Hoosiers hope to learn from 73-72 loss to Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Indiana was going to win this.

Then, it didn’t.

Rob Phinisee’s driving layup attempt into traffic with eight seconds left in a tie game neither drew a whistle nor fell through the net. De’Ron Davis’ putback try didn’t work out either.

Instead, the ball hung on the rim before dropping into a scrum below, where Davis was called for a foul with 2.5 seconds remaining in IU’s first road test of the season. Archie Miller was incredulous, resting his hands on his head, while his mouth hung agape. Davis, meanwhile, pleaded with the official for answers.

On the other end, Mason Jones sank the first of two free throws to lift Arkansas to a 73-72 win over Indiana before an announced crowd of 17,456 at Bud Walton Arena.

After three runaway victories and an offseason of bubbling hope, the Hoosiers (3-1) finally felt defeated. It’s a loss that could sting IU later, but one that, for now, the Hoosiers will hope to learn from.

“It was an early-season game in a great environment. We were down bodies and played a lot of young guys. Hopefully this experience speeds us up for better competition as we keep going through non-conference.”

Even in defeat, the narrow loss in a Southeastern Conference environment provided IU both with evidence for optimism and some crucial teaching points.

Indiana weathered an ugly first half without Juwan Morgan, who didn’t play the final 17 minutes after picking up his second foul early in the contest. It introduced its young rotation to what college basketball looks like away from home, and it saw just how valuable its one-two punch of Morgan and Romeo Langford can be when needed the most.

The Hoosiers also learned just how much better they have to be against premier big men. Indiana had few answers for Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford, who was clearly the best player on the floor while totaling 27 points and 12 rebounds. Ultimately, Gafford and Arkansas’ pressure put a spotlight on both IU’s shrinking depth and its youth.

“He pretty much neutralized the game at any point in time, and he was dominant, which is something that is obviously going to help us moving forward in defending the caliber of big like that,” Miller said.

The Hoosiers played once again without four key rotation members — Zach McRoberts (back), Devonte Green (thigh), Race Thompson (concussion) and Jerome Hunter (leg). Had it enjoyed the presence of even one or two of those players, it might have supplied support on an afternoon when contributors Justin Smith and Evan Fitzner struggled to find their ways.

“It is what it is,” Miller said. “We don’t have the bodies, so there’s no reason to worry about it. If we get the bodies back, we become deeper. Can obviously play a lot harder. You have freshmen on the road playing 38 minutes. Al’s playing 36 minutes against that type of pressure for 40 minutes. It’s tough and it hurts you on both ends. Not only do you need the push on offense, but you need the ability to defend the last eight minutes of the game. But I give our guys credit. They fought.”

Not only was this the first road game for IU’s young backcourt, it was their first time playing against Arkansas’ signature. Yes, Indiana’s 18 turnovers were problematic, but even more so was the way the pressure altered IU’s ability to attack.

Instead of attacking off the break and dashing toward the rim, Indiana got lost in the halfcourt, where it has shown a desire to play vertically.

IU got lost playing horizontally — and sloppily — struggling to keep a sense of direction. Losing Morgan three minutes into the contest only compounded the problems.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” Morgan said. “Just getting those two quick fouls, I wasn’t able to be that voice out there on the court. I think it was a lot of guys first time, whether it’s on the road, in a hostile environment. I have to do a better job trying to stay on the floor and rally everybody together. I tried to tell Al (Durham), every time he was coming down the floor or there was a stoppage in play, that he was the vet on the court, and he had to be the voice out there. You can only do so much from the bench. But at the same time, I have to put myself and my teammates in a better position in games like this.”

For as ugly as those first 20 minutes were for Indiana, it only trailed 38-35 at halftime. Durham’s three 3-pointers helped cover up some of IU’s blemishes. While IU didn’t initially offer the kind of second-half response it needed, falling down by as many as 10 points three minutes into the half, Morgan and Langford nearly willed IU to a win on their own.

“It was the highest sense of urgency we’ve had all year,” Morgan said. “I had to do everything I could to make up for the lost time I had in the first half.”

Each of Morgan’s 15 points came in the second period, while Langford hit several big shots on the way to a team-high 22 points. At one point, Morgan and Langford accounted for IU’s last 13 points prior to the final media timeout, helping IU to a 69-69 tie.

“Romeo, for the most part, I thought really competed hard,” Miller said. “He gave us a chance.”

The teams traded baskets down the stretch, including a big 3-pointer from Phinisee that tied the game at 72-all with 48 seconds remaining. Phinisee finished with seven points.

It was encouraging play in the waning moments for a team that seemed caught in a rock fight for first 20 minutes, playing its way back with a chance to win.

Ultimately, the foul on Davis — a call that could’ve gone either way — broke IU at the end.

“50-50 play,” Miller said of the foul. “I don’t know if he fouled him or not, but I know that’s a tough call.”

For Indiana, it was a tough result. But one the Hoosiers hope to learn from.

“I feel like having this one under our belt really helps,” Durham said. “Getting the experience, coming in here, playing in (front) of this crowd, that was very into the game. Having one of these under our belt is really helpful for us I think.”

35 comments

  1. Messy game. So close. Good learning experience especially for the first.. road game. Possibly helpful long-term.

  2. Tough loss! Romeo had some turnovers but he is a superstar. Wonder why he or Morgan didn’t have the ball in their hands at the end. Some thoughts: Phinisee didn’t have a good game but he is a good ball handler and just needs a little more shooting confidence. Durham is a weak point guard. He has improved his shooting which is good news although Green will take many of his minutes. Davis couldn’t jump before his injury so expecting anything different now would be unrealistic. I admire the kid’s desire to come back from injury but his offensive skills are very limited. That being said, IU has very limited options in the paint when Morgan sits and Davis will have to contribute. The good news is I think everyone watching this game feels Indiana would win a rematch with McRoberts and Green healthy.

    1. It was a sloppy mess including both teams and the officiating. I think IU likely wins a rematch, regardless.

      We should incorporate the Arkansas play where the player driving to the basket tackles the lone defender as a he dishes off. That was very effective.

  3. I agree they win a rematch. Race Thompson and Hunter plus McRoberts were terribly missed. The basketball community always fascinates me. A small minority calling for Archie to be fired, but mostly it was…they are young, had kids out hurt and it was a hostile environment. If it was Crean, it would have been…they looked unprepared, not motivated, no leader, cannot play defense or break a mediocre press and gave a guy a career night…not to mention almost 20 turnovers.

    For me, Archie was and is my guy. With that said…they looked HORRIBLE for the most part yesterday. So, I don’t really know what to say. I hate losing games we should win!

  4. Yeah, but we’re not 9 years into Archie….We’re not two years into Archie. We are still playing with Tom Crean recruits.

    There is nothing fascinating. Our program is 1000 times better off. I don’t think we were hurt that much by the guys out. It was mostly early foul trouble for two floor leaders(Morgan & Phinisee).
    The recruits Archie is bringing in know the game when they arrive. They embrace sharing the ball and playing defense. They are not projects.

    Phinisee hit a big 3-point shot in the closing minutes….Just a shame he took the ball to the basket a bit early in the final possession. He converts and we’re all happy. Davis misses an extremely easy tip….Ball rolls in, we’re all happy. Is what it is……but the refs helped fixed this one for the home team early. Just not enough unhampered minutes from Morgan and Phinisee.

  5. A big man short. Need recruit TJ Davis next year (as most would need that caliber recruit).
    Does this IU basketball team lose 10 games this year?
    Currently, prognosis is yes.

    1. ^^^You t on Scoop! UT Arlington tomorrow night.

      Bring on the soft teams! Are these games scheduled more than 2 years in advance? Just curious…They look like they came out of Crean’s Silly Putty SOS mold maker.

      1. Last three years for UT-Arlington (Sun Belt Conference):
        2015–2016: 24–11 13–7 CIT Quarterfinals
        2016–17: 27–9 14–4 NIT Quarterfinals
        2017–18: 21–13 10–8 No postseason
        They fired their coach last year because they hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament.

        1. But here’s the question/s:

          Does it reward the fans? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one sorta marquee game during the holiday break? Reach far for someone a v. UCLA….? or Washington State…or Texas Tech? Reach near for a v. Indiana State? Southern Illinois…? or Loyola (we probably wouldn’t touch that one)?

          Get enough pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Give the fans one enjoyable/highly anticipated game for the days preceding Thanksgiving. I would just assume give the team the whole week off than to schedule dull games that do not test or make us better. Rest would be more valuable.

          And why aren’t the local journalists/newspapers who cover the Hoosiers keeping the heat on the athletic administrations to bring back the IU vs. Kentucky rivalry which had always been a signature non-conference tradition for decades?

          If Archie is going to be more of the same with blasé scheduling, then, frankly, it’s disappointing. And it does nothing to make these young freshmen with heads bigger than their games any better…or anymore humble. The non-conference is where you build grit and test your coach against other finer/respected/established names in coaching. One Duke in a cookie jar is not enough.

          1. I get you, but really there’s the two games this week, then the two the week before Christmas and that’s it for cupcakes. Louisville comes to town Dec. 8, Big Ten play starts Dec. 1 with Northwestern. And now next year Arkansas will come here, plus the ACC/Big Ten game will likely be here. Every coach is going to put a few lesser teams on the schedule. I suspect the opposition will improve in coming years to match IU’s improvement.

          2. That’s the problem….”as IU improves” we’ll up the competition. Why are we so privileged to go untested? Maybe we don’t improve.

            Guess what? I’d still rather be blown out by UK and at least get to watch one good team. Do you know how damaging it is to the program to have Assembly Hall as quiet as a wake for these patsy games(even on that lousy BigTen Network)?
            Maybe in the old days(long before the damaging decade of indifference and witch hunts) the fans were still loud and full of passion against the cupcakes. Banners were still fresh in the memory banks. Our basketball bank account funded in NCAA tournament wins was overflowing. Not anymore. We are overdrafted and passion is, at best, manufactured. It’s like watching fake crowd noise piped into a Price is Right game show. We’ve become zombies of acceptance. We need to see the elite teams beat our asses ….so we can remember when we used to be elite.

          3. Well, I think the Louisville game is essentially taking the place of the UK game for now, although that was actually put together before Archie with the one game at Louisville, the one in Indy and one in Bloomington.

          4. IU vs Louisville instead of IU vs UK…is akin to eating your Thanksgiving dinner at Bob Evans instead of feasting on the home cooking of grandma. You can’t replace grandma….nor can you replace facing the talent-rich team in Kentucky representing the evil empire of college hoops. Louisville is bland, artificial flavoring…and nothing of the wonderful smells of rivalry baking up in a masterful kitchen of hoops. UK is the main fat bird….She comes with all the fixings. Defeat the evil empire and you go away as satisfied as finishing the perfect Thanksgiving evening with grandma’s famous apple pie.

        2. Also, I know Jeremy or Mike could do a wonderful editorial/commentary on the history of the UK vs IU rivalry. There are means to keep the ‘heat on’ people without stepping on their throats. You ignite the passion…You recount the great games. You research and get in touch with former Hoosiers we all remember and love. You ask them about their recollections of the game. Do you know how close we game to losing our one undefeated season because of the border clash/rivalry game?

          I still believe it’s a travesty that this game is not played. It may be a bigger travesty that a soft press/newspaper(far worse than a soft schedule) is either indifferent…or afraid to address the manner in which the fan bases have been robbed. Instead, we ho-hum and stand our ground concerning the validity of a worthy opponent from the Sun Belt conference. Yippee.
          Bring back Andy Graham to do the deed. Offer him some extra Christmas money to light the fires of a dead fan base and a dead press satisfied with watered down hoops. He wrote a wonderful piece on McGinnis a couple years back.

        3. Don’t believe for a moment that I’m letting all the wrongs from the last decade of hoops slide simply because we fired Tom Crean.
          If we do not demand more and reward our loyal basketball fans more, then the change is merely lipstick on the same pig.

  6. If they don’t mature on the road, it will be tough to keep regular season losses to under 10.

    Everything hinges on Justin Smith….He needs to get going.

  7. That last second tip brings back memories of the Michigan game couple of years ago, except that one went in……Duke is going to be problem (understatement)……..IU’s NCSOS – 234. Georgia -269.

  8. Post what you want…above.

    “Hoosiers hope to learn from 73-72 loss to Razorbacks.” Really? What do you learn after your big brother beats you up in front of a rowdy as hell crowd and then you challenge your sister to a pair of arm wrestling matches at her beauty parlor? I hope they learn by UT Arlington nearly breaking our arm…The only positive in ultra soft scheduling is getting your ass kicked enough to gain some more needed humility.

        1. Takes a real man to call someone manic on the other side of a computer screen. Probably one small enough to fit in a hip pocket….

          1. Was basically having a conversation with Jeremy…It is your inferiority that makes it necessary for you to drop a snidely and unsolicited remark. I said nothing insulting to anyone here(only of our soft schedule and the UK rivalry being lost) .

            You, Clarion…(and Chet with his usual cowardly piling on) made it about attacking. Small men. Ignore the ramblings….like you ignore your wives when you’re on Scoop.

  9. H4H,
    I know it is frustrating for there to be so many cupcakes at this point, but schedules don’t get revised overnight. Secondly, you do not want to schedule an opponent if it is not on favorable terms for BOTH schools. Just scheduling KY for the sake of playing them does no good if they are not on campus for games on alternating years. Neutral sites are okay as long as there is a benefit for yourself as well. Problem with neutral sites is you are giving up a lot of cash with questionable benefit during the regular season.

    As for cupcake schedules, all schools schedule a fair amount of them, and lest we forget, there were plenty of them even during Knight’s best years as well.

    1. Don’t know if this bunch respects their coach….Talk about Knight having his share of soft non-conference all you want. Here’s the difference: Guys knew better under Knight than to play as sloppy and without passion as we have the last two outings.
      Archie looked a bit shook for the postgame interview…This was my biggest question regarding Archie. Will he be able to command authority and get respect? Can he inspire? IU is often too big of a job for many…The players quickly pick up on a coach getting overwhelmed by the pressure and expectations.
      I saw guys laughing it up on the bench…That’s not a good look when you’re getting punched in the nose by UT Arlington.

        1. Settle down, big boy. Just because I’m from Chesterton doesn’t mean you have to give me a ton of Chester.
          Your lawn couldn’t hold my pinky toe.

    1. Probably the middle 70% of teams could beat any of their peers on any given night.

      The top ten percent will also lose to the occasional game to a directional school.

      Basketball has lots of upsets.

      It is early. Things are going to change. I like where IU is positioned.

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