Saturday afternoon’s game played out like many games before it for the Hoosiers. Build a big lead in the first half, watch that lead disappear and crumble in the second half.
For the first time seemingly all year, though, the Hoosiers stopped their collapse, thanks in huge part to Juwan Morgan with lots of help from Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson.
Juwan Morgan’s second-half stretch saved IU
With the Hoosiers having seen their lead not only shrink, but evaporate entirely, Morgan had the most important three minute-stretch of the game.
With 7:13 left, Morgan converted an and-one to put IU up eight.
With 6:50 left, Morgan converted an and-one (missed the free throw) to put IU up 10.
With 6:20 left, Morgan tipped in a missed shot to put IU up nine.
With 5:07 left, Morgan blocked Jae’Sean Tate, leading to a Johnson three, putting IU up 12.
With 4:23 left, Morgan blocked Marc Loving.
Morgan has shown flashes of how vital he can be, an x-factor of sorts, to this team. However, most of those flashes came in non-conference play. Morgan playing well on both ends of the court makes IU much, much more dangerous. If the Hoosiers are going to make a run in Big Ten Tournament (big if), Morgan will need to play like he did tonight.
With these versions of Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson, IU is a tournament team
We know James Blackmon is going to get his (and he had , but when Newkirk and Johnson play like they did on Saturday, IU is a different and more dynamic team offensively.
More importantly than the 44 points they combined for is the three turnovers they had combined, and Johnson had NONE of those. Johnson finished with a team-high six assists while Newkirk had five assists to three turnovers.
If Newkirk and Johnson combine for 11 assists, 3 turnovers and go 7-of-11 from three, it’s a fantastic sign for the Hoosiers.
As they head into the Big Ten Tournament, those two must be efficient more than anything. The Hoosiers had just 12 turnovers on the day, which feels like half of what they average. Their three guards combined for 66 points and six turnovers. That’s where the game was won.
Does this win really mean anything?
Regardless of what the ESPN play-by-play guy was trying to feed viewers, the Hoosiers are very far out of the tournament and need to win the Big Ten Tournament to go dancing.
The Big Ten Tournament is going to feature Big Ten teams, so it’s feasible the Hoosiers could do something crazy. If you’re to believe a certain radio guy out of Indianapolis, Big Ten coaches are scared of Indiana. I’m not sure why given their current run of form, but nonetheless.
What this win does do, however, is give the Hoosiers a good confidence boost heading into the tournament. Kenpom has this as Indiana’s only Tier A win of the Big Ten season and the first since beating UNC. We’ll see if any of it matters in 4 days.