Langford, Phinisee lift IU to 64-62 win at Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was an act of freelancing, a spur-of-the-moment decision that helped Rob Phinisee save the game for Indiana.

More than anything, it was an example of the aggressiveness that IU coach Archie Miller has hoped to develop in his freshman point guard.

With 2.3 seconds left in a game that IU led by two, Penn State had one final shot to extend — or win — Tuesday’s contest at the Bryce Jordan Center on an inbounds play under the basket. But Phinisee’s heads-up switch on a screen set for Nittany Lions’ top scorer Lamar Stevens put him in position to make a game-clinching deflection and preserve the Hoosiers’ 64-62 win.

Consider it further evidence of Phinisee’s accelerated development for the Hoosiers this season.

After Phinisee’s hot start to the campaign cooled off in recent weeks, Miller preached assertiveness with his freshman floor general. That was especially the case on the offensive end. Yet, with IU’s win hanging in the balance late in regulation on Tuesday, Phinisee demonstrated a strong-willed defensive approach that helped the Hoosiers clinch a 2-0 start to Big Ten play.

“(He) hung in there and then made a huge, key play late with the switch out, being able to deflect the ball and come up with it,” Miller said.

Indiana knew what was coming from Penn State in those final 2.3 seconds — some sort of action to put the ball in Stevens’ hands, likely off a screen.

That’s exactly what happened.

When IU forward Justin Smith got lost in the screen, springing Stevens free to catch the inbounds pass off the wing, Phinisee didn’t miss a beat. He quickly jumped over to guard Stevens and tipped the ball loose, killing the final few seconds in the process.

If Phinisee hadn’t read the moment and pivoted to stop Stevens, Penn State’s best player could’ve forced overtime in this rock fight of a ballgame. Instead, he made a heady play in a clutch situation, a kind of free-flowing veteran move that helped Indiana over the finish line.

“I wasn’t supposed to switch, but I did,” Phinisee said. “I saw Justin was held up on the screen, so I just made a good play on it. … This is the game of basketball. You just have to play and read and make the open play.”

Phinisee and classmate Romeo Langford each had their moments in Tuesday’s game, which Indiana led by 11 points with four minutes to go.

Every moment they authored seemed to matter, with IU overcoming a sloppy start to maintain momentum during the first leg of Big Ten play. As much as Phinisee and Langford, who led IU with 17 points, have been lauded for their offensive upside, it’s been their defensive instincts that have assisted Indiana late in each of its first two conference victories.

On Saturday, it was Langford who raised his play with Juwan Morgan sidelined with an injury. Langford’s defense on Northwestern leading scorer Vic Law, including a key deflection, helped the Hoosiers clinch a two-point win at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Then on Tuesday, Phinisee punctuated his strong second half — during which he scored 10 of his 12 points — with a clutch play on the defensive side.

“We trust them as much as we trust anybody on the team,” Miller said. “I thought Romeo did a really nice job against Northwestern. I thought he did a really good job tonight on Josh Reaves, for the most part. Rob was really good tonight.”

Most importantly, they were good when IU needed it most, answering a need for big plays in big moments.

“We started off kind of flat-footed,” Langford said. “They hit us in the mouth and I felt like our team responded from it. We didn’t just sit back and let them continue to hit us in the mouth.”

Indiana led 34-30 at halftime, a considerable achievement given the way the Hoosiers started.

IU had only one field goal — a hook shot from De’Ron Davis — to show for the first eight minutes, during which the Hoosiers went 1-for-11 from the field and found themselves trailing 9-1 on the glass.

“When you’re on the road, you know you’re gonna deal — especially the first four to eight minutes — with some type of a punch,” Miller said. “We’re not doing a very good job of handling that right now. We’re soft coming out of the gate.”

IU’s slow start allowed Penn State to build an early 9-0 lead before Indiana started to chip away. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Devonte Green tied the game at 10-all, then a conventional three-point play from Langford gave Indiana its first lead.

Langford’s ability to surface midway through the period was key to Indiana’s ability to gain control. He posted 15 first-half points, getting to the line, dazzling with skill moves on the perimeter and hitting tough shots to lift Indiana to the advantage.

The Hoosiers also got quality minutes from sophomore Clifton Moore, who posted three points, two rebounds and a steal during his first minute on the floor. Helping matters was the fact that Penn State missed 10 of its 14 free throws during the first 20 minutes.

Then, in the second half, Phinisee took the baton.

Really, it started at the end of the first period, when Phinisee held for the final shot, drove the paint and finished with a scoop that gave IU its four-point cushion at the break.

“I just got to the lane and finished,” he said.

The final two minutes featured more of the same from Phinisee. He played fast and confident, dictating the offense with a sense of purpose. Phinisee finished with five assists against just one turnover.

He was aggressive, just like his coach asked him to be.

“He was (playing) downhill a lot more in the second half, being aggressive at the rim, off ball screens,” Miller said. “I thought he got into the paint much more than he had been getting into the paint. He made plays. He did a nice job for us.”

After Penn State got within four points with seven minutes left, Phinisee hit a 3-pointer to regain separation. When that separation began to evaporate amid an 8-0 Penn State run in the final moments, Phinisee was there on the defensive end, too.

“Rob came up clutch down the stretch for us,” Langford said.

NOTE: Juwan Morgan wore protective padding on his right shin after leaving Saturday’s win over Northwestern with 3:30 to play. Morgan started at Penn State and finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.

30 comments

  1. Wow…I wonder what the deal is with Damezi. Seems like good reporters could get to the bottom of what has put him in the doghouse. I can only imagine that it’s something off the court.
    He doesn’t look like a happy camper on the bench…Hate to lose him but this must be something serious.

  2. I have determined Mike Hall of the BTN is ready for a ‘YOU MAKE THE CALL!’ creation.
    I’ll keep all of you on the edges of your seats for now…

  3. Amazed that there is a Big Ten team that shoots free throws worse than IU. We actually did a little better at the line tonight.

    Love the fight, all the extra effort-plays and the tenacious defense. No quit in this team.

    Green is a turnover machine. I think I counted four instances within four minutes of the second half where he dribbled the ball off his foot followed by really terrible passes that turned into PSU fast breaks. If he doesn’t stop making such stupid turnovers, he’ll be limited to garbage time.

    Thank goodness for Phinisee. He gets my vote for MVP of this game. He played very well.

    Credit to Morgan for playing hurt. That’s leadership!

    PSU’s Basketball fan base is as bad as IU’s Football fan base. That arena was half empty!

    Michigan is dominating NW, a team we “survived” against on our home court.

    Louisville is up next, and then we get a bit of a break before we play Butler. IU needs to get healthy and stop making so many stupid turnovers before we play either team.

      1. Chet your right. I want to be damn hard on Green for brainless TO’s but his contribution to the team really is strongly well rounded. He has a streetball mentality that fogs sufficient focus on ball protection. Evidently Coach Miller must think through practices Green is making improvement and gives him opportunities to run the floor game.

    1. Podunker, you NEVER get your facts right. Michigan won by 2 at Northwestern tonight. TWO! So much for your domination nonsense. Also, in an earlier thread, you claimed Morgan would be out until Jan. He started tonight. You couldn’t have been more objectively wrong. Which is pretty much just two examples among a bountiful.

      I’m going to start calling you “Lottery Ticket.” You deliver the winning numbers about as often.

  4. A sincere question for my more knowledgeable posters. Does Smith look lost and confused on offense, or is it just my imagination? All that enormous athletic talent seems to be going to waste. With 48-inch vertical leaping ability, why does he seem unable to play “above the rim?”

  5. Smith is a mess, you’re spot on. Stupid with and without the basketball. Between he and Green they had 7 TO’s. I cringe any time either has the ball.

    A good, yet UGLY win. Give credit to PSU, they make you win ugly & they’re good defensively. We just happened to be good enough to make them miss 14 or so FTs.

    1. Yes PSU is good defensively. I believe KenPon rates them #8.
      Duke rated @ 5.
      NW I believe is 28. FORGET Meatchickens # but it was good. Undoubtedly why so many B1G are ranked high in the top 25.

  6. Did I see Clifton Moore get some minutes today, or was I just imagining it? And they were positive minutes. He contributed.

    Given how lost Smith looks on offense (in fairness, he did have 9 rebounds tonight), maybe its time Archie starts giving Moore and Forrester more playing time. I can’t wait to see Thompson play when he’s fully recovered. It’s a shame that Hunter’s probably out for the season.

    Bottom line is that IU needs help in the paint, immediately. Against two of the weaker Big Ten teams, we’ve gotten outplayed in the paint. And for a variety of reasons, IU’s got some bigs that are getting any playing time. JM is a stud and the team’s leader, but he’s human and arguably over-worked. Davis is working his way back into playing shape, but still has periods when his mind goes blank (like his last foul tonight). If Moore, Forrester and eventually Thompson can’t get some minutes soon, when will they? You don’t have to be a fortune teller to see that with a highly accomplished and talented Big arriving next fall, if these guys don’t start getting some playing time, one or two of them might start thinking of transferring.

    1. I don’t know that these are two of the weaker teams in the B1G. That’s not what the games played would indicate. Pretty sure Michigan respects NW more than that. PSU dropped #15 Virginia Tech the week before we played them and a week after VT polished off Purdue.

      Both of these teams have outperformed the Boils so far this season based upon the results on the floor.

      Does that mean the Boils are the weakest team in the league?

      It’s early.

    2. Pardon for NW is 1 of the better post players in the B1G and country. Also Harrar and Stevens of PSU are strong defenders without committing tons of fouls. They combined for 16 boards last night.

  7. Clutch play by Rob and can’t wait to see him develop. Need him to be a steady influence on a bad ball handling team. Nevertheless, a win is a win. Keep in mind, if Hunter isn’t hurt, he might get the minutes Smith is getting. Although athletically gifted, Smith is a disaster, both on offense and defense. Doesn’t finish at the rim, beyond careless with the ball, and seems to always be out of position. Archie just doesn’t have many options for that spot. Anyway, loved some of Romeo’s NBA ready moves tonight.

  8. Upon further reflection, if this team is anything it is consistently inconsistent. It is plagued by typical freshman type issues.

    TO’s, missed FTs, defensive lapses, etc….

    This will lead to us beating some teams we shouldn’t and losing to teams we should beat handily. The season will be fraught with nights where we look like Duke, and nights we look like puke. I hope I can stomach those puke nights. We can look awful at times.

  9. I really like Morgan, Langford and Phinisee.

    Smith plays out of control.

    Tough to get wins on the road.

    Michigan is Elite. I agree with Po. His comments tend to be spot on.

  10. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but we’ve seen lightning strike before in IUBB history. Looking at JS and CM, I see a couple guys who seem to have some athletic gifts, but are frustratingly clueless on the court. I remember another big guy who like to have drove RMK nuts until the light finally came on, and the result was the ’81 championship. I think I keep looking for another Landon Turner in all these guys, especially the bigs, coming through just hoping for another LT. Funny how it developed that year, talented team led by a soon to be NBA superstar, but just couldn’t seem to put all the pieces together. When they finally did, I’ve never seen a more dominating championship run, start to finish, through the tournament than that team.

    1. Remember LT didn’t start really playing well until Bobby took the reigns off of him. Once Bobby let him play his game and Isaiah figured out where and when to get him the ball, LT’s game started going nuts. I would credit Isaiah for LT’s breakout during that season because he could get LT in rhythm and knew when to feed the big guy.

  11. The Thick Juicy Cheeseburger:
    For the last month I’ve been stating how Justin Smith needs to evolve and get out of his funk. He is the key to this team having any real success.
    We need more versatility and tenacity down low ….

    Sweet Soda Pop:
    Green reminds me a lot of VJ III. He has his moments of excellence, drains a couple shots…and then dribbles of his toes or throws three errant passes in succession. He’s been playing the game too long to be so careless. Phinisee is ‘The Man’ in the backcourt. I hope entitlement thoughts due to NBA bloodlines do not throw the wrench in decisions that should be pretty simple on who runs the offense.
    These are still leaky faucet drips from the Crean pipeline of NBA connection/validation plumbing(Who can forget Jeremiah Rivers!…It flows, it just flows) which remain the last of selfish hoops mindsets and fundamental breakdowns sabotaging the basketball classroom of our first real instructor in a decade.

    Crispy Hot Onion Rings:
    The Justin Smith dilemma: I like him a ton. Confidence is often similar to ‘lightning striking'(courtesy: thinkaboutit). I thought this team would be lethal because I expected JS’s game to be matured and improved over last season. All the athletic skills are there….But this isn’t a Hanner Perea hitting the ceiling of no hope for an A-Hope project. Justin is thinking too much. He’s extending plays to much. He needs to take the open shot…He needs to stop and pop. The turnovers are the result of attempting to execute(overemphasizing the ‘Archie Way’) over banking on the instincts. Just shoot the damn ball before dribbling into no-man’s land! You have a 48″ vertical…Go in for your own board..Follow your shot instead of following your feet into a trap under the basket.

    Shake for the Road:
    Romeo is the lead whose name demands the marquee. But great plays/movies are usually classics because of supporting cast. We need quiet performers content and loving of a craft enough to not steal a show.
    Archie is still fighting old basketball demons left to McCracken’s stage where every NBA wannabee wants to demand the marquee.

    ────────────────────

    Now you’re hungry…..for a banner. Skip the soda pop and have the shake with the burger and onion rings.

  12. Last night this tune popped into my head…Don’t know why. The brain is a strange conglomeration of many messy nerves.
    Anyway…The tune hit #6 in 1976. We were NCAA champs with what has been debated as one of the best college basketball teams ever.
    And now…Shannon. She drifts at sea with our banner #6 still waiting to be. Shannon is gone.

  13. HC, you’re right about Durham. He played well last night and has really made a difference to this team.

    think, no offense because I share your hope that one of our bigs will “flip the switch” and emerge. But there are few college basketball players in history who had the physical talent, size, speed, length and pure athletic ability to match what Landon Turner possessed in 1981. He was a supreme athlete, and as we witnessed, when he finally got his mind right, he dominated. If today’s IU roster included the reincarnation of Landon Turner, IU would be the odds on favorite to win the Big Championship and make it to the final four. People forget that IU’s Hall-of-Fame track coach tried to convince LT to run track because he was so fast in the middle distances. I remember reading, back in the day, that the coach, while overseeing the basketball team’s off-season conditioning, stated that Landon Turner would have been the Big Ten Champion in two separate distance races. Ironically, LT’s basketball game back in 1981 was better suited to the NBA than it was to Bob Knight’s system. If not for his tragic accident, I believe LT would have been an NBA Superstar.

    I was in Assembly Hall the night the team wheeled LT back on to the court for the first time. I’ll never forget the noise level or the duration of the ovation LT received from the Hoosier fans in attendance. Many of us were under the impression that LT was totally paralyzed, so when he actually raised his arm to wave to the crowd, the noise level rose to a level that was unimaginable. I’m confident that no group of people have ever generated more noise than those inside Assembly Hall generated that night. I was crying like a baby, and between sobs, yelling at the top of my lungs in honor and support of LT. And never have I been more proud to be a Hoosier than I was that night.

  14. Many years ago I ran into Landon Turner in a Kroger on 86th Street in Indianapolis. It was probably in the early 2000s. I didn’t bother him…
    He is a testament to the best we can hope for in a human being. So many dreams ripped away on one fateful night….His heart and his spirit never appeared to hold one ounce of bitterness.
    It sometimes makes me sick to see how much grotesque narcissism and entitlement has entered college and pro basketball. The true riches in my eyes were simply watching Landon in that Kroger getting pushed about with his chin up and his spirit undaunted.

    And what does ESPN give us? They give us ‘The Last Days of Knight’ instead of the ‘The Bright Light of Landon Turner’…..

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