Notebook: Upperclassmen lead the way in Indiana’s second win

  • 11/19/2017 10:58 pm in

Led by the upperclassmen duo of senior Robert Johnson and junior Juwan Morgan, Indiana used a strong second half to come away with a 70-53 victory over South Florida on Sunday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Even while Johnson struggled to find his shot throughout the first three games of the season, Archie Miller was effusive in his praise of the senior. During his radio show on Thursday night, Miller lauded Johnson for providing maximum effort and buying into his system, adding that his shot will find its rhythm in due time.

That time was Sunday.

In his 102nd career game and 92nd start in an Indiana uniform, Johnson turned in perhaps his most complete performance. The senior shined on both ends of the floor, pouring in 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-of-3 from three), grabbing four rebounds, dishing three assists and blocking two shots.

“Rob’s unbelievable,” Miller said after the game. “I couldn’t say one (bad) thing about Rob. His intentions as a player, as a leader, even coming off of Seton Hall in practice — vocal, getting on guys. He’s doing a great job.”

One of five seniors on the roster, Johnson has taken it upon himself to be a leader, both with his voice and his actions.

That’s why Miller opted to play Johnson for the duration of the final 10:14 of Sunday’s game. When Johnson re-entered for Curtis Jones at the 10:14 mark, Indiana was up just three. When the final buzzer sounded, the Hoosiers had ballooned that edge to 17.

During that stretch, Johnson accrued nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, grabbed three boards and recorded an assist. 24 seconds after Johnson’s only turnover of the final 10:14, he made up for it with a block on the other end.

“When things got stagnant, we’d see Rob just slice the defense and then get an easy layup. (It made us think) ‘We can do this.’ Rob’s killing it for us right now, we’ve just got to help him out,” Morgan said of Johnson’s leadership. “That’s what really ignited us right there. Rob needed help and couldn’t do it alone. As one piggybacked onto Rob, then another one came, then another. It was just a domino effect.”

While Johnson led the way in the backcourt, Morgan captained the frontcourt. The junior posted the second double-double of his career, ending the contest with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high four blocks. Although Morgan’s perimeter jumper is still a work in progress, his inside presence has grown leaps and bounds. Morgan tested the South Florida defense all night, drawing foul after foul and grabbing seven offensive boards.

“(Morgan) was fantastic,” Miller said. “It wasn’t just about shooting 3s; it was about playing hard. I thought he played hard on both ends of the floor. The offensive rebounding was an unbelievable effort. And then 10 free throw attempts kind of shows the aggressiveness that he played with tonight. And so just happy for him. I thought he played really well today.”

Other than Johnson and Morgan, the two other players that stood out for Indiana were sophomore De’Ron Davis and freshman Al Durham. Davis battled through foul trouble to record a 12-point, five rebound performance, while Durham continued to flourish at the lead guard. For the second consecutive game, Durham captained the offense for sustained periods and didn’t commit a single turnover. In the 31 minutes the freshman was on the floor, Indiana outscored South Florida by 24 points.

Miller’s first tech

The first technical foul called on Miller as the Hoosiers head coach came in interesting fashion.

Frustrated at his team’s inability to grab a defensive board with 2:04 remaining in the opening half, Miller grabbed a towel and smacked it across the scorer’s table.

The towel then appeared to slip from Miller’s grasp, sending both the towel and a play card onto the floor during live action.

Although Miller had not meant to garner a technical, the Assembly Hall crowd approved of his antics, boisterously cheering on Miller for sending a message to his team.

“I really didn’t want a technical foul,” Miller said. “I was clearly ticked off we didn’t get a loose ball rebound. But I’ll take that technical foul. At the end of the day, I never want to give the other team two points. And I didn’t say anything to the official. If I could have kept my play card and my towel off the floor, it probably would have helped the cause.”

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  • Knight To AM Light

    The progression continues. Good signs. It’s always good to see a team play better after half time. It was a tough start against a feisty mid-major. But it is really good to see them defend well in that second half. The offense will come.

    I liked the stat shown on the telecast. Archie’s teams Improved defensively in his tenure at Dayton. They were bad at first and slowly progressed. As we know, It’s going to take time, but they are already helping and communicating better than last year and are in decent position. Sometimes they are slow and will pay for that against better teams. But that should come in time as well.

    It’s just nice to see a semblance or at least appearance of sanity and technically sound basketball.

  • iubase

    Last year we were ranked in the top 5 and then imploded. This year we are starting slow but I definitely feel that this team will progress rather than regress. We may end up with a similar rating at the end of the year, but the foundation will be set and I anticipate consistent improvement over time. This would be the bar and Archie may overacheive.

  • Hoosier Hall

    We’ve got one more upperclassman to add to the mix and he (CH) is the ultimate glue guy and vocal leader for this team. Can’t wait till he’s fully healthy and we knock Duke on their a##!!! I know, I know… A guy can dream though, right?

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    quite a turnaround in that 2nd half. seemingly at the flick of a switch the effort and tenacity just took off. our shots started falling, theirs were being blocked, it was really fun to watch! so maybe last night we saw this team mature, evolve, and turn a big corner. next step, figure out how to flip that switch a bit earlier

  • IdahoHoosier

    Happy to hear Archie say “at the end of the day I don’t want to give the other team 2 points”. I’m a firm believer that is all a technical foul does. Sure they happen once in awhile in a moment of passion and you live with it, but I don’t think there is any strategy or usefulness in the coach getting a technical and it sounds like Archie concurs.

  • AndyCapp

    I respectfully disagree that a technical has no strategic or useful value. Doing it with a purpose (eg. team motivation, killing other teams momentum, etc.) rather than just losing your s**t is the key. Giving up two points always sucks. But if it lights a fire under the crowd and team and they positively feed off of it then it is probably worth it.

  • AndyCapp

    I am looking for sustained effort through an entire 40 minutes but I agree the 2nd half was much, much better. Still too many sloppy TO’s and silly fouls by key players, not going to mention anyone by name, but the D was really in sync in the 2nd half leading to some good O.

  • AndyCapp

    And I’m not at all missing the 100 point blowouts with which we front-loaded the schedule over the past couple of years. I would rather gauge where we are playing good fundamental basketball then pasting it on cupcakes and flaming it out late season.

  • Ole Man

    As noted in one of the game stories, the team woke up at that point. From then on they outplayed SF.
    I’m just as firm a believer that a technical foul in the right circumstances can be and often is an effective tool in the hands of the right coach — Knight and Izzo being two prime examples.
    Crean, love him or not, let IU get run all over in that arena.

  • IdahoHoosier

    That seems to be the prevalent thought, but from Archie’s own comment it appears he may not necessarily buy into that either. As a fan or a player I’ve never been encouraged to see my coach get a tech. Not to mention if a coach provoked pre-meditated techs, the effectiveness would be undermined if the players knew it was just a tactic rather than actual passion. And how does giving the opponent 2 free points and the ball kill their momentum?? Agree to disagree I guess.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Agreed. I would say the SOS isn’t THAT much better yet. But I think we are trending toward tougher competition so that is good!

  • Doug Wilson

    In the Marine Corps, we believed to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower. Morgan motivated me with his comment. He seen what Rob did, so Morgs went with him. Morgan was doing the little things, and that lead to big things. This team is ahead of schedule. Bad news for Duke! Indiana will have nothing to loose going into that game… Two more winnable games for this team to get quicker in the half court Motion Offence. “Get some” boys!

  • Doug Wilson

    Nothing to loose in making that comment.

  • Doug Wilson

    When is ol’ Collins do back?

  • Doug Wilson

    Well, if he is getting one in the heat of passion. IU fans in attendence should rally around Archie. If he is doing it to make it about himself, and it cost the team two points. I am sure Archie would apologize. However, it sounds like the first situation occurred… Archie! The man ya replaced said it best. History! Tradition! Welcome to the unofficial, RMK Court’. I’m impressed myself!