Hoosiers hold off Lions, 74-70

A lingering question has followed this Indiana team throughout the season.

How will the Hoosiers respond to success?

IU couldn’t carry over the momentum found from its first Big Ten win over Iowa in early December, stumbling in a follow-up loss at Louisville. The Hoosiers seemed to take a step forward one week later with a gutty victory over Notre Dame, only to take two steps back with a home loss to Fort Wayne.

After IU scratched out a road win over Minnesota on Saturday, how would the Hoosiers answer? It turned out to be just the right response.

Propelled by Juwan Morgan’s fifth double-double in his last nine games, Indiana held off upstart Penn State with a 74-70 victory on Tuesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have now won two in a row entering Sunday’s home game with Northwestern, making the most of prosperity.

“We addressed that, that we have done that twice — had the big win and then a fall-off,” fifth-year senior Collin Hartman said. “We addressed that, and that’s something that we have to get better at and continue to work on and concentrate as you have to come ready for every day.

“You can’t get too high. You can’t get too low. You can’t listen to the outside noise. It’s what we do every day and it’s who we are every day, and we can’t get away from that.”

Aesthetically, this was yet another grind-it-out performance from an IU outfit that just doesn’t have the top-level talent — or the consistent shooting — to win pretty this season. But the tough-nosed nature that IU (10-7, 3-2 Big Ten) has displayed during the past two games is reason for at least slight optimism.

Suddenly, the Hoosiers are showing signs that they’re capable of overcoming bad shooting nights like Tuesday with hustle, rebounding and otherwise connected offensive play.

Consider one possession midway through the first half.

Indiana, which shot 40 percent from the field and made only six of its 27 3-point attempts, missed four consecutive shots from beyond the arc during a single trip down the floor. They weren’t bad looks, two of which came from Robert Johnson, followed by attempts from Hartman and Freddie McSwain.

Most importantly, they were produced by connected offense and tough rebounding, offering a glimpse of what could be if shooters like Johnson and Hartman, in particular, can ever find their stroke on a regular basis.

In the meantime, the Hoosiers can survive with spunky, energetic play. Led by Morgan’s 21 points and 11 rebounds against Penn State (12-6, 2-3), IU received strong complementary efforts from Josh Newkirk (16 points, four assists, zero turnovers), Devonte Green (13 points, zero turnovers), Robert Johnson (10 points, five rebounds) and Hartman (10 points), among others.

It was the first time this season the Hoosiers have placed five players in double figures.

Although IU shot only 35 percent from the field during the first half, and closed the period by making only three of its final 15 shots, it led 35-31 at halftime in large part because it turned the ball over only twice and out-rebounded Penn State 20-17.

Indiana finished with nine turnovers, won the battle of the boards, 36-31, and outscored Penn State’s bench, 25-1.

It all added up to an important response.

“Attack mode,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “This time of year in January you want your guys attacking. You don’t want to have to coach them on every dribble and every pass. You’ve got to give these guys the freedom to make some plays and be aggressive. I think we’re trying to get our guards to make more plays. But I think the big thing is our attitude as a team is pretty good right now.”

The second half played out much like the first. The Hoosiers shot marginally better, while watching the Nittany Lions connect on merely two field goals across the final 7:29 of regulation. Penn State picked up points by getting to the line, where it went 11-for-15 during the final five minutes.

That allowed the Lions to get within a single possession twice in the final 10 seconds. At the same time, IU closed the game by going 8-for-8 at the line in the final 25 seconds of regulation, doing whatever it could to grind out the win.

After the game, there was a sense among IU’s players that they’re getting better at ending lulls and fixing poor stretches in real time. Although shooting remains a problem this team has yet to consistently solve, it is learning what can happen when it does virtually everything else at a consistent, adequate level.

“I think this is the first time all season we was able to string together two consecutive, what we felt were 40-minute efforts, and I think that’s big for us moving forward,” senior Robert Johnson said. “If we can continue to do that, we’ll continue to do better.”

11 comments

  1. # 3 fouled and then went after a ref, yelling at the ref. Archie took him out and did not play him the rest of the game. I love it! Archie is firmly in control of this team. Good things are going to happen.

  2. Let’s not kid ourselves. Lots of flaws in this team.

    That being said, they answered ever challenge. There were lots of nice assists. Juwan is a stud. Don’t pretend he isn’t. RJ is still a threat. Losing Davis hasn’t been the end of the world. Lots of guys were involved. The game came down to free throws and we won…with Josh at the line.

    Feeling pretty good about the win. We won’t set the world on fire but there are still signs of hope.

    1. Gotta love McRoberts.

      All he does is get every loose ball, draw every important foul, and do your laundry.

      He’s among the least fluid players I have seen but he absolutely gets results.

    2. Yes more good things are occurring and bad play is decreasing. D is becoming more natural and less of a project. Bench points something I thought would not exist is developing. AM’s brand on IU is beginning to appear. Crispin doesn’t understand the depth of transformation Miller undertook. Guess that is why he is not coaching somewhere.

      1. It’s an interesting dynamic on television. The guys who are portrayed as great basketball minds are also the guys who no one will hire as a coach.

        There a reason they can’t get a coaching job.

        1. I think those dichotomic “dynamics” are present in a lot of things….

          Those getting play time here expressing the perfect critical eye for a major sport….are the same guys who never got PT when they were young enough to play the major sports.

          Those covering sports (e.g. Journalists/broadcasters) and forever magnifying its importance, were likely not very important to a coach during tryouts.

          The movers and shakers of the world…are usually not the people analyzing how it rotates. With talk radio, talk television, comment forums, and social media now commanding every conscious minute of every breathing organism’s life, all become movers and shakers. Movers and shakers have shaken and spun the world to a point of no it longer rotating. We all know so god damn much that the place is basically still….or moving civilization in reverse the more likely result.

          There’s really no room for Elvis to steal a room anymore…..We are removing the color and unique qualities from everything …and by virtue of thousands of coronations for every voice, there are no longer real kings.

  3. Read the box score and found Morgan was charged with 0 fouls.
    Imagine we’ll see more grounded play from Smith against NW. The staff will really school him this week.

  4. I expected IU to get this win. It was a home game and PSU is not very good. But hitting 6 of 27 3-point shots is just terrible and won’t produce a win against many other Big Ten teams.
    But I give the guys credit for winning in spite of another bad shooting night.

    And what is it with Newkirk? Last night he plays well and makes a major contribution to IU’s success. But in the recent past he was MIA and and absolute liability. I can’t figure it out, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more inconsistent senior play for IU.

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