Hoosiers survive with 68-66 win over Northwestern

Juwan Morgan had been limping for at least 30 seconds, hobbling up and down the floor until he could take no more pain.

Unable to walk all the way from the South basket to Indiana’s bench during the final media timeout inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday afternoon, Morgan plopped down at the time line near the scorer’s table and called for help.

Morgan had been grimacing his way through plays on both ends of the court in the preceding moments, and eventually needed assistance from IU strength and conditioning coach Clif Marshall and teammate Vijay Blackmon to slowly make his way to the bench. With 3:30 remaining and IU trailing Northwestern by three, it was gut-check time for the Hoosiers.

They responded.

Luckily for Indiana, it has more than one go-to player. Romeo Langford rose to the moment with clutch plays on both ends, lifting the Hoosiers to a 68-66 win over the Wildcats in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Langford finished with 20 points for Indiana, turning one of the worst-case scenarios for the Hoosiers (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) into a gutsy, hard-earned victory.

“Juwan went down, got injured and we just knew that it was crunch time and we still gotta do what it takes to win,” Langford said.

Indiana coach Archie Miller had no immediate update on Morgan’s injury or his status after the game. It also wasn’t clear exactly what happened to cause Morgan to limp.

On the bench, IU athletic trainer Tim Garl appeared to be working on Morgan’s right shin.

“Knock on wood,” Miller said. “We’ll hope for the best. I didn’t see it happen. I’m not real sure, but you’ve just got to move through it.”

So Indiana did, treating the final 3:30 of regulation as if Morgan had fouled out. Trailing 61-58, the Hoosiers came out of the final media timeout with a play designed to get Langford to the rim.

Credit center De’Ron Davis, who blocked off Northwestern big man Dererk Pardon and created a logjam in the paint that freed space for Langford to drive to the basket and cut IU’s deficit to one.

“We just tried to give him an opportunity to get downhill,” Miller said. “De’Ron really did a great job on the play. He got the assist without having the ball in his hands. He did a great job of posting to kind of clear this guy out. I thought Romeo didn’t take the normal stride, one-legged finish he needed to play through the contact on the drive he got downhill. Then on his second bounce he exploded up. He got a good look.”

When IU needed him most, Langford didn’t limit himself to the offensive end. He had a couple key defensive plays, too, each of which came against Northwestern top scorer Vic Law.

On the next trip down the floor, Langford blocked Law under the basket. Then, after Langford’s floater with 39 seconds left broke a 63-63 tie, Langford tipped an inside pass that deflected off Law’s fingers and out of bounds.

Officials initially ruled that the ball was last touched by Langford, but a video review clearly showed the deflection off Law.

“They went in to try and post me up,” Langford said. “I just was able to get around the screen and get a hand on the ball, and he was the last one to touch it. That was a big momentum change in the game.”

Indeed, IU broke Northwestern’s pressure off the inbounds and turned it into an easy layup for Justin Smith on the other end to help win the game.

In a back-and-forth game that saw 15 ties and 14 lead changes, neither team led by more than five points. It was, in a sense, a preview of the kinds of tough contests Indiana is about to see much more of as conference play continues.

“For our guys to find a way to win a game in December, a conference game that’s fought that hard, is a good thing, especially coming off a loss on Tuesday,” Miller said. “A bounce-back is what you need to sort of continue and gain confidence and keep working. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Whether Indiana will have Morgan when it resumes the first leg of conference play on Tuesday night at Penn State remains to be seen.

In the short-term, IU can take solace in what it did late. This wasn’t a commanding victory, but it seemed to show moments of growth within.

The Hoosiers gutted out a victory with their most important player on the bench, all while making the necessary plays on both ends of the court.

For a team that has struggled with turnovers lately, Indiana finished Saturday with 13. Even better for IU, only two of those errors came across the final 15 minutes. There were no turnovers in the final seven minutes.

If there’s a pressing concern beyond Morgan, it’s free throw shooting. The Hoosiers were no better at the line against Northwestern, going merely 11-for-19 and allowing the Wildcats (6-2) to stay close. IU has also needed a consistent third scoring option to emerge, something that becomes even more crucial if Morgan misses any upcoming games.

Al Durham was good when he wasn’t in foul trouble on Saturday, finishing with seven points in 12 minutes. Smith, who is still working to assert himself consistently, stepped up with some key free throws and his layup late.

And, of course, Indiana still has Langford, who didn’t need to be told what to do once Morgan limped off the court.

“I feel like that was already stated without saying,” he said.

“It’s hard, man,” Miller said. “You play a conference game like that this early in the season with that much at stake. It’s an intensity level in there that’s not like any other non-conference game, really. But I was proud of our guys. We had a lot of guys in there that have never been in that situation before in conference play. So they got some experience today.”

That ensured that even in a game where IU suffered a big loss, it was still able to claim the win.

15 comments

  1. Rock, was that sarcasm, or were you watching a different game?

    I’m glad for the win and appreciate their fight, but gee-wiz Batman, this team is really bad at the free throw line. Shooting just over 60% from the line is just terrible. It’s already cost us the Arkansas game, and unless it improves soon, it will cost us a few more games this season. Archie should instruct every player he signs, immediately after the ink dries on the LOI, to shoot 500 free throws a day until they arrive in Bloomington.

    Without a quality Big in the paint (right now), struggling to make 3-pointers, and being terrible at shooting free throws, this roster is going to struggle to beat teams with far less athletic talent. There were points in today’s game where I was yelling for Romeo to just take over the game, to be totally selfish.

  2. I never use sarcasm on this site! I loved this game for what it is (and feel AwinAZ pegged it earlier on this site)…. I could understand the refereeing, the coaching, and the emphasis on our Hoosiers to put that basketball in the hands of our best player, Romeo Langford. Yeah, me too, I want Romeo to take over the game!!!! Why not? IF they can stop him, then let’s go to our other options. Of course, I hope Juwann is all right, (and I wish Justin Smith would improve), but this team is all right by me, coached by Archie in a straight-forward and honest manner. I think we are all in for a great Season.

  3. UM is unreal. Every other team has improved as well. I think PU and MSU is down slightly from last year but they will improve as the season progresses. I think this is a game we would have lost under Crean, Sampson and Davis. Archie can have his teams win ugly. I really just hope they just keep coming together as a team. I don’t think IUs record will be great this year but I do believe we will be better in Feb/Mar than we are now. Whoever the strength and Conditioning coach is for IU should be fired immediately. Please. I hope JM is ok.

  4. O.K., Rock. Whatever you say. But while today was a win, it does not bode well for IU’s season. We barely survived this home game against a very mediocre team. This team plays hard, but they play sloppy and have huge flaws. I do agree with you about Justin Smith. He seems to be wasting his enormous athletic ability.

    Yes Jeff, having had seven (7) scholarship BB players injured during the first month of the season is unprecedented and makes you wonder what’s going on. Having 3 or 4 key players hurt would be reason for concern, but seven key players injured suggests something is not right with the S&C program, or that Archie’s practices are too intense. I don’t recall seeing anything like this before at IU.

    But injuries are not the reason IU sucks at shooting free throws. I just watched the second half again and was appalled by how terrible their free throw shooting is. Before today’s game, IU was making only 62% of their free throws! Their form is terrible and they shoot the FTs in such a casual, sloppy manner. Archie must be going crazy with how bad they are. Not even our point guards are any good at shooting free throws! We’d have beaten NW by ten points if they’d just made an average percentage of their free throws. Instead, we allowed it to go down to the wire.

  5. What’s the status of Race Thompson didn’t see him with team, Hunter was walking around and was with the team today dressed in a sweat suit and tennis shoes.

      1. Jeremy,
        Just wondering about the severity of Race’s concussion due to the length of time he has been down. Has there been any information on how it happened? Practice collision, hit the floor or something awkwardly? Know these things can take time, but sounds like a pretty severe concussion.

  6. I love the comment “this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.” Huh???? It’s only Dec 1! How about in the early 90s when IU got shellacked by UCLA early in the season, and then went on to improve demonstrably, including total domination of that sma UCLA team in the NCAA tournament. To me, the real magic starts after the end of the semester, when the players can totally focus on hoops before classes begin in January. It’s a window of opportunity for the coach to set the table for the rest of the season. Get this team fully healthy, and I have no doubt Coach Miller will have them flying high. Look at what he did last year with a team of disjointed parts. Outside of Juwann Morgan, that team had zero go to players. This year’s team is far more talented, plus youth is served. IU is going to be just fine. In fact, I expect them to be good, if not really good. As in a top 20-25 team, if not higher. Barring injury (knock on wood, this is IU we’re talking about here), these guys are going to fly high under Coach Miller. In Archie I trust!!

  7. Oakie, define what you mean by “just fine.” Have a winning record? Winning the Big Ten Championship? Being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament? What is “just fine” to you?

    Archie can’t put on a uniform when his players are injured. He can ‘t shoot their free throws for them. Yes, IU will improve, but all the other teams will too! And right now, struggling to beat Northwestern at home because of fundamental flaws and having all those injurries does not bode well for the remainder of the season. The guys that are injured are not practicing, so they’re not getting the chance to improve.

    Based on what I witnessed yesterday, but depending on whether JH is healthy, winning 20 games this season will be an accomplishment. I hope a bunch of guys get healthy fast.

    1. By a bunch you mean 2? Other than Morgan only 2 are presently injured and not practicing and are the only 2 who didn’t practice before the NW game. We may not see Hunter the rest of the year. Thompson collided with another player in practice Sunday Nov. 11th and suffered the concussion. Every person is affected differently from a concussion. But it is probably the case he is close to getting back. With Durham and DD earning more playing time IUBB, will be “just fine”.

  8. Hunter’s injury might be a preexisting problem, like Moran’s arm problem and not an actual practice injury . It would be a big hurt for this season, as he has a lot potential, Hunter was standing at the top of the circle and took one shot beginning of the game and before the second half started and made both shots nothing but net, I know he was shooting with his feet on the floor, but still impressive after having surgery.

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