The Hoosiers are back.
Personally, I didn’t have any doubt that this team could bounce back and play the way they were playing before Michigan State (pending if Juwan Morgan was healthy or not). The Michigan State game was a rough one and a 28 point loss is inexcusable, but the Hoosiers were not going to win that game. No team in the entire country would have won that game. After MSU lost twice in a row, Tom Izzo had FIVE days to beat it into his team that that was unacceptable. Again, the margin of how the Hoosiers lost was unacceptable, but no team in the country was going to win under those circumstances and with that crowd.
That being said, the Hoosiers responded to that terrible defeat with a resounding win against Maryland, 71-68.
The Hoosiers fought to the very last second of the game, and came out with an attitude that they were not going to let a good Maryland team walk over them. It was close the entire way, but Indiana did not give way to a surging Maryland team in the final minute (like they sometimes do in those close games). Juwan Morgan was unstoppable, Justin Smith had another great game, Robert Johnson facilitated the floor and led the team in rebounds, and the rest of the team made a lot of key plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet.
Indiana won a critical game before going into their toughest stretch of B1G play (after the Illinois game). Had the Hoosiers lost back-to-back games, beat Illinois, then lost the next three games to ranked opponents, it would not have been good for their NCAA tournament hopes late in the season. Now, potentially, Indiana can go on a 2-game win streak before ramping up for some tough B1G play. If IU can get a win, or even two, in that stretch, they put themselves in a real, real good spot in the B1G moving forward.
Player of the Game
No question, Juwan Morgan.
After coming off an injury where no one knew any update until 45 minutes before tipoff, Juwan played a team high 36 minutes, scored a team high 25 points (his 3rd highest of the season and in his career), and racked up 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. His most important moment was when Josh Newkirk missed two consecutive free throws to put the Hoosiers up three with under a minute to go, Juwan got the rebound and put it in to extend the lead to three.
Without Juwan Morgan, this game would have looked a lot different. Maryland’s bigs would have had even more of a field day in the paint, and Indiana would not have been able to create much offense.
50: Indiana’s FG percentage. IU has been good at FG% overall, but tonight was more important tonight compared to others due to this next stat.
56.3: Indiana’s free throw percentage. This statistic is not going to cut it and Indiana cannot go back to shooting 50% from the line. This would not have been as close as it was if Indiana made even a couple more free throws (cough* Josh and Zach).
39-28: Rebound margin in favor of Maryland. Maryland had more size then Indiana, but that number is just too high in the other direction to keep playing well in the B1G.
25: Points Juwan Morgan had. Without Morgan’s contributions, Indiana would not have had a stable offensive line and scoring would have been a problem all game.
18: Turnovers the Hoosiers forced. Great statistic for this growing defense. 11 of those came from Cowan and Huerter and although both players scored considerable points, Indiana forced multiple turnovers from each to get key points in the other direction.
8: Rebounds Robert Johnson had. He led the team in rebounds, and many of those were critical finds to stop the Maryland offense from getting second chances.
8: Blocks by Indiana without shot-blocker De’Ron Davis. De’Ron was always known for his shot-blocks, but now that he is out, that number has gone down in recent games. What’s even better is that 5 of those 8 blocks came from guards.
Indiana travels to Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini this Wednesday, February 24th at 9:00PM on BTN.