In a back-and-forth classic, Indiana survived Maryland, 71-68, to improve to 12-8 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will play at Illinois Wednesday.
Here’s our Rapid Reaction:
Juwan Morgan, Indiana’s Hero:
As we’ve said all season, this Indiana team is a tough out when the likes of Robert Johnson are keeping the Hoosiers afloat. Johnson did more than that tonight — scoring 12 points on efficient shooting, as well as collecting a critical eight rebounds. After three questionable calls against the Hoosiers late in the second half, Johnson collected a Zach McRoberts steal and finished a layup to give Indiana a two-point lead with minutes remaining.
And boy, how about the play of Juwan Morgan? Fresh off a rolled ankle suffered Friday against Michigan States, Morgan appeared 100 percent against Maryland — tallying a game-high 25 points while keeping the Hoosiers together throughout a tumultuous ending. Things started to get bleak for the Hoosiers after Josh Newkirk missed a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining — however Morgan was there to snag the offensive rebound and keep Indiana ahead.
Devonte Green’s Defense:
An underrated, yet necessary storyline from Monday’s game was how Devonte Green held Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan in check during the second half. Playing against Josh Newkirk to start, Cowan scored 13 of his ?? points before halftime. Against Green in the second half? Cowan struggled to find any rhythm, shooting 1-of-10 from the floor with Green following him at every turn.
With Maryland without key starters in Ivan Bender and Justin Jackson, the importance of guarding Cowan was Indiana’s most important focus. The 3-point shot of Jared Nickens (4-of-7 from 3-point range) as well as consistent play of Kevin Huerter certainly posed threats, but Green’s defense of Cowan was the ultimate gamechanger when comparing halves.
The Big Picture:
Monday’s win does wonders in a realm of categories: Prior to this, Indiana had been lacking a game in which both its players and fans could rally behind of. Assembly Hall was relatively empty, and quiet, early in Monday’s game — but after a spirited effort from the Hoosiers, the level of excitement was palpable and almost equivalent to this season’s Duke game. Going forward with home games against the nation’s best in Purdue and Michigan State, fans now have a game to rally behind of.
Quantitatively, the Hoosiers improve to 5-3 in the Big Ten with a trip to Illinois Wednesday — against an Illini team still searching for their first victory in the conference. For the sake of the Big Ten standings, Monday’s game hands Indiana its first Top-50 RPI victory in conference play — and helps the Hoosiers remain in the upper echelon of the conference.