Hoosiers wake up in NIT win over St. Francis

Ed Schilling, Indiana’s mild-mannered assistant coach, had seen enough.

So at the intermission, while the Hoosiers sat at their lockers and digested their six-point halftime deficit, Schilling did something out of character.

He stepped into IU’s locker room in the bowels of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and made his frustrations known.

“His face got red,” IU junior forward De’Ron Davis said. “And Coach Schilling? He’s a real low (key), mellow guy. He really doesn’t get too active like that, so when we see him bringing energy, it’s like, ‘OK, something’s wrong.'”

It didn’t stop with Schilling. Indiana head coach Archie Miller had a few words for his team at halftime, none of them suitable for print. So did senior co-captain Zach McRoberts, who seized the chance to speak up with his team ambling through another aimless performance.

“Zach, he came out and told everybody what he was seeing,” fellow co-captain Juwan Morgan said. “He was seeing that we could get the ball in the paint pretty much anytime we wanted.”

For 20 minutes, it wasn’t clear that Indiana wanted to be here on Tuesday night, playing in a second-tier tournament against the kind of opponent the Big Ten has tried to get away from scheduling.

But after flirting with the disastrous possibility of losing their opening game of the NIT, top-seeded Indiana got it in gear and dispatched No. 8 St. Francis, 89-72, in front of an announced crowd of 5,431 in Bloomington.

“Coach Miller and Coach Schilling basically just said we have to play harder,” Davis said. “That’s all there is to it. It’s either we want to continue and advance, or you want to have the season be done. And we don’t want that right now.”

It took a whole half of uninspired basketball for Indiana (18-15) to come to that realization, a not-altogether surprising development in Tuesday’s opening-round matchup. Given the cloud of disappointment hovering over this season, it wasn’t clear which IU team would surface.

In the NIT, it’s easy to see which teams are in it to win it, and which teams are simply going through the motions.

Early on, IU very much appeared to be the latter.

The Hoosiers settled for outside jumpers, missed point-blank shots around the rim and failed to seize the 50-50 balls that so often make the difference in March. It all added up to a 40-34 halftime deficit against a team ranked 256th nationally, per KenPom.com.

And let it be known: St. Francis (18-15) is not a good defensive team. Across their first 32 games, the Red Flash allowed opponents to shoot 54.6 percent inside the arc. The Hoosiers either didn’t get that message until halftime or completely ignored it.

It didn’t help that leading scorer and top rim attacker Romeo Langford wasn’t available. Langford sat out Tuesday’s game with a minor back injury, and it’s not known whether he’ll suit up again for Indiana.

“He tweaked his back early on in the Ohio State game,” Miller said. “He dealt with it through the Ohio State game and post-Ohio State, he’s had multiple treatments a day and he’s not feeling very good, so he’s uncomfortable. If we played in the NCAA Tournament tonight, he wouldn’t have played. So I think that’s one thing to state.”

It also didn’t help that Morgan picked up his second foul with 4:43 left in the first half and sat for the remainder of the period, taking Indiana’s best player off the floor.

“His second foul eliminated our post presence,” Miller said. “We didn’t have another guy really wanting the ball there in the second half, and it didn’t work in the paint, and when it did, the guy that caught the ball in the paint was very apprehensive to turn around and look at the rim and attack and score. And we needed a different post look when Juwan went out. That’s why we struggled, I thought, shooting so many 3s.”

Frustrations boiled over late in the half when Miller was called for his first technical foul of the season. The IU coach was peeved after officials declined to call a foul after point guard Rob Phinisee faced hard contact on one end, then called a shooting foul against De’Ron Davis on the other end.

The foul on Davis, plus the technical on Miller, sent the Red Flash to the line for four shots. They made each one, and built a six-point halftime lead.

As the officials jogged to their dressing room at the break, Miller remained on the floor and stared down referee Kelly Pfeifer. Jeers filled the arena as another ugly half of basketball came to an end.

If Miller wasn’t upset at his team’s performance for much of the first half, the officiating was enough to send him storming into the locker room.

“It woke us up,” Davis said.

And after emerging from the lively intermission, Indiana’s approach changed drastically.

It started with Morgan.

He scored 21 of his game-high 28 points in the final period, the third-most points ever by an IU player in an NIT game. Only Mike Woodson (30) and Steve Alford (29) have recorded more productive single-game efforts.

Morgan’s approach rubbed off on his teammates.

Seven of IU’s first 10 shots in the second period came inside the arc, while 12 of the team’s first 16 points of the half came inside the paint. The Hoosiers used a 9-2 run during the first 2:22 of the half to get back in front, 43-42.

They never trailed again.

Al Durham added 22 points for IU, which also received 12 points from Devonte Green and 10 points from Justin Smith.

The Hoosiers will host Arkansas in a second-round matchup. Date and time were not immediately available.

The NIT is still very much a consolation event for Indiana, which would much rather be playing Thursday in the NCAA Tournament, college basketball’s biggest stage. But here are the Hoosiers, with one win already to their name.

For the first 20 minutes Tuesday, it didn’t seem Indiana cared enough to keep playing in this event. Across the final 20 minutes, the Hoosiers’ play said otherwise.

“We knew this is potentially our last game of the season,” Davis said. “We just needed to buckle down and lock in and just play harder. That’s what happened.”

38 comments

  1. Race Thompson didn’t play, what’s his health status? I U played a low seeded NIT team and got less than ten minutes total from less used players and had to use their basic 7 players to get the win, so much for extended time for bench players.

    1. That one jumped out at me too. Would sure like to know about this one. Race should be getting extended minutes during this tournament in preparation for next year.

      1. Saw on other sites, Race was said to be having flu like symptoms and was kept away from the team.

      2. Here’s my feeling for “extended time” for bench players.

        a) We beat OSU in the Big tournament and we’re playing in the Big Dance. Some were clamoring for extended time for bench players 3 weeks ago because they had buried this team prematurely. Sure, we missed it by an eyelash, but what a lousy defeatist attitude to throw in a towel when things came so close to playing out differently.
        b) Earn your time off the bench. Play your way off the bench. John Laskowski was a ‘Super Sub’ off the bench. He embraced it. There is nothing in sports about “deserving” anything. The NCAA did not consider we were without Phinisee(or a Phinisee not anywhere near his normal self) during the majority of our losing streak. The committee didn’t take Indiana off the bench and give us “deserved” playing time in the NCAA tournament to make us better. There are no handouts in sports….whether it’s absence from lineups because of injury…or because you’re simply not good enough. Play better than the 5th best player in practice and you’ll get all the court time you need.
        c) I think our coach knows who he should be playing.
        d) And if a player is cleared to be healthy and doesn’t want to play …then he should be removed from team. It’s too disrespectful to guys on that bench(and the thousands who dream to play D-1 basketball but come up short) who work their asses off everyday to watch someone talented enough to be on the court but refuses in order to protect their NBA stock. The Arkansas kid did the honorable thing and removed himself from wearing the Razorback uniform any longer when he decided his personal risk was too high to wager against his NBA “stock” value.

        Conclusion: Play the game to win. It’s not about preparing for next year. Playing for anything not in the “now” is exactly when guys begin to get dialed out and will get injured. The bench is already a place of honor. Respect it and embrace it. You’ve already beat out thousands of guys who spend their lifetimes blogging about your right to get off the bench. Ironic. Wearing the candy stripes is an honor. Earn your playing time duly rewarded by your coach. Respect the uniform by being willing to play no matter if you’re the last link in the chain or you’re the first link to break away to the NBA.
        The talk about Zion Williamson having the right(many arguing that he should) to sit on the Duke bench despite being healthy enough to play because he needed to protect his value…made me sick. If you don’t want to play while wearing the colors of your college, then go the hell home.

        1. H4H,
          I agree and disagree with you at the same time. How’s that for splitting it right down the middle? Yes, I agree IUBB should be playing to win and the best players should be on the court. If Romeo is coming back and is healthy, he should be on the court. The back does explain his lack of effectiveness against OSU, really thought IU could take them.

          1. Here’s where I’ll leave it. If you don’t care to win, you shouldn’t be a coach and/or you shouldn’t be wearing the uniform.
            If you are afraid to risk your future, then you should go home and not disgrace the uniform and the concept of ‘team’ basketball.
            Others on the roster have also risked and sacrificed a hell of a lot (as well as many parents, h.s. coaches and loved ones) for the simple honor of earning the last spot on that Hoosier bench. Please don’t dishonor that simply because your future $$$ value is higher.
            Nobody deserves “watching” time.
            Nobody deserves “playing” time.

          2. Agree and disagree…and that’s why it’s fun. OSU was a completely different team with Wesson. I doubt they’ll have a poor showing in the NCAA.
            OSU played as if the game meant something. We came out looking rather subdued ….
            If Romeo was 100%, I’m not sure if it would have made much difference. OSU is very athletic and long(especially with Wesson). His outlet passes were a thing of beauty. The guy hadn’t played for three weeks and it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.
            If not for Green giving us a rare glimpse of seven minutes as Dr. Jekyll without turning into Mr. Hyde my turnovers, it probably wouldn’t have been close.

  2. Just saw an interesting graphic displayed during the Arkansas vs Providence game…Displayed on the screen was a shortlist of college teams with most historical success in the NIT…Turns out Dayton has the 3rd most NIT wins in tournament history.
    The school from which we found our current coach is known for kicking major butt in the NIT. And now we are in the NIT. Make of that…what you will as our NCAA bubble burst.
    All of the crowds at other three NIT games combined probably didn’t equal our Assembly Hall attendance tonight. They were all wastelands by comparison.

  3. Race Thompson needs to receive the I U Hard Luck Player of the year at the basketball awards dinner. H4H maybe the other game sites didn’t have their athletic department’s let students in for free and subsidize their admission costs.

  4. You can let people in for free to many things and they still won’t care or participate (e.g. IU Football and church).

      1. I should have qualified it. ‘Smart’ people….won’t necessarily go to something even if it’s free (e.g. IU Football, church).

  5. Idea: If you’re a one-and-done but you don’t want to play in postseason games because you’re fearful of injury depleting your draft status/value, you can remain on the bench and wear the uniform under the following condition:

    You agree to “:subsidize” the price of all students tickets/costs for each game you watch when you could be playing. Students get to see you sit on the bench for free. You’ll will sign a contract with (name of college) to have your first NBA contract to be reduced by the usual cost of tickets sold to all students in attendance for every postseason game missed while you protect your NBA value.

    Example …10,000 students come to the Duke vs. Little Sisters of the Poor(16 seed) postseason game ….where Zion refuses to play. 10,000 x $50.00/ticket = $500,000.
    Zion earns 30 million on first contract.
    30,000,000 – 500,000(reimbursement to university for student tickets/free attendance) = 29,500,000.

  6. Attendance at yesterday’s game speaks volumes. It will be interesting to see what it will be against Arkansas this weekend. There’s just so little upside for a program like IU to play in the NIT.

    Romeo hurting his back against OSU certainly explains why he disappeared in that game. But I’m wondering if he’d have played yesterday if he was not planning on entering the draft? If he does not return to action against Arkansas, then either his back is a bit worse than “tweaked” or it’s a convenient excuse. But really, if he’s jumping to the NBA next season, it’s actually better for next year’s team that other guys are getting his minutes.

  7. I’d normally agree that the NIT is pretty much a waste of energy. But some of the teams selected for March Madness ahead of Indiana is almost more of a disgrace.
    A big plus this year is the fact the NIT is getting far more ESPN/TV coverage than years past.
    Another added bonus is the fact that there are some very high quality teams and some very good coaches in the NIT this season. Georgetown, Indiana, Xavier, Texas, TCU, Butler, Creighton, Arkansas…are all teams with pretty strong history/following.

    I want Morgan to go out with a trophy. I hope his teammates get this thing to NYC and prove we should have been in the Big Dance.
    Do it for Juwan.

  8. Question, if Romeo was your son and has a chance to play in the NBA would you want your son to risk a serious permanent injury to play a NIT game with a existing back condition problem ?

  9. Obviously, if he has a legit back condition, then he shouldn’t play.
    But if it’s simply not wanting to play, then withdraw from the program, declare, and go home to count the ways to spend all the dollars with mom and dad.

    Bottom Line: Zion is playing. Nobody wants to leave college looking like they are completely absent of caring about teammates. How much of a douche is that?

      1. I don’t see it as a big difference…I’m pretty sure Romeo knew he wasn’t going to a squad loaded like Duke. Knowing that, maybe he could just put it on coast all year? His chances at an injury began as soon as he started playing in a Hoosier uniform. Shut it down now because you’ve rolled the dice this long and why roll them anymore? I just don’t see how you could play the game at all with that mentality. That’s not the mentality of champions.
        At the end of the day, he’ll do what he wants to do. I’m not his parent so I’m not in a position for best advice. Ultimately, he’s an adult and it’s his decision to live with….
        And if he prefers to sit on the bench in a Hoosier uniform while being healthy…? I’ll let that interpretation up to his teammates. I don’t see everything they see.

        1. I agree that Romeo knew he wasn’t coming to a team loaded like Duke, but he had to like the talent being assembled by Archie. What I don’t think he or anyone else (including Archie) could have known, was the catastrophic level of injuries the team would suffer this year. Not to mention the disruption the injuries have obviously caused for the program. I honestly cannot remember any program suffering this many injuries to so many key components in one season.

          1. But even 100% healthy, it was going to be a very young team. And though some amongst the youth have the potential to be very good, this was a bridge/rebuild year.
            -Green and Justin Smith both had very shaky segments to their seasons(I need not remind how many were throwing both those guys under the bus).
            -Lack of perimeter shooting had nothing to do with our health. Romeo struggled. Everybody struggled. We never had a truly viable and dangerous outside game.
            -Fitzner did not impact the product very much. Appears to be a great kid….but when looking at some of our past transfers(Beilfeldt, Zeisloft, Abell), Fitzner didn’t add as much firepower or ‘it factor’.

            t is correct in many of his talent assessments. We are getting Dayton level talent….That’s not a dig on Archie. It’s been that way for a very long time. Outside of the truly game-changing opportunity that came along with a once in a blue moon coveted 7-footer like Cody Zeller, our momentum in getting this program juiced has been flat. Lack of top coaching killed that opportunity to return to banners and Final Fours.
            Romeo came at a rather inopportune time. Timing is everything and the cupboard simply was not full enough. Unless he stays another year or two, there remains the void in the true push/momentum we need to become a truly great team.
            I don’t see much change ahead….Good recruits but not game-changers needed to get you playing late into March.

          2. There seems to be more and more parallels in comparing IU Football to IU Basketball.
            We roll them out to the launch pad full of hype and promise but the rocket ships never take off. Missions are scrubbed. Progression to the stratosphere levels in standings becomes more the anomaly. We seem a very long way from planting banner flags into the moon.
            We have lots of reunions and celebrate old Apollo programs. Basketball was once our Apollo program. Now it’s a museum of sorts….in a Simon Mall Hall.
            With each passing decade we lose top engineers, top flight directors…and top astronauts. We lose the “it factor” that once made IU Basketball a brand known to make dreams a reality.
            After watching Archie in action for two seasons, I’m left wondering if it’s just too much to ask of one man who probably didn’t realize how much the reputation of Indiana exceeds the stagnant reality of a program neglected and enshrined far too long.

          3. H4H,
            I agree with some of your assessments regarding the team’s youth. However, I think this team was capable of winning between 20-25 games had the injuries not occurred. Outside of the known quantities of Juwan and Romeo, I believe Archie had anticipated a significant, but young, talent infusion. Of the newcomers there were 3 very key components: Race, Jerome, and Rob. While none were the game changing level of Romeo, combined they had the potential to be game changing. Justin, Devonte, and Al all showed flashes of where their games could go, and DeRon’s health was an unknown quantity.

            Sadly, Jerome was lost for the season, Race for what might as well be the season, and Rob was rendered ineffective for nearly half the season. Had Justin, Devonte, and Al all played consistently at a high level might have enjoyed a much better year. However we are not sure if the flashes of brilliance from these three are indicators of good things to come or mirages. Remember both Race and Jerome were highly rated recruits in their own rights, and Rob was thought by many to be significantly underrated. Unfortunately the only way we will really know what was lost is if all three stay health next year and are able to demonstrate their capabilities.

            I think the core group of talent is much higher than a Dayton level as supposed by some. The problem is top half of Archie’s initial recruiting efforts were knocked out of action before they had a chance to show what he had brought in. If the team can develop, and a lot of this will depend on the pre-Archie holdovers, next year can be quite good. Let’s hope so anyhow.

          4. You’re seeing more talent than me, I suppose.
            I never watched Romeo play h.s. ball, but I honestly thought we were getting a more explosive player.
            The ‘holdouts’ from the last guru/Galileo are all very Jekyll and Hyde.

            Glimpses of a quality team…but only glimpses. I still am confounded by the fact we took down MSU twice. We must have done something right at times….But then so many eggs including our final game against OSU.

            I honestly thought Archie would have us dancing by now. Outside of Phinisee, our injuries were not key components. Green, Smith, Durham, Morgan and Romeo remained pretty healthy. DeRon came around pretty well. Losing 12 of 13 was pretty inexcusable. I would have wanted Crean’s head on a stick if we lost that many with the sort of talent we had. Trying to be honest here…

  10. Romeo should shut it down. Regular season over and ncaa Tournament missed. Get rest and start looking at NBA. I wish him well.

    1. Such an individual thing. I could certainly see Noah Vonleh or Thomas Bryant sitting it out. I think VO would walk through fire to play in even a meaningless game for the Hoosiers.

      That sure seems how he is wired.

      I wouldn’t think less of Romeo for taking a seat but it also doesn’t sound like the way he has behaved in the past.

      1. I agree. Romeo has played unselfishly all year long. He hasn’t played like a prima donna so it would surprise me to see him act like one now.

        I think he’ll do everything in his power to play this Saturday. No experience in life is meaningless. Just as Landon Turner…All the money in the world still can’t secure your knowledge of what tomorrow will bring.

        1. If he is recovered enough to play he’ll play. The Hogs player sitting the tournament out may be an indirect but real time, eye opening influence. I think hurt or not if Romeo had made the decision not to play he’d have already cut the cord.

  11. Damn …Minnesota already busting my bracket. More proof the BigTen should have had nine teams. Richie Pitino brought his team to play. 10 triples already…What?

    Did anyone else catch Bill Murray at the Minnesota vs. Louisville game? He’s still chasing that damn Gopher….? I’m alright…Nobody worry ’bout me.’

    Outside of a very overrated Purdue who will lose tonight, I think many Big teams will do very well in this tournament.

  12. H4H and Think : I agree with your assessments and observations. Give Race and Hunter a year to get healthy and NOT feel they have to hurry to get healthy will make significant improvement next year. Does anyone else think IF Justin Smith gets off to good start or feeling good about his game he ENGAGES in the game otherwise he disengages , goes thru motions and loses focus. I also have to wonder about Moore..Forrester was a known project but Moore will be a junior next year and has hardly seen the floor and IM not so sure about Demezi being D1 talent.

    1. TJ,
      I share your concern about Moore, but both Jake and Demezi were expected by many to be for long term development going in. They were targeted to be 4 year players with their Junior and Senior years being key. You always kind of hope for Sophomore improvements into backup roles for such players, with key rotation in their final two years. I think both got thrown into the fire prematurely due to the severe manpower shortage with all the injuries.

  13. Tournaments – teams from the same conference need to be in different brackets. Second game for MState is Minn. ? B1G just continues beating up on each other.

  14. Ron- That’s your East coast Establishment running everything anymore. Three BigTen teams stuffed into one region was absurd. It was done to keep multiple BigTen teams out of the Elite 8 and beyond.
    And St. Johns ….and Arizona State were embarrassments to the tournament. Again, East Coast Establishment placing those pathetic teams into the tournament while not taking IU off the bubble.
    The Establishment of the East runs it all anymore. They ran the BigTen with Delaney. They run sports on television. The networks hire mostly all ex-players/coaches affiliated with East Coast team. They run all of ESPN. And they run March Madness and Selection Sunday.
    Two Big teams facing each other on Saturday…and possibly facing Maryland after that. Hell, they put MSU in another BigTen tournament. The committee should be ashamed.

    When they first announced the brackets and I saw three BigTen teams immediately fall into the East Region, I immediately thought we were in. I said to myself…’We must be in….Why else would the committee put three Big teams in one region?” The fix was on. BigTen vs. BigTen…vs BigTen.

  15. Few yrs back, IU fans were upset – not recruiting Indiana kids. Watched one team today you would have to go way down the bench to find a kid from the United States.

  16. I’ve always advocated Indiana and border states…..Crean almost completely ignored the state north of Indy. He eventually tapped into border states via desperate transfer moves which buffered the effects of so much rawness(A-Hope, East Coast trapeze acts) on a roster.
    Without Missouri(OG, Juwan), Illinois(Roth, Beilfeldt & Zeisloft) and Louisville(Remy)….it would have been very ugly.

    The major upside for Archie right now is the fact that Butler and ND have fallen off the big stage rather mightily …and quickly.

Comments are closed.