Hoosiers best No. 9 PSU, 68-60

In an Indiana basketball world where every loss beckons fears of an apocalypse on social media, the Hoosiers were conjuring horrible prophesies early in Sunday’s second half.

Penn State was on a 30-5 run. IU’s defense, once stingy, had turned to dust. IU’s offense, once rolling in transition, had come to a near-halt.

The game was slipping away, it seemed. The afternoon was heading toward total collapse. Doom was on the horizon.

But the Hoosiers didn’t believe that. As junior Justin Smith said after the game, he turned off all notifications from his social media accounts before the season started. When a big lead inverted into a deficit — the ultimate encapsulation of the Hoosiers’ up-and-down season — panicked tweets weren’t reaching Smith’s timeline.

Instead, in a 68-60 win over No. 9 Penn State, the 6-foot-7 forward concerned himself with pulling down six second-half rebounds. He got in a defensive stance and mirrored Nittany Lions star Lamar Stevens, turning the Hoosiers’ nose back to the grindstone that got them ahead in the first place.

“We lose a couple in a row and everybody counts us out, everybody wants to freak out. But we never wavered,” Smith said. “This is a tough league. All the teams are good, pretty much. And you know they’re going to get you a couple times. But it’s always how you bounce back.”

Following a four-game losing streak, the Hoosiers (18-9, 8-8 Big Ten) have now won three out of their last four. They have five wins over ranked teams at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. They are one step closer to getting into the NCAA tournament for the first time in Archie Miller’s tenure.

It wasn’t always pretty. Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis led the way with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but it was on a 6-of-17 shooting effort. The Lions’ post defenders were so physical, Miller compared them to bouncers at a club.

“Those dudes were physical and they’re bullies,” Miller said.

But when the Hoosiers fell behind 48-42 with just over a dozen minutes left, IU found its own tough guys. Sophomore Race Thompson was one, scoring eight points and helping the Hoosiers win their share of 50-50 plays.

IU’s own 13-0 rally was sparked by a key 3 from Jerome Hunter — his only points of the day — and it was capped by an emphatic dunk from Jackson-Davis, who just barely latched onto the rim through contact underneath.

“Coach told me to keep being aggressive,” Jackson-Davis said. “If your coach has confidence in you, that’s all you need, especially for me. I kept going up strong. And some didn’t fall, but I’m going to keep having confidence and keep going up as hard as I can.”

As a team, the Hoosiers hit just 33 percent from the field in the second half. But they locked down on the defensive end, recovering from a stretch where PSU hit 10 of its first 12 shots coming out of the locker room. Stevens, who finished with a game-high 29 points, bothered the Hoosiers most.

“First eight minutes of the second half, we were on our heels. We couldn’t stop the ball. We couldn’t guard the ball,” Miller said. “(Stevens) had a lot to do with it with his matchups and what he was doing with big-on-big switches and whatnot. Then we kind of got it calmed down a little bit.

“But defensively all week long, I thought we played as solid as we have defensively.”

It’s the defensive end that helped the Hoosiers pull out a much-needed road win at Minnesota. It was the key, again, as they got out to a big lead early on the Lions.

The spark was sophomore Rob Phinisee, who had four of his five steals in the first half. IU’s advantage reached as many as 19 points, 37-18, after senior Devonte Green hit a trio of 3s in a two-minute span.

But then IU went cold. The defense faltered.

Still, the mistakes weren’t fatal and the Hoosiers’ focus was resolute.

“I think our team, in general, hasn’t worried, definitely has had a blind eye to ‘Hey, we played good, then we played bad.’ It hasn’t been ‘Oh, we played bad, let’s worry about that,'” Miller said. “It’s been let’s move on to the next one, let’s see if we can’t play better, which is why I think we’ve won three out of our last four.”

PSU (20-7, 10-6) became another notch on IU’s belt.

Moving forward, there are still more chances to pad the NCAA tournament resume. The Hoosiers head to the road to face Purdue and Illinois next. Then they finish with Minnesota and Wisconsin at home.

And it’s important the Hoosiers finish, as they did Sunday when everything seemed to be trending toward self-destruct.

“Keep the big picture in mind. Keep the game simple,” Miller said. “If you don’t win a four-minute round, like a fight, you’ve got to find a way to win as many rounds as you can. And you have to be the toughest team the longest. You have to be willing to fight it all the way until the ninth and the 10th round. You’ve got to be finishers.

“And we finished this week. We didn’t finish here a few other times, maybe last week, but we’ve been able to finish here the last couple games.”

23 comments

  1. Looks like we are gonna go dancing. Now, in this schizophrenic year, we can start hoping for seeding vs whether we’re going to make it or not.

    One thing I don’t understand is this stubbornness around starting Brunk. That lineup is the biggest minus on the team. Race needs to be in the starting lineup.

    Brunk can play solid minutes off of the bench, but that starting lineup is terrible. I don’t get it.

  2. ^ Today in itself was schizophrenic. Microcosm of the entire season. Flashes of brilliance. Bolts of darkness & cluelessness. Agree with you that Race should be starting & Brunk coming in to spell minutes.

    Depth & toughness won this game today. Throwing bodies & girth at their front line. It takes grit to be up 19, down 6 & come back with a “W”.

    Thank God for Race, an Archie recruit for the naysayers. He must’ve tipped 6 balls for key rebounds & possessions.

    There is so much potential on this team if they can just find a way to focus for 40 straight minutes.

    On to Purdue, who looks lost right now. We owe them & I hope we plan on delivering.

    1. This whole schizophrenia year/this game makes no sense to me. Head scratching so around. Maybe this is what a program in transition looks like?? I dunno. Everyone on the roster look like they had quit and were just going to wither and die a couple weeks ago. But no, gut check and we have gotten some great work, especially from the young guys.

      This team will never be confused for a big ten contender, but they are coming on and improving heading into the home stretch. They’re also healthy.

      I started having hope, think maybe we can serve Purdue some revenge medicine. Maybe a big ten tourney run. Then I remembered that nothing makes sense. Just enjoy the moment I guess!

  3. First half I was thinking who are those guys and what did they do with the Hoosier team. Second half, our guys were back, Did show some spunk to win that game.

  4. I concur completely. It’s now time to better the seeding opportunity. Not only do I like Race and Davis together but DD is really showing confidence on offense with how fast he can position for a quality shot. More Hunter!, but at the expense of whose minutes? He’s playing solid.

  5. Yeah Hunter is this guy I just want to keep seeing more of. I like that we’re actually in a plane where guys are improving throughout the year and are fighting for minutes.

    Davis has been just a pleasant surprise. I hope he stays hungry.

  6. All comments above are good ones and I also concur. DD referred to “in this schizophrenic year,” but this team is schizophrenic from game to game and half to half. Today was like watching two completely different teams who kept exchanging uniforms. One thing is for sure, you can’t relax watching this team play a Big Ten opponent.

    I think at least two more wins are essential for this team before the end of the Big Ten Tournament. Not only for better seeding in the NCAA tournament, but to make a statement to the College BB world that this program is making progress and is on the rise. If this IU team produces 20 or 21 wins before the dance, it will help Archie recruit another player for next season’s roster, but more importantly, it will make it much easier for him to sign a very strong 2021 class.

    I just wish that our bigs were better on offense around the rim. Good gracious they miss a lot of opportunities at what appear to be bunnies.

  7. NOT IN OUR HOUSE!

    I give one game ball to ‘thinkaboutit’ and one to Race Thompson. Maybe the rest of you are pretending you knew, but, I’ll be honest, I just never thought Race would be coming on this strong. If he keeps it up, things will keep looking up.

    The depth is coming together and I’m just hoping we stay healthy. We may be flying under the radar, but we’re the sort of team many will not want to face come tournament time.

    Depth is a bit of a liability until the latter parts of the season. Through much of the season chemistry suffered, roster power struggles and unfamiliarity caused roles to be in flux and in constant redefinition (especially when we had guys like Race and Jerome finally getting back to a semblance of their huge potential).

    But I noticed things changing….And they changed rather suddenly regarding the personality of the team. Sure, there are still ups and down …but there is more unity in purpose. There is far more collective contributions.
    A reporter throwing Green under the bus with an inappropriate demeaning posture/attitude added to the changes. Guys rallied behind Devonte and Green seems to be humbled by teammates who had his back. That’s a fantastic positive force moving forward.
    Now our depth is becoming more an asset. We have a Green who finally feels part of the family. We have Race and Jerome bringing inside and outside punch (along with very solid activity on the glass) . There is now a Nucleus of Purpose’…Thompson and Hunter have gained minutes and confidence. Race is really adding a presence on defense and on the boards. He is very, very active. He’s been a real difference-maker in the last two games.

    Outside shooting is improving as well…Strokes look more confident. Things are coming together at the right time. This would have been an easy game to cave in when it appeared all momentum had been stolen by Penn State. There is a change in the air….A team is forming and believing.

    Onward….One for all! All for one!

    1. H4H,

      I see the multiple reference to the “schizophrenic” nature of this team. I didn’t post yesterday after seeing these references because, just like everyone else, I was trying to figure out why this team would be this way. Then it hit me, and I think the astute posters to this board like you and many others will also agree. I asked myself a couple of important questions. First, “What is the strength of this team?” While many will think of the obvious surface items, it is something very basic. The strength of this team is the underclassmen, that is where you best players reside.

      What is the one thing we know about both the sophomore and freshmen classes? Neither class has much more experience than the other due to last year’s catastrophic health issues. CAM is virtually coaching 2 freshman classes at the same time!!! What is the one thing we know about most freshman basketball players? They will be erratic from one game to the next until they gain the needed maturity. There are exceptions of course, but when the strength of your team is basically 2 classes of freshman level experience, this is what you are going to get. IUBB really got hurt last year by the core of this year’s sophomore class losing so much time.

      I do want to say one thing, I have been probably too hard on DG and the upperclassmen. It is very difficult for a player to make a skill set which fits another system fit into a new system which is not a match. I give credit to all 4 of TLC’s remaining recruits for their willingness to stay and try to adapt to CAM’s system. I know it has been a big stretch for all 4 of them, but they have tried and that deserves our appreciation.

  8. If I could add a couple of things to tai’s thoughts; yes youth is maturing and earning more minutes directly attributed to their ever increasing positive results. That has developed the depth Coach Miller talked positively of being so important at the start of the season. Post play has really developed in directions expanded from just 1/2 dozen games ago as Miller has demanded more touches in the middle. And poof we’ve got 2 post players that really finesse and strong arm their will for quality shots. We knew Davis was good but he now has a greenlight on every touch and raised his level of dominance. Finally good health unleashed the scoring skills of DD on our B1G opponents. He confidently carries the charge in the post when Davis needs to set. Now Race is someone adding burden to opponents having to figure into their game plans. Now the guards are gelling. Interesting developments for post season play.

  9. A better measure of progress for IU men’s basketball will be road wins, big ten tournament, and March Madness wins, even for the remainder of this year.
    IU beat Penn State at IU who is having an excellent year for Penn State. This is a good win, only. Not a great win. This is not Penn State football. IU men’s basketball met IU men’s basketball what should be expectations and standards.

    1. t,
      I agree, it is just a win. However, under the current circumstances if IU can get into the dance, it will be measurable progress. We all need to realize last year was a lost year due to the terrible health situation with the team. The further we get away from last year, the clearer the damage of those problems will become. Race is just now coming back into form. Jerome is still working his way back and I honestly don’t believe Rob is fully recovered himself. Even though he came back quicker from the injury than Race, he is still not what he was progressing toward before the injury. Funny how concussions are, Race may have been out longer, but come back to form sooner while Rob wasn’t out as long but may take longer to come back to form.

      1. I agree that injury excuses are an “excuse” that can be used by any program…or any coach. I don’t think Archie has used them as an excuse…and that’s a major difference than how Archie’s predecessor approached everything.

        I think Archie is a “next man up” coach…That’s what I love about him. I love the fact that we (blogging experts…and know-it-all’s) are making the excuses and NOT Archie Miller.

        But our excuses are still a bit more justified because these aren’t injuries of an established coach who has had more than three or four years to build every seat on his bench. These were major setbacks because Archie was already dealing with a broken roster and a roster he did not have a total hand in working from top to bottom. So, from our standpoint as pundits and critical fans, I think the “injury excuse” is a bit more valid than if the excuse was being made two years from now (well into Archie’s top-to-bottom roster/team formation).

        But the real beauty is to have a coach who doesn’t seem to differentiate and act as if a loss of one specific player is anymore a blow to a roster than another. He’s a teacher first and foremost. He believes in potential of all capable to put on a jersey at this level of the game. He is a forward-thinking optimist….and a great ambassador for the college game because he holds each and every member of a team as a key component of the overall product. He simply seems to not care if you ever sniff the NBA….and thus “big excuses” don’t live in his world…Only big performances live in his world. Defense and team first. What a blessing to have a coach who keeps excuses where they belong- with us.

        1. H4H,
          I don’t to belabor this point too much but there are excuses and then there are “reasons.” The question was asked about the “schizophrenic” nature of this team. When the strength of your team is the underclassmen and the core sophomore class spent most of last year in the MASH unit, you have a bit of a problem, little game experience. When a great part of the season only about half of the scholly players were available to even practice, you have a bit of a problem. Try as can, walk-on’s are no substitute as a general rule for scholarship athletes, although with some of prior regime’s scholarship players that could be questionable.

          Yes, schools have injury problems, they may lose one or two, sometimes even three, but it is rare to see half the team knocked out for an extended period of time. Quite frankly, I can’t think of any school in the last 50 years encountering the woes IUBB dealt with last season. CAM to his credit never made it an excuse, but deny it as a reason, would be to deny reality. As I said, “there are excuses, and then there are ‘reasons.'”

          1. No disagreement here…If you took the time (it’s not necessary that you do so now) to read some of my posts on the “excuse” subject, I basically agree with your point of view.
            Simply constantly identifying “next level” guys…and “upside” guys …and “draft night prospects” is, in itself, a preemptive strike for an excuse because such an attitude makes a big effort to segregate and differentiate talent from chopped liver on the your team.

            Archie is a teacher first and foremost. He’s a “next man up” coach …He wants to maximize team effort and things begin from a different mindset when you don’t sell yourself as a coach ultimately concerned with getting individuals to a “next level.” The improvement of collective performance of a team every night is his “next level.”

            I agree with your “reasons” for inconsistencies (though, as my much too lengthy posts above expressed, I think basketball has always been a sport of swings, huge momentum shifts, “schizophrenic” unpredictability) and there are shifts in the macro sense adding to its “madness.”

            I also agree that it doesn’t appear to be in Archie Miller’s nature to use reasons as excuses.

  10. I would say Iowa, @ Minnesota and Penn State were all very good wins….Many people had already pulled the rug out from under this team. Our Hoosiers had obviously dialed out much of that outside noise. Their backs were to the wall and they have salvaged a season and have even found a bit of momentum. They have also found some bright spots in roster production from Race and Jerome.

    I really don’t know why we expect the old guard of college basketball to remain the old guard…To some extent, I suppose that is true but I see the Big Ten more fluid than ever. Minus Northwestern, there’s no nights off.

    Let’s not forget Rutgers was in the 1976 Final Four….Maryland was the team that denied us our 6th banner in 2003. Villanova is back on national stages again after long absences (Until 2005, they had a nearly twenty year drought between Sweet 16 appearances. 2009 was there first Final Four in 24 years).

    Things aren’t always as constant as we’d like to believe. Be thankful for our heyday and hope we can, somehow, have another.

    College basketball …and college basketball recruiting has changed enormously since our heyday. It’s of my humble opinion that it makes all of college basketball much more “schizophrenic.”
    It’s harder to get a disciplined 40 minutes out of any squad….Kids have their noggins in places of far more distractions than decades ago. The NBA has become a massive influence upon the game. Transfer rules…Grad transfer rules also play into fluidity.

    And isn’t the “schizophrenia” of the game sort of its beauty? Basketball has always been a game of runs and momentum shifts. Rarely is a game a steady flow of constant point margins between two teams. It’s a game where points can be lost in a hurry and gained in a hurry.
    Was #1 Duke schizophrenic in 2003 when giving up a 17 point lead and losing to Indiana after completely manhandling our Hoosiers in a first half regional semi in Lexington? Was Duke schizophrenic less than a week ago when manhandled by North Carolina State?

    Sure, there is still some “old guard”…but the sample set is shrinking. Basketball has always been a game of unpredictability and bipolar nature ..It’s a game when on any given night 5 very determined underdog gritty ballers can shock a world…It’s also a game when a great team can stumble on a sewing thread; an unexpected vulnerability or “fragile” weakness of a team thought unbreakable is exposed by what all would believe an over-matched opponent. It can happen on weeknight in February or the grandest of a March Madness stage.

    Conclusion: I think too much is made of the big point swings and scoring droughts. One man’s drought, is another man’s rain. One man’s drop on the teeter totter is another man’s lifting to the clouds.
    A roller coaster is the nature of the basketball game. It’s not a place for those who enjoy level train tracks. Thrills and spills is the nature of the beast. It’s part of its beautiful unpredictability ….It’s Milan vs. Muncie Central…It’s what happens when you place 10 scrambling bumble bees in a Mason jar and attempt to make any sense of it. Basketball is more fluid than ever because of off-the-charts athleticism, roster disruptions, higher demands on athletes creating more injuries, NBA influences and leveling of the recruiting field throughout basketball (unfortunately aided some by unscrupulous practices ..e.g. under-the-table money to recruits, lowering academic standards, ect)….Ranking services are doing the old legwork once fully done by head coaches and staff. It levels the playing field but also makes room for mistakes and too much trust being put in those services.

    And when playing fields/playing courts become more level, a game already having unpredictability and roller coaster swings in its nature (the influences of one or two guys out of 5-man roster getting hot has always had the potential to change things quickly), becomes increasingly “maddening” …and exciting.
    It’s call “madness” for a reason, gentleman. Though we have grown accustomed to referring to madness only occurring on the stages of March, basketball has always been a game of nightly madness. Always and for.ever a game of swings..and droughts..and momentum shifts.
    And one other very simple observation as to why the game often looks so schizophrenic? That damn rim still isn’t all that large….Sometimes, the more athletic the game becomes (along with faster pace, longer defenders, etc), that damn rim almost seems to shrink in size. Athleticism brings with it a lot of exhaustive efforts and expelled energy. More roster rotations to keep guys “fresh,” adds to disruption and “schizophrenia” on the floor.

    Personally, I love the madness. I love the theme park rides of basketball. I love the unpredictability and the butterflies in the stomach always prepared while still unprepared for what’s coming next.
    If you want more a controlled lab experiment, maybe enjoy some one on one!

  11. Wrong. I didn’t say it was just a win. I said it was a good win, only. That’s somewhat more than just a win. (though it could just be a play on words). Concussions are tricky example: (Grace Berger in IU Ladies basketball program as she hit shots last game well).
    However, it is what the team/program looks like and is going…the injury justifications and excuses only go so far. Does the last two games represent the beginning of upward swing for IU men’s basketball? I am leaning towards it could be.

  12. It was a good win because IU’s players did not fold up after losing the lead in the second half and had a reasonable number of turnovers (12). But I do not believe yesterday’s win is an indication that anything has changed going forward. IMO, IU won yesterday because PSU was terrible shooting 3-point shots (14%) and because one of their best players did not play. But after watching the game a second time (without emotions clouding my observations), I was reminded that IU is still terrible at the FT line and our Bigs, especially TJD, had a terrible day trying to make shots at the rim. Ironically, DD was reliable yesterday and gave us a lift, but Brunk went scoreless. I lost count of how many shots IU’s players missed or had blocked when they were near/under the rim. This team’s big guys just don’t do a good job scoring at the rim, and yesterday, TJD missed a lot of opportunities from in close (he must get stronger). Obviously, when opponents don’t fear your 3-point shooting and you don’t have players who can make mid-range shots, it’s even hard for the bigs to score when the defense surrounds a guy under the rim. I don’t see those issues getting fixed this season, but maybe the hustle and toughness displayed in yesterday’s game will convince a few quality offensive players to sign in the next two recruiting classes (Archie is still trying to find a fourth guy for the class of 2020).

    1. IU still trying to find guys to recruit. Not ENOUGH best players needed breaking walls down and aren’t running to IU.

  13. According to an article about a recent interview with Archie, he is still trying to sign a fourth player to the class of 2020. The talent pools he’s fishing in included Junior College Transfers, players who may de-committed from other schools due to coaching changes, Grad Transfers, players who may re-designate and graduate early, or International Players. He sounded confident that he will sign a fourth player for the 2020 class. If so, it should be interesting.

    My guess is that he’s trying to find another big. One way or the other, I hope the young man can make free throws.

  14. Don’t know what good free throw shooting does you when you’re found ineligible (Guy-Marc), found to be an overly hyped project (Hanner), found to have no game whatsoever belonging at this college level (all other A-Hope projects including Jobe, Muniru, Jurkin), or, are simply desperation moves, additional projects, used to fill the end of a bench (Priller and April).

    At least Archie “finds” guys who can actually contribute. I’m not concerned if a final scholarships for Archie takes a bit of time…or, even goes unfilled. It’s far better than the numerous scholarships flushed in the manner of all the aforementioned examples.

  15. And I don’t want to belabor the most recent past hoops prior to Archie, but to act as if this is the first sighting of “schizophrenic” tendencies in a Hoosier basketball team over the last 12 years is pretty rich. ‘Weaves to nowhere’ for five minutes after a favorable momentum shift were the order of the day….along with maddening turnovers…failures to inbound a ball…complete lapses in defense….cue cards…just to name a few ‘institutional worthy’ mental disorders of a basketball team.

    Think I’ll still take a certain amount of schizophrenic hoops and mood swings over the never-ending sideline shock treatments of clueless patient therapy causing a team to simply play in a constant haze of confusion. And once we got to the biggest stages, there seemed to be no solution to the instability as the patient withdrew into cautiousness paired with fragile confidence. Dare I say “straitjacketed” in confusion because of zero sideline guidance from the physician in charge?

  16. While some children with Asperger Syndrome may have social skills that appear normal, others will not. They may exhibit odd body language, speak in a monotone voice, lack the ability to recognize humor or have problems with non-verbal communication skills. Because of these characteristics, they may be socially shunned by other children and be perceived as odd or weird.

    Some children with Asperger Syndrome have motor delay problems that prevent activities like riding a bicycle, climbing or playing. In some cases a child may appear to have clumsiness and awkwardness in doing normal activities like walking and running. Some children also have repetitive behaviors such as hand clapping, twisting or twirling (courtesy: Special Learning, Inc).

    Didn’t somebody on Scoop recently add a post suggesting Archie displays autistic tendencies…or signs of Asperger Syndrome? It’s odd because when you do a bit of studying the symptoms/signs, I feel it sounds much more like his predecessor’s tendencies.

    Archie presents a nice sense of humor and seems to really communicate naturally with Don Fischer in the coach’s show(with Don and with the audience). Contrast that to his predecessor who always seemed rather scripted, cold and distant from the podium or in interviews….Then add in all the repetitive habits?

    I only returned to this topic of autism because the “schizophrenic” labels of our team reminded me of how mental diseases/inherited tendencies has been thrown around on this website rather carelessly.

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