BOZICH | After beating Iowa, is Indiana ready for Louisville? It's complicated
Is Archie Miller's Indiana basketball team ready for its trip to Louisville Saturday afternoon? The Hoosiers will have to play more consistently than they played while beating Iowa Monday.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – When you lose a game to Indiana State, 90-69, you need to win a game that makes the world forget that you lost to a sagging mid-major program by 21 points. You’re advised to win a couple.
Like beating Iowa in your first Big Ten home game.
Like beating Louisville Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
Like beating Notre Dame in Indianapolis the following Saturday.
That is where the Indiana University basketball program found itself this week, trying to regroup and re-establish itself under Archie Miller, the Hoosiers’ first-year coach.
Trying to secure a victory to wash away that sting from the bizarre Indiana State defeat. Sitting at 4-4 after back-to-back losses by double figures to Duke and Michigan.
On Monday night, Indiana got something that will result in a game ball for Miller’s trophy case. They defeated Iowa, 77-64, in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in front of 17,222 observers, including seven members of IU’s 1992 NCAA Final Four team.
Mark it down as Miller’s first Big Ten win. Mark it down as the Hoosiers’ first victory over a Top 100 opponent (Iowa is ranked 74th in Ken Pomeroy’s computer power ratings and 82nd by Jeff Sagarin) this season.
Mark it down as progress for an Indiana team that is still trying to adjust from Tom Crean’s emphasis on scoring and a speedy pace to Miller’s preferred focus on defense and lack of turnovers. They limited the Hawkeyes to .877 points per possession. They turned the ball over only 10 times. They advance 10 spots, from 89 to 79, in Pomeroy's rankings (but still remain 52 spots behind U of L).
This victory won’t resonate the way victories over Duke or Seton Hall would have, especially after the Hoosiers spit out all but one point of a 15-point halftime lead, greatly annoying Miller.
But it was a considerable upgrade from trailing Indiana State by 30 on opening night less than a month ago.
The presence of Collin Hartman, the team’s senior forward, changed things. Credit him with 13 points, his season best, in 20 minutes. Hartman made three of the eight shots the Hoosiers converted from distance. He played like a guy who has worked in this program for five seasons, not turning the ball over a single time.
This is a player who has recovered from two knee surgeries in the last 3 ½ years as well as a groin injury a week before the season started. Before Hartman answered a question about his ability to play 20 minutes in each of the Hoosiers’ last two games, he tapped on the wooden table in front of him.
“I’ve been doing my rehab and pre-hab so nothing else happens,” Hartman said. “It’s fun because I’m getting more playing time and staying healthy.”
Do not overlook the consistent improvement of Juwan Morgan, Miller’s junior forward. Morgan had 15 points and 10 boards, his second double-double in his last six games as well as the fourth time he has scored at least 15 this season.
Credit Morgan with 17.2 points per game in the Hoosiers’ last half-dozen games. Four offensive rebounds lifted his offensive performance.
“I know (his teammates) think that every shot is going in but I always think it’s a miss,” Morgan said. “It creates opportunities for me.”
“He brings his lunch pail every day that he’s been here,” Miller said. “He’s been a key for us in terms of our stability.”
Center De’Ron Davis scored 13 while guard Devonte Green had a dozen off the bench.
The Hoosiers won this one because of two thunderous spurts – the first a 17-1 run midway through the first half, the second a punishing 18-0 push in the second half (after Iowa trailed only 53-50).
I did not major in math but I believe during those two stretches Indiana outscored the Hawkeyes 35-1. You don’t have to be John Wooden to know that is good.
It was the stretches outside of those spurts where the Hoosiers did not make their fifth victory seem like a 13-point win.
Still, they did not make it easy. This team is not ready for that. Their defensive effort sagged at the beginning of the second half and the Hawkeyes hit three shots from distance in the first three minutes of the second half. Iowa cut Indiana’s 41-26 halftime advantage to 43-37. The Hawkeyes were not finished.
In fact, as Indiana missed its first nine shots in the second half, Iowa outscored the home team 16-2 in the first 4:19. Miller looked so perturbed that I was convinced he was going to flip his sport coat into the bleachers, check himself into the game and take the assignment of guarding Brady Ellingson, the Iowa guard burning the IU with jump shot after jump shot.
“In the first half we played hard,” Hartman said. “Then because we had the lead we relaxed. We had that little lull there and we came in and changed our mindset after the timeout and got them back rolling.”
The evidence of the serious emphasis on defense that Miller has preached since arriving from Dayton on March 27 was there. Then it was gone. Then it was there. The Hawkeyes shot better from the three-point line (41.7 percent while making 10) than they did inside the arc (36.6 percent).
But instead of collapsing, Indiana eventually figured it out and pushed to a 22-point lead with about three minutes to play.
“I think it was a mindset,” Hartman said.
Iowa does not belong in the first tier of Big Ten teams with Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota. The Hawkeyes sit in the mosh pit of pretenders in the middle of the league. They’re 4-5 overall and 0-2 in the league after the defeat.
But Indiana had not beaten anybody better than the Hawkeyes this season. And they lost to Fran McCaffrey’s team during the regular season a year ago.
For the Hoosiers it’s on to Louisville Saturday at 2 p.m. for their first appearance at the KFC Yum! Center. In two road games, Miller said his team has played two “clunkers,” getting outscored by Seton Hall and Michigan by a combined 30 points.
“I know (Louisville) is very big and very talented,” Miller said. “The size of Louisville on the perimeter is as good as it’s going to get.”
One good half won’t be enough to beat the Cardinals – and through nine games this Indiana team has not shown it is ready to play much more than that.
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