IU trying to get in sync as Big Ten play continues

It was a new-look lineup, one of many used by Archie Miller during this season’s first month of action.

When the Indiana coach sent his Hoosiers back on the floor for the final 3:30 of Saturday’s win over Northwestern, he saw a collection of players that hadn’t previously played together. There were forwards De’Ron Davis and Justin Smith, and guards Romeo Langford, Devonte Green and Rob Phinisee — each of them trying to piece together the final segment of action after Juwan Morgan left moments earlier with an unspecified leg injury.

That group got the job done, rising to the moment to secure the Hoosiers’ 68-66 victory over the Wildcats. Improvising and adjusting on the fly has been a challenge this Indiana team has grown used to facing as injuries continue to poke holes in its rotation, stretching IU’s depth and forcing the Hoosiers to mix and match.

That’s led to an IU squad that is still trying to develop chemistry on the court, an ongoing process that will continue with today’s trip to Penn State.

“We haven’t been a great in-sync group, really since our Marquette game,” Miller said. “Going into Arkansas, we started to have some struggles with the practices, and then we’ve kind of put a couple together here and there. Not that we’re not working hard. It’s just, you’ve got to play. You have to be able to play five-on-five (in practice). You need to be able to do some things consistently every day to get better. And you know, no excuses, but that’s the hand we’re kind of working with.”

Miller can count the number of full-team practices his team has enjoyed since the start of the preseason on one hand — maybe even one or two fingers.

IU’s injury concerns were only compounded when Morgan left Saturday’s game prematurely, leaving the Hoosiers without their most important player. The school has not provided an update on the senior forward’s status in the days since that contest, though Archie Miller said on a pre-recorded radio show that aired Monday night that Morgan was with the team while it celebrated in the locker room after the Northwestern victory.

“We’re hoping that’s a good sign,” Miller said.

Indeed, Indiana could certainly use a good sign.

In the meantime, Miller has simply tried to piece things together, both during games and practices. At the same time, the IU coach has seen a noticeable effect on the way the lack of available bodies has impacted his team in the halfcourt.

November basketball is typically rife with five-man platoons feeling their way through the action. But IU’s injury woes have only increased the spotlight on the Hoosiers’ slow-to-develop chemistry and the execution rate it’s affecting.

“They’re not as confident in what they’re doing, really on either end at times, but most importantly from an offensive perspective,” Miller said. “They chemistry and execution has really had some slippage because we really just haven’t played enough (as a team in practice) in the last two and a half to three weeks. We haven’t had enough to go up and down for stretches in practices in that manner. That’s where you’re slippage comes in.”

Miller believes that slippage is most reflected in the slew of turnovers that pockmarked the month of November.

Though the Hoosiers clamped down on their errors during Saturday’s second half — they had only two in the final 15 minutes and zero in the final seven — IU’s turnover rate of 21.1 percent ranks as the worst among Big Ten teams.

It’s a situation where players are still feeling out where their teammates are supposed to be within the new-look lineups that have popped up from time to time.

“One of the biggest reasons why we’re turning the ball over as much is just we haven’t been able to play (together) as much as we probably need to in practice,” Miller said. “And even defensively, you have to be able to work every day defensively against another guy or another team to be able to simulate what you’re doing with rebounding or transition defense or whatever it may be.”

Morgan’s unspecified situation aside, IU is gradually getting to where it needs to be.

Adding both Devonte Green and Zach McRoberts could go a long way toward helping the Hoosiers start to play and practice with a full team. McRoberts, in particular, looked like his old self in Saturday’s win. His diving save of a loose ball along the sideline closest to the IU bench prolonged a Hoosier possession and led directly to a much-needed Romeo Langford jump shot in the tight contest.

“As far as chemistry, getting these guys back, like Zach is an older guy, veteran, knows what he’s doing,” graduate transfer Evan Fitzner said. “I think that it really helps when you get those guys back.”

While injuries have left this Indiana team slow to develop and dealing with a protracted feeling-out period, it’s Miller’s hope that the Hoosiers will soon be able to put everything together.

“We’ve battled the ups and downs playing here and playing there,” Miller said, “and at times we’ve had four or five guys not in practice. That’s difficult for any team, let alone a team that’s trying to get kind of get better. But I would say the biggest struggle is trying to get that chemistry, that symmetry, both ends of the floor.”

10 comments

  1. “Miller can count the number of full-team practices his team has enjoyed since the start of the preseason on one hand — maybe even one or two fingers.” If this statement is accurate, being out of sync is an understatement.

    Sure is quiet on JM, hope injury is minor and back soon.

  2. Oh, come on now! According to HC, IU only has two or three key players injured right now. The other guys that were injured have recovered, so what’s the problem? Who cares how much practice time those seven injured players have missed. Most of them are better now, so all will be well and this team will function like a Swiss watch.

  3. Outside of losing Juwan Morgan, I actually prefer a shorter/thinner rotation.

    Personally, I thought we played better with some of the banged up still nursing their issues. Knight rarely went more than seven deep. Laskowski was known as ‘Super-sub’ for a reason. He was the sub.

    Too little of talent is certainly a problem, but a roulette’s wheel of choices for approximate equal levels of talent on the bench could cause substitutions because of experimental convenience rather than substitutions of true necessity.
    I want to see chemistry develop sooner rather than later along with less tinkering and sharing of minutes from the point guard position.
    I prefer Phinisee to be given the full role of running this team.
    I also am baffled as to why Damezi Anderson is getting so little playing time. He was the #3 ranked player from the state of Indiana and he’s barely seen the floor. Weird. No mention of him in the above article. Is he injured? Is he in the doghouse for some reason? The young man may be the second best scoring talent on the team behind Romeo.
    Anderson seems like the ideal ‘Super-sub’ and I would sub him in more frequently than Green because of his quality jumper and shot-making abilities.

    Maybe tonight will be Demezi’s breakout game off the bench…..We need someone who can evolve into a perimeter threat other than Fitzner (Was Fitzner one of Santa’s Super-sub reindeer?)

    Penn State is pretty good, folks. This one won’t be easy(especially if Morgan is not available)….but problems not so easy, can be fixed with more DAMEZI!

  4. I just now read an IndyStar article (written yesterday) that said that the Hoosiers ‘might’ be without their star senior. Does anyone know if Juwan is going to play tonight? (7:00)

  5. Rock, I doubt it. I just read that JM is out until early January. But who knows? Don’t worry, most of the eight players that have been injured this year have recovered, and we have it on good authority that the practice time they’ve lost won’t affect the team’s performance through the remainder of the season. Next man up, right!

  6. Ha Ha, Podunk! I’m of the opinion that losing Juwan is going to be a Very Big Factor in our win-production…we are Already Being Hurt by Any Big Man….and that was WITH Juwan! Who, indeed, IS the ‘next man up’?????? We are in the Barney, methinks! (but might be wrong…….) Time will tell…only one hour until we shall see!!!! I’m pumped to watch, as always!

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