The Indiana Hoosiers struggled in the early parts of both halves on Friday night against the Arkansas State Red Wolves and ultimately found themselves in a 3-point dogfight with nine minutes to play in the contest. But behind strong finishes from Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis, the Hoosiers were able to pull away and notch an 87-70 victory over the Red Wolves.
Here are three things that stood out on Friday night:
Juwan Morgan’s career night. Morgan scored 28 points on nine-of-11 shooting, a career-high for the junior forward. He also made all 10 of his free throw attempts and added eight rebounds, all making for an efficient 33 minutes on the floor. If he can stay healthy for the first time since coming to Bloomington, Morgan has all the pieces necessary for a breakout year. He has shown patience offensively, tenacity on the glass, and has helped Davis establish a defensive presence on the inside - he has seven blocks through the first five games. It is not hard to imagine a situation where, later in the season, as goes Morgan, so go the Hoosiers.
Rob Johnson is frustrating to watch. Johnson has struggled this season, just as he did throughout most of last year. Last night was no different. He was just four-of-12 from the floor, including one-of-six behind the arc. Though he’s tied with Morgan for the team lead in PPG with 12.8, he’s taken 18 more shots to get there. Hoosier fans simply expect more out of the senior guard. At the end of his freshman season, it was hard not to be excited about the trajectory his career appeared to be on. But nearly three years later, Johnson either hasn’t developed or can’t handle being the leader. If the latter is the problem, perhaps Collin Hartman’s return (if we ever get to see it) will help. But if it’s the former, we may be watching one of the most frustrating under-achievements for any Indiana player in quite some time.
Al Durham is carving out a role much earlier than expected. With Johnson, Morgan, Davis, Hartman, Josh Newkirk, Devonte Green, Freddie McSwain, and Curtis Jones all returning, it wasn’t clear at the beginning of the season how Durham and Justin Smith would fit into the rotation. What seemed obvious was that a veteran-laden group like that one - yes, there are some younger guys in Green, McSwain, Davis, and Jones, but three of them saw considerable playing time last season - wouldn’t leave a ton of room for freshmen to have big impacts until they settled into the season. Durham and Smith both made enough of an impact in the first couple games to start at Seton Hall, but Durham seems to be establishing himself as a contributor. Last night, Durham played more minutes than any Hoosier but Morgan and Johnson and gave Indiana seven points, three rebounds, and three assists as well as one block and one steal. He is averaging nearly 10 PPG and what should delight most Indiana supporters is that he has just two turnovers through five games. Expect more Durham on Friday against Eastern Michigan, but we’ll really find out what his role is in the five games to follow: Duke, Michigan, Iowa, Notre Dame, and Louisville.