overtime Saturday, helping the Hoosiers erase an eight-point deficit with two minutes left and a four-point hole with less than two minutes remaining in the extra period.

During the recent five-game stretch, Morgan averaged 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, while shooting 65.6 percent from the field.

“The thing that he has right now is great toughness around the basket,” Miller said. “He’s not falling away, he’s not getting knocked to the ground, there’s no flailing. He’s playing through the other guys, and he’s got good contact. He’s got good footwork around the basket as well.

“I think what he’s figuring out is the more he can get down there and get to the foul line and the more he’s offensive rebounding, the better he plays.”

Beating Indiana last year was undeniably the high-water mark for Fort Wayne, which finished 20-13 with a season-ending loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

Two of the Mastodons’ top players from that team, Bryson Scott and Jon Konchar, are back this year. Scott is coming off his fourth 30-point game of the season in Saturday’s 88-84 win over Stetson. The Purdue transfer led the ‘Dons with 18 points and 12 rebounds last year against IU.

Konchar is fifth nationally with 32 steals and is the only Summit League player averaging nine rebounds or more per game. He turned in 15 points and 11 rebounds against Indiana last November.

“We have to be ready to play against Fort Wayne,” Miller said. “I think everybody is probably going to remind everyone about last year’s game, which is fine. I’ll remind our guys. We didn’t start the season off very well against Indiana State as well. That’s a very, very big game for us and our team. We have to get back to work.”

4 comments

  1. Ive said it plenty of times that the improvement of Morgan, Davis, Durham, and Smith are what will determine weather the season is successful. The help is on the way we just need a good core group ready. I would say Archie is on the right track.

  2. I sure do regret eating crow after the Notre Dame game. The only positive I see is that anyone being recruited will have to think they’ll start as Freshman. But then, who is being recruited that wants to play against these guys in practice? clank clank clank selfish play turnover clank. Awful.

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