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Langford’s career high leads Indiana basketball past Illinois

Romeo Langford defends against Illinois on Thursday night. The Hoosiers defeated the Illini 73-65 behind Langford’s 28 points. (Mark Timko/HN)

Throughout freshman sensation Romeo Langford’s first season as a Hoosier, Langford has been great. In Indiana’s 73-65 win over Illinois, Langford was excellent.

There was no question that this was not only Langford’s best game of the season, but he was also the main reason that Indiana pulled out another conference win over a pesky Illinois team that wouldn’t go away.

Langford leads the team in scoring at about 18 points per game. Against the Illini, the stud freshman went for ten points over his average, giving him a new career high of 28.

“Yeah, I felt like this was my best game so far, all around, maybe on the defensive end, too,” Langford said. “I am getting a lot more comfortable and now that Rob is out for a while with his little injury he has, that caused for me to have the ball more in my hand and I’m comfortable with doing that.”

In a game without their starting point guard, Rob Phinisee, the Hoosiers needed guys to step up. Langford did it in a big way and when the Hoosiers were desperate for him to do so.

The offense and ball movement were pretty stagnant in the first half, especially early. Langford changed that single handedly.

After going for nine points in the first half, he erupted for 19 in the second. He even opened the second half on a personal 8-0 run.

Langford was scoring at will, especially when driving to the rim and converting on most attempts and getting to the free throw line often.

“I just started seeing more driving opportunities and that’s what I’m best at right now doing,” Langford said. “With the way they played, like I said earlier, they like to play passing lanes, which leads for wide-open driving lanes for me to either score or pass to other teammates.”

What was just as impressive as his total scoring output was Langford’s efficiency in doing so. The versatile guard put up his 28 while shooting 8-13 (61.5 percent) from the field and only missing one two-point field goal.

In addition to his scoring, Langford added six rebounds, three assists, and a steal to his stat line.

The team needed a game like this from their shooting guard. Langford has had the ability to go off in games but has lacked aggressiveness at times.

That’s something Indiana cannot afford to do, when Langford is hot, they need to keep feeding him, and more so he needs to demand the ball more. Indiana head coach Archie Miller did a great job of getting Langford those extra opportunities in the win.

“Yeah, we wanted him to be more aggressive,” Miller said. “Sometimes you have to get the ball in his hands against a team like this because he’s traditionally not bringing it up. But we allowed him to bring it up a lot more. Get the ball before we crossed half court a lot more, which allowed him to play with it in his hands.”

Langford had reached 22 points twice thus far in the season for his previous season high against Marquette and Arkansas. It felt overdue though for him to have a game like this for the 3,002-point prep scorer and fourth leading scorer in Indiana High School Basketball state history.

Other than a quiet 15 points from Juwan Morgan, Langford didn’t have a ton of help on offense scoring the ball either. Nobody but Langford and Morgan reached double figures.

From the charity stripe, a typical struggle for the freshman, he shot 11-15 (73 percent). Far better than how he started the season at the line, where he went 42-90 (46.7 percent) in his first seven games on the season.

His three-point shot is still coming along, hitting one of four tonight and a lowly 21 percent on the season. That should improve as time goes on as Langford was known to be a prolific shooter from deep in high school.

If Langford really starts to put it all together and get his three-point shot going, it could be a scary sight for opponents moving forward and Coach Miller believes so.

“He’s continuing to go do what we ask him to do in terms of getting better,” Miller said of Langford’s development. “Like I’ve said before, he’s as coachable of a guy as we have on the team, so it’s a credit to him and his work ethic.”

At the end of the day, Indiana will take this win in stride as it extends their conference record to three wins and zero losses. This was a game that the Hoosiers couldn’t afford to lose either, as a road match-up with undefeated and second ranked Michigan awaits on Sunday.

If Indiana wants a chance in winning that one, the Hoosiers are going to need another outstanding performance from Langford.

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