Morgan, Langford push IU to comeback win

Indiana was in trouble.

Games against Big West teams in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall aren’t supposed to start like this, with IU trailing UC Davis by 14 points with seven minutes left in the first half.

The Hoosiers were impatient on offense, just a little too porous on defense and down big against a lesser opponent. But even as injuries have poked holes in IU’s rotation, making early-season tuneups such as this one a bit hairier than any Hoosier would like, Indiana has progressed through these first three weeks carrying a valuable piece of knowledge.

It often has the two most talented players on the floor and, just as important, it can count on them when needed most.

In a game that Indiana trailed for 31 minutes, Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford asserted themselves as IU’s go-to men. Morgan scored 31 points, while Langford added 20 in propelling the Hoosiers to a 76-62 comeback win over the Aggies.

“Having them on our side is very beneficial to us,” sophomore forward Justin Smith said, “especially when we do go through offensive lulls.”

There were plenty of those lulls on Friday night for an IU team that didn’t play with much purpose on the offense end. The Hoosiers (5-1) forced passes that weren’t there. They settled for shots that weren’t within the flow of their offense and generally struggled to get things going when their defensive wasn’t leading to easier looks off the break.
But luckily for Indiana, the Hoosiers have a formula for quickly fixing problems.

That recipe is equal parts Morgan and Langford, who demonstrated again on Friday that they’re both willing and capable of taking over when it’s necessary. The two of them led a late IU charge, as the Hoosiers used a 28-3 run near the end of regulation to climb back and put the game away.

It started with Morgan, who scored 15 straight IU points late in the first half to dig the Hoosiers out of the early 14-point hole.

“We needed everything he had,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “First half, he got us going with his energy level.”

It wasn’t just energy that Morgan offered, it was skill, too.

Morgan, who finished three points shy of his career high, set a personal best with five 3-pointers. They’re shots that Morgan has worked hard to hit consistently, shots he’ll have to hit to play at the highest professional level.

On Friday, they were also the kinds of shots Indiana needed him to make while the rest of its team felt its way through the early goings.

“I’ve always been confident about my shot,” Morgan said. “I’ve always considered myself a shooter. It just was a matter of time before they started going in.”

Indiana trailed only 38-36 at halftime, with Morgan’s 19 first-half points accounting for more than half of its production.

He played all 40 minutes Friday, refusing to leave — refusing to budge — during a game in which he knew his teammates needed him to carry them forward.

“Without him playing all 40 minutes, I didn’t feel we would be able to win the game,” Miller said. “(I) kept asking him if he was alright, and he never really flinched, so to speak, in terms of his conditioning or whatnot. But it was a great performance by him and he’s had two this week. Two ‘senior’ performances.”

Then there was Langford, who needed time to get going. Playing with a bandage on his nose after taking an unintentional head butt during Tuesday’s game, Langford struggled early. He forced some shots and missed others he’s shown he can hit. His passing was particularly off the mark.

Then, Langford went off.

Langford scored 12 points during the second half, including five at the line as he attacked off the dribble and trusted his bailiwick. IU had trailed all night until Langford’s baseline drive with 7:20 to play, tying the game at 54-all.

“We were making a run,” Langford said. “We were down by about two. Coached called a play for us and run and I just (saw) the lane to go in there and attack it, attack it hard, and I was just going to get a foul and I made the shot to tie us up.”

Indiana forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, then took its first lead on a Morgan putback. Soon after, Morgan and Langford each dropped in 3-pointers to extend IU’s advantage to 62-54 and force an Aggies timeout with 4:26 remaining.

“Those two guys have confidence,” Miller said.

And the way they’re playing this month is giving the rest of their teammates confidence, too.

There will be other nights when IU finds itself in trouble in the weeks and months to come, when Indiana is down big or struggling to find the basket.

But in Morgan and Langford, the Hoosiers have an immediate fix. They have two players to lean on — a senior and a freshman — both of whom are eager to be the reason why ugly, otherwise forgettable nights don’t end up so poorly, after all.

“I think when you’re in these type of games, when you’re possession-by-possession, you’re trying to claw your way to get those guys the ability to catch the ball where we want to get it and be able to play through those guys,” Miller said. “… It was a good week for our team to earn two hard fought wins when we haven’t played particularly great.”

4 comments

  1. I didn’t watch this game, as I don’t have “Big Ten +”. However, it seems that we are in the Barney (Rubble……Trouble!!!!) if we are struggling against UC Davis at home and our next game is at Duke….still……

    Go IU. Beat Duke!

  2. You are gonna have off nights. When you have the best two players on the court and they are both guys who will put the game on their shoulders it can make up for a lot.

    Guys like Juwan…and Romeo…and Steve Alford…and Keith Smart…and Isiah…and Quinn…and Landon…and Scott…

    These two are the real deal…and, when they get healthy, they have quite a cast around them.

    1. I believe games like this are good for a team…regardless of the name on the jersey.

      Things weren’t going well. Play was disjointed. Your opponent is making shots. You are going to have nights like.

      That’s when you find out what you are made of.

      Guys stepped up. Made plays. Took over the game.

      Next time they have a night like that they will have the confidence that comes from experience.

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