BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) — The Indiana basketball coach that people came to Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall talking about Saturday was Bob Knight.
The IU coach they left talking about was Archie Miller. No offense to Knight and his Hall of Fame career, but that is the way it needs to be. Miller time -- and time for Miller to direct Indiana to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his three seasons.
Maybe Miller saved the Hoosiers’ season by changing the Hoosiers' starting lineup, ripping his team for its lackluster effort against Northwestern and by demanding that his guys dribble less and pass more.
It certainly appeared that way, at least in stretches, as Indiana dispatched Ohio State, 66-54.
Bob Knight no-showed, attending a game at Marian University in Indianapolis instead. The Indiana defense did show up. In fact, the defense actually hung around for 40 minutes, limiting the Buckeyes to their second-lowest point total this season.
The defense was more engaged. Ohio State made less than a third of its shots. The dribbling was diminished. The effort was dialed up. The ball moved.
The free throw shooting (20-36) was still problematic. If Indiana had made a reasonable percentage, this game would have been a blowout.
Miller still has work to do, coaching consistency into this team. But the Hoosiers looked more like the team that beat Florida State than the one that nearly lost to Nebraska and Northwestern.
Miller promised change. He delivered, changing his opening lineup.
Rob Phinisee started and quickly made three shots from distance on his way to a 13-point game. He looked like the guy who ran this team last season.
"I just told him to go out and do what you do," Miller said. "He's a key deal (for IU) in the Big Ten."
"He's a warrior, and he's stuck with it through the hard times," Smith said about Phinisee.
"He was due for one of these games. He came out hot, and that really set the tone for the rest of the team going forward during the game. He's a key part of the team, and we're glad that he's playing well again."
Devonte Green embraced his role as a substitute, scoring 19 points. This was three days after Miller left Green on the bench late in the second half when the Hoosiers rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat Northwestern.
"When he plays well, we're a different team," Miller said.
That is correct. Green's two best games have been against Florida State and No. 11 Ohio State, the Hoosiers' two most compelling victories. The Seminoles were ranked 17th when IU beat them.
"He can score, pass and defend," IU forward Justin Smith said. "I mean, he's a very, very important part of our team. We need him in these big games and he showed up."
Make the Hoosiers 13-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. A few weeks ago after the Buckeyes beat Kentucky in Las Vegas, Ohio State was in line to become the top-ranked team in the nation. Now, the Buckeyes have lost four straight. They are 11-5 and 1-4 in the Big Ten.
The week started with scalpers asking as much as $500 for a lower arena ticket because word percolated that Knight was going to visit Assembly Hall for the first time since he was fired in 2000. Didn't happen. One of Knight's former IU players said he was certain his coach would attend one of the final seven home games.
The week ended with the Hoosiers delivering their second victory over a top-20 team this season -- after they flirted with losing to Northwestern Wednesday.
The Grumble Factor has been high and escalating about IU basketball. No surprise. Three straight sideline seats outside the NCAA Tournament. They slipped from 8-0 to 12-3. They rank 348th in the nation in percentage of points scored with the three-point shot, which is not surprising considering Miller’s team has made barely 30 percent of its attempts from distance.
Three consecutive games with scoring droughts of seven minutes or more. A blown victory against Arkansas. An abominable effort at Maryland (similar to an earlier atrocious effort at Wisconsin). Making a 5-8 Northwestern team look like a Final Four contender.
Which Indiana team would show up against the Buckeyes?
The one that defeated Florida State by 16 points and handled a solid Louisiana Tech squad? Or the one that was fortunate to wiggle away from Nebraska and Northwestern in this building?
It was both, but more good Indiana than erratic Indiana.
Before the game Miller said he would not play guys that dribbled too much and passed too little. He also said that he intended to cut his rotation. Instead of playing 11 guys, he might play eight.
He did. And he did not.
Phinisee replaced Green in the backcourt. The ball moved. Phinisee made his first three shots from distance. Indiana surged to a 25-16 lead. The crowd, which included more than three dozen former IU players, many from the Knight Era, howled in appreciation.
And then …
… and then Indiana endured one of those confounding stretches that explain why the Hoosiers lost three of its last five games. Miller’s team did not make a field goal for the final 9:57 of the first half or the first 1:27 of the second half.
… and then good Indiana returned. The Hoosiers scored the first eight points of the second half and forced Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann to ask for a timeout.
But even though the Hoosiers stopped the Buckeyes without a field goal for more than the first six minutes of the second half, they were unable to build any separation from Ohio State, not beyond a 39-34 lead.
The Buckeyes steadied and rallied. The Hoosiers steadied and surged to a 57-46 lead with less than six minutes to play.
On a day that Indiana missed 14 of its first 25 free throws, the Hoosiers were going to have to grind to the finish line. Credit Green. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half. Not bad for a guy Miller did not want on the floor in the second half against Northwestern.
"The game never changes," Green said. "I mean, some days it's good and some days it's bad. You've just got to bounce back from the bad ones."
This was a bounce back for Green and for Indiana — and now the Hoosiers prepare for pair of road games (Rutgers and Nebraska) this week.
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