Hello from Bloomington, where we are expecting a few inches of snow and possible ice tonight. First off, please drive home safely. Indiana abused both Chicago State and Montana State to open the season, but IU’s 2018-19 campaign got off to a resounding start on Wednesday night inside a patently electric Assembly Hall atmosphere — taking care of No. 24 Marquette 96-73 and improving to 3-0. Arkansas awaits Sunday in Fayetteville.
There’s a lot to discuss tonight. Easily the most impressive showing from Indiana in, dare I say, years? Could be a hyperbole. We’ll start with a few things that caught my eye, and continue onward after we hear from Indiana players and head coach Archie Miller.
Wire to Wire
Forgive the obvious (and Marquette scoring the first basket of the night), but that might be the most impressive part of Wednesday’s victory. Marquette never came close. The Hoosiers jumped out to a 19-4 start, highlighted by a much-needed Evan Fitzner 3-pointer that brought Assembly Hall to life for the first time this season. Marquette had to burn a pair of timeouts very early, and the Golden Eagles could never string anything more than a 7-0 run near halftime. The closest Marquette could get was a 42-34 deficit with 1:40 remaining in the first half.
I thought Indiana was a bunch of things tonight: prepared, deep, and energetic, among others. There honestly weren’t many negative plays made by the Hoosiers, from Romeo Langford down to De’Ron Davis or Damezi Anderson. And this is Indiana without four players, as Devonte Green, Zach McRoberts, Race Thompson, and Jerome Hunter all missed Wednesday’s game. Only Hunter is expected to miss significant time.
Romeo? Oh, what a night
I have a feeling that Romeo Langford will earn himself a subheading on most Rapid Reactions this season. He’s that good. As much as Indiana confirmed the preseason expectations tonight, so did Langford. He was phenomenal at driving to the basket, as expected. Langford finished with a game-high 22 points on a pretty efficient 8-of-15 shooting from the floor. And arguably even more importantly, he didn’t try to do too much in his first big-time atmosphere. Not a single Hoosier tried to force plays, and IU’s chemistry was exceptionally impressive Wednesday.
Langford is a game-changer. While we all expected him to be, he showed it against the No. 24 team in the country. It’s still November, it’s still the third game of the season. But Langford showed the problems he can create for a defense, not just by his skill, but by the threat of his skill. Much, much more to come on this front later tonight. I really want to talk defense.
Let’s Talk Defense
We’ve made it to defense. Alright, despite Langford scoring 22 points, and Evan Fitzner putting on a 3-point shooting clinic with 16 points and a perfect 4-for-4 on treys, Al Durham could very well be the player of the game tonight. It’s fascinating, mostly because Durham never really found a role during his freshman season. With Rob Phinisee committing and playing well in IU’s first two games, there were legitimate questions about what Phinisee could do for this 2018-19 team.
He answered those questions in easily his best collegiate game. Even when Devonte Green returns, Durham solidified an essential role during this early season. Look, Marquette’s Markus Howard is one of the best scorers in the country. The 5-11 guard averaged 20.4 points per game a season ago, and averaged 26 points per game coming into Wednesday. Durham, along with equally effective defense from Phinisee, held Howard in the first half to seven points on 3-of-9 shooting. Durham, especially, was active and smart on the defensive perimeter against Howard. We’ll also have more on this tonight, but man, it was one of the most intelligent defensive games Indiana has played in quite some time. And even with that, the Hoosiers still put up 96 points.
It really was a banner day, no pun intended, for Indiana basketball. Those are just a few of my quick, rushed thoughts. Get home safely, and we’ll have more in a few minutes.