BOZICH | Romeo Langford attacks for easy 19 as Indiana cruises
By Rick Bozich
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) — As openers go, it wasn’t Eric Gordon. But for Romeo Langford, it was close enough.
The Langford drives. The ability to get into the lane. Taunting defenders by changing speeds and direction. There were Eric Gordon stretches, minus the long-range shooting.
Of course, nobody in the history of Indiana basketball introduced himself with the gusto of Gordon. He put 33 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block on Chattanooga 11 seasons ago. There's a reason Gordon makes $13.5 million for the Houston Rockets. Langford looked like a guy who will be near that price range one day.
Isiah Thomas didn’t score 33 in his first game at Indiana. Cody Zeller had 16. Before Victor Oladipo became an NBA all-star, he scored five points in his first game for the Hoosiers. George McGinnis had 20 in his (sophomore) IU debut.
Langford did not get 33. Langford got 19 as Indiana crackled past Chicago State 104-55 Tuesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the Hoosiers’ season opener.
"I thought he got off to a really good start passing the ball, which helped our team," IU coach Archie Miller said.
It was an interesting 19 — 17 in the first half, two free throws in the second half of a game that was decided after less than 13 minutes. It was 19 points without the benefit of a three-point field goal. Langford scored his 19 while missing six of 11 free throws. He played about 26 minutes, while also contributing four rebounds and three assists.
"He's got all the tools he needs to go to the next level," Chicago State coach Lance Irvin said. "He is athletic, long, a good shooter."
Here is a statistic worth noting: Langford and teammate Justin Smith led Indiana by drawing seven fouls. Langford missed three shots from distance, but he did not settle for jumpers.
But get this: Langford did not get basket for the first 10 plus minutes of his college career, which is likely the longest Langford has played without a field goal since he was a fourth grade at Mt. Tabor Elementary in New Albany.
The first basket came on a contested 12 foot jump shot from the right baseline. Hand near his face, Path to the basket blocked. Stop. Plant. Jump. Quick release. Basket.
The first field goal quickly led to the second, then the third as well as the fourth and fifth.
Five baskets in three minutes and one second, a sparkling collection from the Romeo Langford Offensive Catalogue.
I asked Langford what happened?
"I guess that jumper," he said, before laughing.
"To see the ball go through the net, that's all I really need. I just need to see that first shot go down and it's all good for me from there."
The baseline jumper. Followed by finishing a fast break with a layup from the right side. Followed by a rebound of a Justin Smith miss. Followed with a layup after Langford scooped up a Chicago State turnover. Followed by another 14 footer in the lane.
Langford was stopped while attacking for his sixth straight field goal and went to the line. Made one free throw. Missed one.
Langford’s solo 11-point run helped the Hoosiers stretch their lead from 23-16 to 34-23.
Langford was one of four Hoosiers in double figures. Devonte Green had 15 points off the bench, but freshman Robert Phinisee looked like a more efficient point guard while directing the team and grabbing five steals in 28 minutes.
Evan Fitzner, a graduate transfer from Saint Mary's, showed his three-point stroke while scoring 14. Juwan Morgan, the team's top returning scorer, contributed nine points and eight boards. Al Durham and Jerome Hunter, two guys who will be in the rotation, sat with minor injuries.
But on opening night, the story was Langford, the first Mr. Basketball to play for the Hoosiers since Zeller made his debut seven years ago.
"Romeo was the beneficiary of some good advance passes, across the floor, up the floor and from that point forward, he's in his strength zone," Miller said.
"When he's in transition, heading to the basket, you saw a guy who was really efficient. (If) he makes a few free throws, probably looks almost like a flawless game for him offensively."
Langford looked like the guy that North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, UCLA, Vanderbilt and the rest of college basketball chased across Southern Indiana for the last four years.
"My job is to attack," Langford said. "And I was just attacking. And people were getting on me and left my teammates open. And I was just making the right basketball play."
Necessary disclaimer: Chicago State is easily the worst team that Miller’s squad will play this season.
The Cougars arrived at No. 344 on the list of 353 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s national preseason rankings. They arrived without their darker road uniforms because they did not arrive from the manufacturer before the team began its five-hour bus ride from Illinois. So the visitors wore light gray and Indiana wore red on its home court for the first time than anybody could remember.
Since June, Langford has worked with Clif Marshall, the director of athletic performance for the basketball program. It showed.
He showed the first-step quickness to flash past defenders to get to the rim, especially along the right side of the line. But his ability and speed are a greater asset on defense. Langford played defense with enthusiasm, containing dribblers while pressuring the ball. It wasn’t high school defense.
"Really, my trainers before I got here like in June and then also the preparation from the coaching staff from June all the way until the preseason," Langford said.
IU returns to this building Friday night to play Montana State. The serious basketball begins November 14 when Marquette visits.
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