McRoberts sparks Hoosiers to 79-51 win over Penguins

Good things continue to happen when Zach McRoberts is on the floor.

The start of Friday’s second half served as further evidence.

McRoberts helped Indiana snap out of its early funk against Youngstown State, providing the steady hand that helped lift the Hoosiers to a 79-51 victory before an announced crowd of 14,122 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The non-conference finale brought more of the same from McRoberts, whose grit and attention to detail have earned him starter’s minutes during the past four games. He played 27 minutes against the Penguins and started the second half in place of freshman guard Al Durham.

It was a key substitution made by IU coach Archie Miller, who entered the halftime locker room searching for a fix after his Hoosiers ambled through a poor first half. The solution? It was hidden on the stat sheet right in front of him.

Although Indiana (8-6) held an unimpressive nine-point halftime lead, McRoberts’s plus-12 was a bright spot. That means that with McRoberts on the floor in the first half, IU outscored Youngstown State (2-11) by 12 points.

“It was clear that he was really a big difference when he was in there,” Miller said.

McRoberts, who led IU with eight rebounds and finished with seven points, opened the second period with a 3-pointer from the wing that gave IU a 12-point advantage. The Hoosiers’ lead didn’t dip back into single digits the rest of the night.

Two minutes later, McRoberts came through with an alert steal at midcourt that led to a quick dunk by Josh Newkirk on the offensive end. It was all part of a 15-4 second-half start for the Hoosiers, who begin the second leg of Big Ten play on Tuesday at Wisconsin.

“He’s always a huge help, and it’s nothing he doesn’t do in practice,” said Juwan Morgan, who led IU with 16 points. “Every day he’s always working hard. We always say Zach is the person you hate to have going against him, but love to have him on your team, and he showed why tonight — all the hustle plays, all the things people don’t like to do Zach does them.”

McRoberts later added a four-point play midway through the second half. All told, when McRoberts was on the floor Friday night, IU outscored YSU by 31 points.

The way this season has developed for McRoberts is not altogether different from the way last year — his first season with the program — progressed. Although he was used sparingly early in the 2016-17 season, McRoberts earned back-to-back starts during a swing against Michigan State and Michigan late in January.

Miller isn’t ready to officially name McRoberts a starter, but he is nonetheless appreciative of the consistency the walk-on provides an otherwise skittish team.

“Zach’s earned his minutes,” Miller said. “Not only in practice, but he’s doing exactly in practice what he does in the game. He’s giving maximum effort, he’s playing extremely hard, he’s getting you a lot of hustle plays and a lot of winning plays.

“For him, when you start playing that way, you’re not worried about scoring, shooting or anything else. Then, the next thing that happens is you start to make a couple shots and a couple plays on offense.”

McRoberts shifted the tone of the night after Indiana struggled through an ugly first period.

At halftime, IU had merely one more field goal (11) than turnover (10). There was little offensive flow, little direction and little success, no matter that Youngstown State entered the night ranked No. 338 out of 351 Division I teams in defensive efficiency. Much of Indiana’s problems stemmed from poor passing and decision making, as the Hoosiers struggled to pull away until the new half began.

The sloppiness was matched by Youngstown State, which committed nine turnovers, went 0-for-12 from 3-point range and shot 31 percent from the field through the first 20 minutes. The Penguins arrived in Bloomington hoping to match the remarkable success that Indiana State and Fort Wayne enjoyed from beyond the arc.

That was not to be.

Youngstown State didn’t hit its first 3-pointer until the 12:16 mark of the second half and finished 2-for-25 from the perimeter.

Indiana cleaned up its mess late in the night, producing 15 assists to five turnovers across the final 20 minutes.

The walk-on from Carmel was a major reason why.

“Just causing chaos out there,” McRoberts said. “Just (doing) anything I can do — get steals, rebounds, whatever. Just helping the team make plays.”


  1. I wasn’t convinced of McRoberts last year but…that’s on me. There’s no excuse for him to not be on scholarship next season. Unless his brother wants to pick up the tab.

    Which would be cool.

    1. Correct. That spark last year has flamed brighter. He makes the other boys better. He’s going to be a cog in Miller’s transition.

  2. Coach Miller should have the starters and players in the playing rotation sit down and watch the game film see how McRoberts plays a steady game with good all round complete floor game and plays within himself and doesn’t force shots and has a complete game in rebounding, defense and knows where the ball is and makes defections that lead to loose balls that he or other I U players can get possession of the ball. When both Morgan and McRoberts went out for a break in last night’s game the quality of I U’s play took a down turn . We have some players that need to view the game film and see their play of forcing passes, loosing their man on defense , and forcing shots . Take a look at the complete line in the box score and see McRoberts contribution,

  3. So glad to see McRoberts emerge this year. Love seeing his transformation.

    But we desperately need his supporting cast to step up. McRoberts had 2 threes last night, the rest of the team had three. No one but him had more than one.

    The three point shooting is so bad, I bet they could turn around and shoot looking away and possibly find the bottom of the hoop more than they can right now. I’ve never seen a team this terrible at shooting at any level. I wonder if well crack double digits on shooting percentage on the road in the Big Ten this year.

    There is no excuse for them being this bad. I’m not smart enough to diagnose why. I know these aren’t the best shooters Indiana has ever had, but being this bad?

    I blame Ken Nunn’s handrails.

    1. Things you may ..or may not have noticed:

      1. Have you found the mysterious 5th ‘n’ Ken Nunn’s name? If you flip over the ‘u’ in his last name, you shall be rewarded with Nnnn.

      2. All of our banners since 1987…? Ask Ken.

      3. “Nunn’s handrails found unsafe. Bolts? None found as nun falls from balcony…Ken Nunn stunned at news of none found where nun plummeted. Nun in critical condition. Thankfully, none below were injured.”

  4. The one player made the difference last year James Blackmon Jr,, he took 18% of the total team shots, made overall 47% shooting %, shot 36% of the three point shots made 42.3% of them. the balance of the team took 561 three point shots and made 36% of their shots. One good shooter carried the team last year, and there’s no James Blackmon, Jr this year. I won’t blame Ken Nunn’s handrails , they have saved a lot of people from falling. Thomas Bryant shot 60 three point shots and made 38.3% so the balance of the team shot 36% from three point range.

    1. If you look at B1G stats from last year, James, Robert and Josh were equal from 3-point range, Devonte was a little better. By looking at the full year stats, you can see that James padded his % against the weaker teams.

  5. My comments were taken from a review of the prior year’s Stats, and the other players shot under 40% from three point range, all of the team shot their 3 point shots against the same teams that Blackmon’s shots were taken against, so they ALL three padded their shooting %’s. I think the stats show that Blackmon was the main shooter and with the higher field goal percentage. Check Robert’s and Josh’s numbers from last year and they were both below Blackmon %, also Blackmon shoot over a third of the teams 3 point shots with the best success rate.

  6. IU bb fans have followed the same rationale for bb as for fb. Overachievers, hard workers, and looking very good at times against good teams and really looking good against against inferior teams minus the times they look bad against good teams and even bad against inferior teams = a winning program it does not make.

  7. Over 3,000 empty seats in Assembly Hall last night. Ouch!

    Hey, this team just isn’t a good shooting team. They may improve a little bit as the season goes on, but not enough for it to make a significant difference. It’s going to be a major challenge for this team to win 18 games this season. Hoosier fans are just going to have to be patient for a few years.

    1. 3000 empty seats!? Wind chill around -20….? Students on break? Playing Youngstown State…? Putting 12,000 butts in there is nothing short of a miracle.

      Always said you could have a clown show in Assembly during a nuclear winter and it would still nearly fill up. It’s Indiana.

    2. Kind of surprised that many made it to the game. Had the second snow of the year, not much but the roads into Bloomington were tricky, Add the opponent and it came down to why take the chance.

    3. Just got off the official Indiana Athletic site…True, 3000 empty seats.
      But, interestingly, the attendance was still 2000 better than the Assembly Hall totals for the Tennessee Tech game…and nearly 3000 better than against Fort Wayne. Despite the bitter temps and the tricky roads pointed out by Ron(and, of course, the students being on break for the last three home games), attendance actually progressively climbed during the holiday break.

      Attendance(last three home games):

      Fort Wayne 11,424
      Tennessee Tech 12,122
      Youngstown State 14,122

      Conclusion: Podunker has ADHDS(Attendance Deficiency / Hall Distortion Syndrome).

  8. Geoff was right…Carter Skaggs is awesome. Watched him play a couple days ago in the UCLA vs. Washington St. game…Wow. I think he buried three triples in a row from way outside. Plays with unbelievable energy. I’m gonna keep interested.

    Matter of fact, there was a lot of Hoosier state represented in the game…Wilkes (‘Mr. Basketball’ from Indiana playing for the Bruins), Coach Alford…and Skaggs.

    Watched just a bit FSU vs. Duke and heard the announcers talking highly of a kid on the Seminoles who was from the Hoosier state as well…Walker?

    Never ceases to amaze me on just how much Hoosier talent avoided Bloomington during the Crean era. In many respects, it’s pathetic. But it also gives me reason for hope. If a walk-on from our state brings this amount of ‘it factor’ to the basketball equation, just imagine if Archie can start attracting the cream of the crop from within and near our borders?

    But back to Skaggs……That boy can drill it. Really happy Geoff gave the ups to keep an eye on him. There are actually flashes of something nearly as magical as Larry Legend. Maybe a new legend in the making…..

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