Miller pleased with defense in scrimmage vs. Loyola Chicago

It was a good tuneup, one that heartened Indiana coach Archie Miller ahead of next week’s regular season opener.

IU’s 70-48 scrimmage victory over Loyola Chicago on Sunday was a defensive success.

Miller recapped the scrimmage, which was closed to fans and media, on his weekly radio show Monday, expressing equal parts surprise and satisfaction that the team appeared ahead of the curve defensively against a Final Four participant from this past season.

“We got our money’s worth,” Miller said. “We had to guard an extremely skilled team that ran really good stuff and spaced the floor. They really challenged our on-the-ball defense. They challenged our ball-screen coverages and they challenged, just in general, our ability to have to play really hard because you’re dealing with a lot of shooting. … I was really pleased.”

Loyola, the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference, returns three starters from last year’s memorable NCAA Tournament run, including point guard and MVC Player of the Year Clayton Custer, guard Marques Townes and center Cameron Krutwig.

En route to last season’s Final Four, the Ramblers shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. Loyola didn’t come close to matching those figures on Sunday.

IU held the Ramblers to 32 percent shooting from the field and a 22 percent success rate from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers led 36-15 at halftime.

Loyola entered the scrimmage against IU having already played an exhibition contest. The Ramblers shot 54 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in an 82-52 win over Winona State on Oct. 23.

“We held a good offensive team to a really poor day,” Miller said. “Probably some of that is shooting on their end, or some good looks that didn’t go down. But … they scored 48 on us and they were well below those averages, so we did something right on that end.”

Throughout the offseason, Miller has been particularly excited by what he sees as a longer, more versatile Indiana team. The former attribute was on display against the Ramblers, with IU recording 11 steals in the scrimmage. Zach McRoberts led the way with four.

Last season, Indiana matched that number twice. Its season high was 12 steals against Youngstown State.

“I’m hoping we can be a very active team,” Miller said. “(Sunday) we had 11 steals. That’s a very active team defensively where we had a lot of guys getting their hands on balls. We have the ability to really fly around and play. We have some bigger guards that can challenge shots and do some things like that. I think we have a quickness and a toughness about us, and a speed about us on defense that I like.”

As well as IU seemed to play defensively in the scrimmage, Miller said the team’s offense is a work in progress.

It’s not that Indiana lacks firepower. But with several new faces, along with different styles and matchup rotations to tinker with, Miller said he expects it will take time before the team develops better offensive chemistry.

“We’re not there yet,” Miller said. “We have a lot of different guys that are first-time players that are playing with guys a certain way and you could tell that we weren’t as fluid as we’re gonna be. You could tell that we have a long way to go in terms of chemistry on offense.”

But, Miller said, his options are intriguing.

Romeo Langford paced Indiana with 19 points, while also posting 10 rebounds and two assists. Juwan Morgan added a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds. Justin Smith scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Al Durham scored 11 points and Rob Phinisee posted eight points.

IU was also down two players on Sunday.

Junior point guard Devonte Green and redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson each missed the scrimmage due to nagging injuries that Miller said could keep both players out of action in the coming weeks. He did not specify the nature or severity of either player’s injury.

Although the overall execution wasn’t where he hopes it will be a month or two from now, Miller saw signs of promise in the way IU was able to run the floor and outmaneuver the Ramblers on offense.

For a late-October scrimmage, it wasn’t too bad.

“Our athleticism was better than theirs,” he said. “That was the one thing that stood out. We were the bigger, more athletic team and it showed with some guys rebounding the ball on the offensive glass, being able to finish around the basket and in transition (and) getting some good things going.”

6 comments

  1. The Duke game could be a very interesting early season game to watch and see how I U stacks up to a top 3 or 4 team on their home floor, to boot.

  2. I hope we have a more competitive game than the 2015 Duke game . Duke, has a lot of young talent for I U to compete against, the experience for our players gain in a game like this will become important as the season moves along.

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