Morgan, IU ready to toe the line vs. Nebraska

Juwan Morgan didn’t get to the free throw line during Friday’s game at Maryland.

Fixing that will be one of Indiana’s main objectives when it returns to the court to host Nebraska tonight.

That’s because Morgan has proven capable of giving the Hoosiers a boost from the line in recent weeks, enhancing an already impressive skill set through his ability to become a more reliable free throw shooter.

During the past month, Morgan has settled into a new approach at the line, changing his stance and reaping the benefits. The senior forward has gone from having the worst free throw percentage on IU’s team in early December to becoming one of the Hoosiers’ most reliable players at the line across the past six games.

Consider it the latest improvement for a player who, over the past season and a half, has earned his status as one of the Big Ten’s best.

“He’s changed his stance a little bit to where he’s facing,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “I still wish he had a little bit more leg bend and a little bit more there, but he’s shooting the ball a bit better from the foul line, for sure.”

Rather than facing the basket straight on, Morgan is now pointing his toes toward the left baseline corner of the paint. That subtle change has allowed Morgan to square his shoulders as he shoots, while finding a release that has led to more consistent results.

“I didn’t tell him to do it,” Miller said. “He’s done this on his own.”

Actually, Morgan says, he had a little help.

Associate head coach Tom Ostrom and director of player development Derek Elston each offered input on what they saw from Morgan’s original stance.

It wasn’t working to the desired effect, as evidenced by Morgan’s 48 percent success rate at the line through IU’s first 10 games.

“I feel like I’m a good shooter at the free throw line,” Morgan said. “But I kept missing. I didn’t know what was going on. So just watching it, I kept seeing that it was going to the right every time it was a miss, pretty much.”

The change in Morgan’s base was first noticeable in IU’s 71-68 win over Butler on Dec. 15 at the Crossroads Classic. Morgan made each of his seven free throws in that contest and is now shooting 75 percent (18-for-24) at the line in Indiana’s past six games.

“I just felt like my shot was going off a little bit to the right,” Morgan said. “I feel like turning my feet to the left kind of opens my shoulders up and allows me to put it straight on line with the rim, and I think it’s worked for me so far.”

Indiana is also showing team-wide improvement at the line in the same span. Across the past six games, the Hoosiers are shooting 72 percent after making merely 63 percent of their free throws through the first 10 contests.

Although Morgan didn’t get to the line at Maryland, three of his teammates did — and they didn’t miss. Romeo Langford went 9-for-9, Devonte Green made each of his five free throws and Rob Phinisee converted each of his two attempts.

It all added up to the program’s best effort at the line since the Hoosiers went 18-for-18 at Ohio State on Jan. 27, 1988.

Indiana would like to see Morgan return to the line often against the Cornhuskers and continue to reap the rewards of a positive change.

“I was always conscious of it, but I was always trying different dribbling routines just to try and get a rhythm and different things like that,” Morgan said. “I think it was really just opening myself up to be able to shoot it. … I just found something that worked for me.”

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