BOZICH | Indiana better, just not better than top-ranked Duke
Indiana has improved since the start of the college basketball season but not enough to beat top-ranked Duke.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Indiana shot the ball well. Not the way Steve Alford or Yogi Ferrell shot it. But well enough to make Norman Dale or Jimmy Chitwood smile.
The Hoosiers handled the ball like safe crackers. Just two turnovers in the first half, nine over 40 minutes. They celebrated 21 points from their bench.
Archie Miller’s team looked like a team that was good enough to beat Ohio State, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and certainly Indiana State.
But not Duke.
Not tall, long, relentless and top-ranked Duke.
Even with Indiana playing as well as the Hoosiers have played this season, IU lost to Duke, 91-81, Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Chances are on a playground, you'd pick the Duke guy over the Indiana guy at every position -- and it showed.
Indiana washed away every bit of a 10-point Duke lead in the second half and actually led 73-69 with about 6 ½ minutes to play. The 17,222 folks wedged into Assembly Hall started to believe that Duke was primed to become the eighth consecutive visiting team ranked in the Top 4 to lose in Bloomington.
But this looks like Mike Krzyzewski’s most talented squad since his 2015 NCAA champions. The Blue Devils had too much size, size they used to overwhelm Indiana for a dozen offensive rebounds.
Duke’s two biggest players – freshmen Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter – combined for 41 points and 22 rebounds. The Hoosiers could not keep that pair away from the rim, at least not without fouling them. They made 17 of 24 shots, many of them dunks or offensive putbacks.
Grayson Allen did nothing more obnoxious than make 7 of 12 shots and score 21 points. He played all 40 minutes.
Indiana got solid games from Robert Johnson, Juwan Morgan, Collin Hartman and De’Ron Davis, who all scored at least 11 points. The Hoosiers showed more tenacity and poise than they showed in their first three games of the season. They look as if they understand than Miller will reward guys who defend and take care of the basketball with more playing time.
But Indiana missed too many free throws (10 of 26). The Hoosiers were unable to stop the Blue Devils around the rim, letting the visitors make 30 of their 43 two-point field goal attempts. They had several empty possessions in the final five minutes.
Duke scored (10 points) on its first four possessions of the second half, increasing its field goal percentage to nearly 60 percent before Miller howled for timeout. He tried to reset his team’s mindset and defensive intensity after Duke spurted to a 52-42 lead.
It worked. Indiana immediately cut seven points off the deficit. In fact, the Hoosiers went ahead 61-59 with 12:17 to play.
But the Hoosiers could not stay ahead. Nobody has stayed ahead of Duke this season as the Blue Devils improved to 9-0 with victories over Michigan State, Texas and Florida. Indiana slipped to 4-3 but the Hoosiers played considerably better, smarter and tougher than they played in their earlier losses to Indiana State and Seton Hall.
The Blue Devils were who America thinks they are – the nation’s top-ranked team, a group that starts five 5-star recruits, a group that already has four guys featured as first-round pick in most 2018 NBA mock drafts.
Bagley is a safe pick to be the first pick in the draft. Carter will be taken in the first 10 selections. Allen will follow in the next 10 picks, especially if he stops tripping opposing players.
Indiana appeared better than who America thinks they are – a team that started three 3-star recruits and is projected to finish as low as 12th in the Big Ten this season (especially after losing to 3-5 Indiana State by 21 points in IU’s season opener).
Ken Pomeroy projects that Indiana will win one of its next four games. Here is why:
The Hoosiers actually begin conference play Saturday at Michigan. They return to Bloomington for another league game Monday night against Iowa. Then comes the Dec. 9 visit to Louisville, followed by a game with unbeaten Notre Dame, winners of the Maui Invitational, on Dec. 16 in Indianapolis.
Iowa is the only opponent Indiana has better than 23 percent chance of defeating, according to Pomeroy.
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