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‘The guy plays the right way:’ Juwan Morgan’s career day leads Indiana to Crossroads Classic win

INDIANAPOLIS — When the Hoosiers needed someone to bail them out Saturday, they turned to Juwan Morgan.

But when Morgan stepped up most wasn’t with the game tied and the clock ticking down. No, it came in the first half. Because if it wasn’t for Morgan’s first half performance where he had over 50 percent of Indiana’s points, the Hoosiers may not have been in a situation to win the ballgame at the buzzer. He scored 34 points in last year’s Crossroads Classic win over Notre Dame in overtime. After last year’s heroics, Morgan apparently wanted more.

Morgan didn’t miss a two-point field goal, scored a career high 35 points and willed the Hoosiers to a 71-68 win over the Butler Bulldogs.

“If he’s hitting threes, he’s a real problem,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said of Morgan. “We know how good he is inside. He got a lot of work done in there, as well. But if he’s making his free throws, 7-7 tonight, he stepped up and made threes from the corner. I think it was just his competitive will.”

Whether it was will, skill or something else, Morgan must love playing in the Crossroads Classic. He now finishes his Indiana career with 75 points in three Crossroads Classic games. That number is good for second all-time behind Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson.

But Saturday when Indiana needed a bucket, especially early on, the Hoosiers turned to Morgan. It was between the under-12 and under-8 media timeouts in the first half when the Hoosiers were scuffling on the offensive end. They got out to a slow start once again.

That’s when Morgan started to turn it on. He scored seven straight points for Indiana, and from there, the game was on his shoulders. According to IU coach Archie Miller, Morgan is just the same everyday.

“Game day is no different than practice,” Miller said. “Very few guys that can eliminate moodiness, the ability not to feel tired. For about two years straight, through about 150 practices, that’s what I get to see every day. Not that his game days are perfectly. But the guy plays the right way.”

While Morgan also set a new career high, he became the 52nd player in Indiana history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He just called it one small piece of the puzzle. Overall, Morgan finished 12-of-14, four-of-six from behind the arc and he made all seven of his free throws. While the numbers in the box score were impressive again, Morgan is showing he’s not just a stat sheet stuffer.

Miller talked after the game about how much a vocal leader he is and has become for the Hoosiers.

“If you can communicate something to him, he can get it communicated to the other guys. He’s a smart, smart basketball player,” Miller said. “But definitely in huddles, you hear a guy talking, it’s encouraging. I think he gives everyone confidence on the team when he’s engaged.”

Through the four seasons Morgan has been at Indiana, his development is very evident. He put the NBA on the backburner after testing the waters in April and May. He came back to Indiana to, one, boost his stock, and two, to lead this Indiana team to the NCAA Tournament.

As we sit here in mid-December, Morgan is on his way to accomplishing both of those goals. There’s no doubt he’s catching the eye of plenty on a national scale after another career day.

“That’s the beauty of this game,” Jordan said of Morgan. “That’s why people talk about him as a good player, in the class that he’s in.”

I am a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in Media. I am formerly of the Indiana Daily Student where I covered Indiana men’s soccer team and women’s basketball. You still can find me broadcasting for WIUX Student Radio and on BTN Student U outside of The Hoosier Network. Former intern at 710 ESPN Seattle and broadcaster for the Falmouth Commodores. Email: Follow me on Twitter: @JoshEastern.

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