Hoosiers score runaway 96-73 win over Marquette

Indiana was eager to rise to the moment.

That’s what good teams do.

It’s the second week of November, with a series of further challenges still waiting on the docket. But in their first test of the young campaign, the Hoosiers looked intent on setting a new standard.

A 96-73 Gavitt Games victory over No. 24 Marquette on Wednesday night illustrated the kind of season IU is capable of authoring.

“I think, in a way, it puts us on the map a little bit,” senior forward Evan Fitzner said. “We all, as a group, have a lot of confidence in what we can do, but we kind of showed everyone what we’re capable of tonight. I think that was the significance of it.”

Not only did Indiana (3-0) assert itself into the national conversation, it wrote the first line of its postseason resume while locking down one of the nation’s elite scorers.

Even with a fully-stocked backcourt, this was going to be a curious matchup for the Hoosiers. Marquette point guard Markus Howard arrived in Bloomington fresh off winning Big East Player of the Week honors after pouring in 37 points in the Golden Eagles’ previous game against Bethune Cookman.

The Hoosiers sent underclassmen Robert Phinisee and Al Durham after Howard, and they frustrated the All-American candidate and took him out of any winning equation.

On the other end, Phinisee and Durham combined for 13 assists and only one turnover, while backcourt-mate Romeo Langford stood out as the best player on the floor. In his first appearance on the national stage, Langford proved himself a tough cover. Indiana’s star freshman scored 20 of his 22 points during the first 22 minutes on the floor, helping the Hoosiers to their fast start and rounding out a praiseworthy performance for the IU backcourt.

“It’s really difficult to explain,” Miller said. “You’re starting two freshmen and a sophomore and you’re bringing in a fourth player (Damezi Anderson) who’s a freshman. To say the least, I couldn’t be prouder of them. Not that they’re perfect, but they were ready to go. That’s an encouraging sign. If we can ever get a little bit healthy, we don’t have to play them as many minutes.”

Indeed, the fact that Indiana offered this kind of effort with a short bench made the outing all the more impressive. Durham started in place of versatile senior Zach McRoberts, who missed the game due to a recent back injury. Devonte Green also missed the contest as he continues to deal with a lingering injury issue of his own.

Indiana played fast, dictating the pace off of Marquette’s misses and racing to a 19-4 lead in the first five minutes. At that point, Assembly Hall was rocking, the noise cascading onto the court below and forcing Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski to call timeout and settle his players.

“The atmosphere was crazy,” Langford said, “especially for my first experience with a ranked opponent in Assembly Hall. That helped us a lot in our runs, especially early in the game.”

Indiana’s lead was 24-13 by the under-12 media timeout, with half of its points coming off the break.

“I think when we’re on the run, we’re harder to deal with because we have guys that can put the ball on the floor,” Miller said. “Early in the game, in general, it was fast-paced, defense-to-offense.”

Fitzner played a key part in the onslaught, slinging 3-pointers while playing his role as IU’s sixth man. Fitzner finished with 16 points, making each of his four 3-point attempts and going 6-for-7 from the field. He might have had more if not for foul trouble.

Indiana finished by shooting 63.6 percent from the field — the highest mark thus far in the Miller era.

“Wow,” Miller said when informed of that stat.

The Golden Eagles were able to weather the early storm for a spell midway through the opening period, climbing as close as seven points at the midway mark, but Indiana quickly recaptured control.

Langford scored 10 of his 15 first-half points across the final five minutes of the half as IU’s lead surged to 18.

The Hoosiers took a 47-34 lead into halftime.

Most encouraging was the way IU took Howard off his game. The Hoosiers smothered Howard, a volume shooter whom IU coach Archie Miller compared to last season’s national scoring leader Trae Young.

At least early, Howard seemed shook by the atmosphere and had more turnovers (three) than points for the first five and a half minutes.

Although he finished with 18 points, Howard shot 6-for-14 from the field and made only one of his five 3-point attempts. For Howard, 11 of his points came in the second half after the game had been decided.

“They’re very difficult to guard, and he is very difficult to guard,” Miller said. “But I thought our guys figured out if we’re going to get better on defense, part of it is the pressure. Part of it is the ability to pressure the ball, keep the ball in front. Then we’re a help-oriented team. You’ve got to be able to help. He’s able to come off a ball screen and shoot it, you didn’t do your job because he’s the guy that can beat you.”

It was an all-around impressive defensive performance for Indiana, especially in the backcourt.

And for a team with grand aspirations, it was the first sign that the Hoosiers have the capacity to meet them.

“Really proud of our team,” Miller said. “Stepped up in a big time game on a great stage with an unbelievable crowd. Guys stepped up, and when their number was called, we had a lot of different guys do great things.”

11 comments

  1. Defense being played at McCracken?

    We forced a team into four turnovers in the early minutes?

    Our freshmen not looking raw or poorly schooled at the game?

    A probing point guard who is patient and crafty?

    A big who can stroke it from the outside while in the flow?

    Three new freshman recruits all capable of starting, including a 5-star, and they’re all from Indiana?

    Ball sharing? Because it’s ball sharing?

    An entry pass to a center sealing off his defender?

    How did any of this happen so quickly after nine years of basketball purgatory? McCracken has been freed. A ‘weave to nowhere’ actually ended somewhere as it shockingly turned toward the round orange metal thing attached to glass backboard. Halo-hallelujah! We wrecked Marquette! We wrecked Marquette! Where is your Joey Glass ‘letter-to-the-editor’ now, satanic basketball worshipers!

    Oh, crap….We gotta play Duke in 12 days.

  2. IU played a complete game: defense, rebounding, energy, fast breaks, good passing, good decisions, totally unselfish, and Romeo is a tremendous difference maker. Now let’s do it on the road! Go IU!

  3. And…and….and …and I don’t believe I saw one camera shot of Archie in a clap-‘n’-squat stance! It was national television and the clear Hoosier concentration was on quality basketball (though still a work in progress as it should be) rather than a clap-‘n’-squat sideshow on the sideline?
    Hallelujah x 2!! Hoops reborn!

  4. Really good step in returning the program to where it should be. Many more steps to go, but a good first one. A little concerned about the outside shooting, but very glad to see the improved free throw shooting.

  5. Also a little concerned about outside shooting…It’s why I predicted Archie would offer Fitzner when he became available. But Fitzner should serve as an extra weapon inside and outside. Though he’s already Hartman x 2, he can’t carry the load from the perimeter.
    I’ve yet to see one of our guards go into shooting clinic form…Anderson out of South Bend Riley may be our best perimeter shooter. Romeo could still get it going ― certainly nothing wrong with his stroke.

    The other surprise (on the slightly negative side) is that I expected an entire off-season to bring a little more versatility from Justin Smith’s game. He’s a great athlete and highlight reel dunker, but his mid-range doesn’t look much different than last season. He needs to improve his 10-15 ft range/repertoire to really help our chances as the season progresses.

    But there are countless positives for so few negatives; a headliner in Romeo already bringing it as advertised, a very steady point guard, and a tenacious mindset on defense being the early primary positives.

    1. Just a bit more on our point guard: What I really like about Phinisee is his understanding of pace. He doesn’t play the game faster than need be. He’s more of a probing and patient point guard….He’s methodical and sees things developing before most(certainly before the announcer or viewer). He has plenty of speed …but it’s controlled speed.
      Pretty incredible that he’s so refined in his game as a freshman. Personally, I think it’s now his job to lose. I’m already the most confident with him running the large share of the show.

  6. Romeo makes his offense look so effortless. He is really smooth. As his 3-point shot improves, he’s going to be unstoppable. Fitzner was excellent, and I thought one of his 3-pointers in the second half broke the back of Marquette last night. IU’s defense, during stretches of the game, were as good as I’ve seen at IU in a long time.

    Assuming IU beats Arkansas (won’t be easy), we should be ranked in the top 20 next week. Then we just have to get some of those players healthy again.

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