Hoosiers handle Montana State, 80-35

The first week of Indiana’s season went as expected, with a pair of forceful wins, assertive performances from its two best players and plenty of evidence offered in support of the team’s high-rising ceiling.

From here, the degree of difficulty — and the significance of the matchups — increases exponentially.

After throttling Montana State, 80-35, on Friday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, IU’s attention quickly turns to what’s on deck. It starts with a Gavitt Games showdown with Marquette on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Arkansas next Sunday afternoon — each of them potential Quadrant 1 games for NCAA Tournament resume purposes.

No single week in Indiana’s non-conference schedule is more important to its postseason prospects than the one that’s on deck. Even as the Hoosiers continue to mesh as an offense and iron out the defensive cohesiveness that more talented teams will challenge, they’re approaching the upcoming challenges eager to tackle what’s next.

This was a much more successful opening week than the one the program endured a year ago. The offensive and defensive frameworks are in place, veteran players have the experience necessary to command both ends of the floor and it’s clear that IU does indeed have a pair of go-to players to lean on when needed.

Indiana can now use the past week to propel it into the meaningful opportunities to come.

“I just think with the older guys, living through that thing last year, we came in knowing that’s not how we wanted to start off this year,” said Juwan Morgan, who posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. “I think we really echoed that to the younger guys and they came in ready to fight along with us.”

Defensively, Indiana locked down against its lesser opponent, holding Montana State to 25 percent shooting from the field and 9.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The Bobcats’ 35 points are the fewest scored by an IU opponent in Assembly Hall since the Hoosiers beat Notre Dame 94-29 on Dec. 18, 1971.

“We had to do what Indiana does,” Morgan said.

On the other end, Montana State’s zone didn’t stop Indiana. It didn’t slow the Hoosiers, either.

IU (2-0) took what it wanted, operating a patient and deliberate halfcourt offense that busted the zone with ease. Although the Hoosiers didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc, they didn’t need to rely on those shots to pick apart the Bobcats’ chosen defensive alignment. Indiana finished with 48 points in the paint, while shooting 72 percent on its 2-pointers.

“Coach really told us to try to feed the post and play off of them, so that’s what we did,” point guard Rob Phinisee said.

Last season, its first under coach Archie Miller, Indiana demonstrated it had the know-how for handling a zone, picking at its soft spots and moving the ball with purpose. That schooled approach surfaced again on Friday, with IU cutting and passing through the zone to take what it pleased.

IU scored 16 of its first 17 points in the paint and didn’t see its first long-range field goal fall until point guard Robert Phinisee dropped in a 3-pointer at the 13:22 mark. By that point, IU’s lead was 20-9.

Later, during a stretch of eight minutes and one second, IU rode a 16-1 run into the under-4 media timeout

Indiana, which led 43-19 at halftime, started the second half with the period’s first eight points, including back-to-back dunks by Romeo Langford and Justin Smith, to take a 51-19 advantage and prompt a Montana State timeout.

The Hoosiers were well on their way, scoring at will and stifling Montana State on the defensive end.

Morgan doubles up
Miller was looking for a “forceful” performance from his senior forward.

Morgan delivered.

It was an especially efficient night for Morgan, who shot 6-for-6 from the field, dished four assists and finished as a plus-33. Morgan followed Langford’s 19-point debut on Tuesday against Chicago State with a breakout game of his own.

“It was a real emphasis coming out of Chicago State,” Miller said. “Part of it is him wanting the ball, demanding the ball and us making sure that we understand, getting the ball to him, and he did his job tonight in terms of the want. He wanted it.”

Streaky shooting
IU once again didn’t fare too well from beyond the arc.

The Hoosiers shot merely 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) on 3-point attempts. This after making only 33.3 percent of their 3-pointers on Tuesday against Chicago State.

Phinisee, however, was a bright spot here. Phinisee shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, showing a dimension of his game that really complemented his overall approach to his position.

“We’re still not shooting the ball extremely well from the 3, and we don’t aspire to be that team that jacks 3s at the end of the half,” Miller said. “You started to see just the shot selection really wasn’t very good, so we are going to have to continue to take the good 3s.”

McRoberts sits second half
Zach McRoberts started and played seven minutes of Friday’s first half. But the senior guard didn’t appear again after the 10:45 mark of the period.

McRoberts didn’t warm up during the second half intermission and sat on the bench wearing his pregame jacket for the duration of the half. Miller said that late in the first half, McRoberts developed back tightness.

“He’s been dealing with that for a good three to four weeks,” Miller said. “I don’t think he felt very good early in part of the game, and from that point forward, we just decided to rest him.”

He finished with two points, two assists and a steal during his time on the floor.


  1. Do these games actually count? The level of competition in these first two games is ridiculous! Going forward, IU has to schedule better teams to play in the opening week of the season. And if playing these lambs is for the purpose of helping them out financially, then why don’t we schedule teams within the state of Indiana and keep the money in the state? Evansville, a rematch with Ft. Wayne, Valpo, etc.

  2. Watching the Marquette game, they shoot quick and our 3 point defense needs to be a blanket. Howard & Powers will make for some interesting matchup. They are expected to be near the top of Big East. KemPton had IU ranked #27 & Marquette #29. Home court may be the difference. As Po notes – our first real game.

    1. Rock- It’s in Bloomington. Should be a nice early test. I think we’ll prevail. We have a lot of weapons. Finally, the times are looking up.

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