Notebook: Hoosiers learning to win ugly in Big Ten play

  • 01/10/2018 8:01 am in

In the Big Ten, a win is a win, no matter how ugly. That’s what Archie Miller’s Hoosiers are learning.

Tuesday night marked the second straight imperfect conference win for Indiana, as the Hoosiers (10-7, 3-2 Big Ten) outlasted Penn State, 74-70.

For the third consecutive game, Indiana’s opponent came into their matchup wounded. This time, the starter missing from the lineup was Penn State junior forward Josh Reaves. Not only is Reaves one of the Nittany Lions (12-6, 3-2) most efficient scorers, but he’s also ranked in the top-20 nationally in steal percentage (4.5).

“We were definitely a little out-of-sync. I think that was noticeable,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said of having to play without Reaves, “(Reaves) just brings the energy, just brings juice. Hopefully, we’ll have him back Friday.”

The win came despite Indiana shooting just 22 percent on 3s (6-of-27) and only recording one block on the other end.

There were also several dumbfounding moments, like the 10-second backcourt violation, questionable shot selection and two missed dunks. But for the second game in a row, Indiana overcame their flaws to win ugly.

In most facets, Indiana was the superior squad. The Hoosiers won the battle on the offensive boards 12-5, outscored Penn State’s bench 25-1, nailed over 80 percent of their foul shots and turned it over only nine times.

Morgan remains consistent

Throughout Indiana’s roller-coaster season, one thing has remained consistent: Juwan Morgan.

The junior has easily had the best year of his career, earning Big Ten player of the week honors in December after IU’s win over Notre Dame and out-willing opponents. Morgan’s stellar campaign continued on Tuesday, as he recorded his second consecutive double-double, accruing 21 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.

An unexpected addition to Morgan’s game as of late has been his ability to hit three-pointers. Just 18 percent (2-of-17) from three in the first 15 games of the season, Morgan has shot 56 percent (5-of-9) from long range in the last two contests.

Morgan’s improved three-point shooting has forced defenses to guard him closely on the perimeter, allowing him more space to drive inside. This was the case with four minutes remaining in Tuesday’s game, when Morgan blew by Penn State’s Mike Watkins and drove into the lane for a three-point play.

“(Watkins) had to respect that I could hit that shot and he had to close out,” Morgan said. “When he left his feet I had an open drive lane to take it the way I did or pass it to an open teammate.”

Newkirk’s bounce-back night

After failing to score for just the third time all season in the win at Minnesota, senior guard Josh Newkirk bounced back, having one of his best games in his Hoosier career on Tuesday.

In 30 minutes, Newkirk collected 16 points and added four assists without turning the ball over. He also went 7-of-8 from the free throw line, including four straight makes in the final 30 seconds to put the game away.

“(Newkirk is) a great teammate,” Miller said. “Eventually, good things happen to guys like him who just stay with it every day.”

McRoberts ‘winning’ edge

Junior walk-on Zach McRoberts hasn’t scored in his three appearances since Big Ten play resumed, but he’s done just about everything else.

Indiana’s glue guy was at it again on Tuesday, doing all the little things to help lead his team to victory. Although McRoberts was scoreless in 26 minutes, he contributed with six rebounds, three assists and three steals before fouling out in the final minute of the game.

“(McRoberts) just plays within himself and gives everything he has,” senior Robert Johnson said. “He’s been huge for us, especially since he’s been starting.”

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  • Ole Man

    I thought the win was beautiful! LOL! As said, a win is a win.
    IU played good D!
    They clawed and scratched out O against the 12th ranked D in the nation.
    IU didn’t simply “outlast” PSU. As noted, they actually dominated them in a couple of key areas. And you never felt like “Uh oh”, PSU is going on a major run to put them away.
    One last thought. PSU was wounded. So is IU!
    This team is being to demo grit and determination.
    That’s a winning combination.
    Go Hoosiers!

  • Oldman

    with the in depth analysis of a former AAU coach… “a win is a win is a win”

  • TomJameson

    Great article Josh, thanks. I would like to point out, like Ole Man said, IU has been “wounded” the past two games as well, especially against Minn. But we are winning without a starter and key player in De’Ron. Also, Collin was missing in the Minn game, and appears to still be hurt enough to have to wear a shoulder brace. Our lack of depth in most all positions should be considered. Al-in-all, I’m really proud of this team for their grit. Two of their best, and most complete defensive games, of the year … and back-to-back. That’s very encouraging.

    I know you respect all that, Josh. Not throwing darts here, just pointing out that pretty hurt too, and doing well in spite of it.

  • N71

    A win is always great but most encouraging was Devonte and his play. He’s been the last key guy to come around, on top of that he has elite abilities and if he gets going can take us into another category as a team.

  • Jethro Jones

    i love that a new coach/system gave ZM an opportunity to flourish

  • Arch Puddington

    What I would add — and this is admittedly from the woulda/coulda category — if we had hit 10 of our 27 threes, which is just 37%, we win that game by double digits in a snoozer. Obviously we *didn’t* hit that many, and aren’t likely to in the future. We just aren’t a good shooting team. But I think there is plenty of evidence that the foundational pieces are increasingly solid. Our Kenpom defensive rating has improved by roughly 40 spots over the last few weeks, and even if we aren’t good enough to hit the shots we get, the fact that we are running a coherent offense that produces open looks is encouraging. I’ve said it before, and I think you agree: Archie’s program is solid. Lots of growth to show between here and where we want to be, but I think we’ve seen a good bit of growth already. Given the right players and enough time to really establish his program, and I think the discussion surrounding the Hoosiers will change significantly.

  • adam

    a few notes:

    im not sure whether the timing is just a coincidence or de’ron being out makes a big difference, but the guys are really starting to look much more comfortable with the pack line defense.

    opponents being guarded by zach mcroberts look visibly annoyed 90% of the time and its hilarious.

    devonte still has all the potential in the world. when he plays within the offense he can really make things happen. when he forgets to do that we get another 17 foot jumpshot with 20 seconds on the shot clock.

    Juwan is a beast.

    if newkirk and rob could both put it together at the same time life would get so much easier.

  • TomJameson

    The same could almost be said about making layups and dunks.

  • inLinE6

    I know Morgan’s 3pt shots are better than the stats shows. From what I heard, he improved his shooting in the off season, and was light-out from 3 point line at Adidas Nations. Not sure why he regressed a bit but glad he’s gaining confidence when it starts to matter more.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i’m hesitant to attribute losing D’RD to what is hopefully developing into a major step forward for this team. however, you can’t deny the lineups CM is putting on the floor look to have darn good chemistry. it’s largely because ZMcR is getting more minutes, imho. i’ve never been one to give a whole lot of credit to ‘intangibles’ type players having a major impact, but there’s no denying it with this kid. he makes life easier for the rest of the team, and i think he’s inspired them to play harder. and of course, JM playing like an absolute beast don’t hurt neither!

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    indirectly related question, how the heck does ZMcR not have a scholly at this point? or does he?

  • VAHoosier

    I think he does not, and I think it is because there is no scholarship available. Will be interesting to see if the coaching staff tries to get him on scholarship next year.

  • pbhuff

    Correct, and even though Curtis Jones left, you can only give a scholarship slot to one person per year, even if they don’t use it for the full year

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    there is now that cujo is gone. don’t think there’s anything stopping them from using it. didn’t the same scUM do the same thing for dakich’s kid last year?

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    ohk, so scUM must’ve had an available scholly at the beginning of last season? and just didn’t use it right away? i have no idea how the rules work

  • VAHoosier

    Yeah, see pbhuff’s reply. I don’t know anything about it personally, but many here have said that they cannot use Jones’ scholarship for McRoberts.

  • VAHoosier

    I personally think it is probably more than coincidence. DeRon is a great player, but is somewhat slow-footed for what Archie needs in his defense. DeRon was consistently getting killed on pick-and-pops by bigs who can play on the perimeter (which is most bigs, nowadays).

  • Hoosierkamp

    You cant offer scholly mid-season I believe. And next year, they may need it

  • Hoosierkamp

    The job that CH did on Lamar Stevens in the second half when he was in there was awesome. Such a craft vet. He was giving up a lot of athleticism too, but he stayed in front and played well

  • Joshua Margolis

    IU certainly hurt too, but they have benefitted from late scratches from opponents each of last three games. Only late scratch from IU was Hartman on Saturday. To Indiana’s credit, they’ve taken advantage

  • Rob

    Miller showing what good coaching can do.
    I’m glad Crean and his ineffective style of coaching, are long gone.
    I.U basketball is gonna be relevant again.

  • TomJameson

    I hear you Joshua, but I’m just not as convinced that a late scratch would make more difference than losing your only “true” big man. People say De’Ron wasn’t that good, but I think he was ranked in the top 5 of a few important stats.

  • InTheMtns

    “opponents being guarded by zach mcroberts look visibly annoyed 90% of the time and its hilarious.”

    I noticed that in the last two games – they really DO look annoyed. And at least one time, an expression of “who IS this guy” creeps across on their face. It is hilarious, but the most fun thing for me is seeing how much Zach seems to enjoy annoying them.

  • David Macer

    Scholly’s are only offered at beginning of season and cannot be transferred. CuJo’s cannot be moved until next year.

  • bfdm

    Unfortunately, ugly basketball is neither fun to watch nor helpful for winning.

  • bfdm

    because he still plays like a walkon