For the second consecutive game against Notre Dame, Indiana cashed in on a huge comeback on Saturday and secured the first résumé-building win of the season, toppling the Irish 80-77 in overtime. After falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half, and as many as 13 in the second half after having closed the gap to one, the Hoosiers outscored Notre Dame 12-4 in the final 4-plus minutes of the second half to send the game to overtime. Finally, in the closing seconds of overtime, the Hoosiers used a 4-point possession and a stop on defense to notch a huge, neutral-court win.
Here are three things that stood out on Saturday:
1. Shooting back? At the end of the first half, Indiana was 2-for-11 from behind the arc on Saturday, which had their season-long 3PT% at 31.4%. While they are still under 33% for the season, which is worse even than the 6-25 Hoosiers from Tom Crean’s first season in Bloomington, Indiana went 6-for-10 from deep in the second half and overtime, with Rob Johnson in particular finding his stroke. If the Hoosiers can find some middle ground between what they did in the first half and the final 25 minutes, and force defenses to come out off of De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan, Big Ten success isn’t out of the question.
shall did overcome. The officiating was terrible, guys. Phantom fouls called against Collin Hartman and Josh Newkirk late in regulation and in overtime handed Notre Dame the ballgame on a silver platter, but the Irish refused to take it and the Hoosiers refused to go quietly. Aside from the call against Hartman with less than one second in regulation, which should have spelled doom for Indiana, there was the out-of-bounds call on Robert Johnson when even an aerial view showed his heel never came down on the line, the charge call on Morgan that wiped a late bucket off the board, and the no-call when Bonzie Colson manhandled Zach McRoberts after Austin Torres clanked the second of his two regulation-ending free throws. Officials rarely impact a game like they did this one on Saturday. Indiana’s resilience in overcoming a plethora of bad calls was almost as impressive as overcoming a double-digit deficit more than once.
3. We saw the future. However you choose to remember Saturday’s 80-77 overtime win over Notre Dame - perhaps you will recall it as the Juwan Morgan game, the Zach McRoberts game, or the Bankers Life screwjob that wasn’t - the Indiana victory, and the way it came to fruition, will ultimately be so much bigger than any of the subplots.
That’s not to take away from Morgan, who, in dumping in a career-high 34 points, with 20 of those points coming after the 3:30 mark in the second half, and adding 11 rebounds, turned in the best individual performance of any Hoosier in at least two seasons and perhaps beyond. As for McRoberts, he finally turned his scrappiness and hard-nosed play into more than goodwill with a fanbase that appreciates effort more than talent. Though he only scored one point, he pulled down nine rebounds, the last being the biggest of his life.
But what Saturday will ultimately be remembered as is the day we saw the future.
From January 2 to February 9, the Hoosiers play 12 games - at Wisconsin, at Minnesota, vs. Penn State, vs. Northwestern, at Michigan State, vs. Maryland, at Illinois, vs. Purdue, at Ohio State, vs. Michigan State, at Rutgers, and vs. Minnesota. As of today, KenPom predicts Indiana will go 0-12 in those games. In fact, KenPom predicts Indiana will win just two games of the 16 remaining in conference play.
How much money would you put on the over if Vegas gave you those odds the rest of the way after what you saw on Saturday? If Indiana goes on a run in a weak conference and finds a way to flirt with the bubble, Saturday was the beginning.
When Matt Farrell’s off-balance three with just a couple seconds left in overtime fell by the wayside and Indiana had secured its comeback victory on Saturday, Fox Play-by-Play man Gus Johnson exclaimed, “My intuition is telling me there are gonna be better days for IU!” At the end of a day when the Law of Gus rang true and the Hoosiers were “never daunted,” what we really saw was the first affirmation of Miller’s processes and style. And there should be no doubt that brighter days lie ahead.