In the aftermath of Indiana’s 75-73 double-overtime upset of No. 19 Wisconsin, Romeo Langford sat at Assembly Hall’s podium and admitted his prior mistakes.
With nine seconds remaining, Langford took the ball and waited for Rob Phinisee to set a split screen. It confused Wisconsin’s defensive duo of Khalil Iverson and D’Mitrik Trice, who were supposed to stop Langford’s unstoppable right hand from getting to the basket.
Langford took advantage of a wrong step, raced towards the basket, and laid it in. Ballgame. He had just logged 45 minutes of a three-hour basketball game, avoiding a single foul call and converting the game-winner.
“Rob came up to set a screen,” Langford said. “They messed up the read on it. I just saw the lane to get to the basket and that’s what I did.”
It was a game-winner that had long been in the making for IU’s freshman star.
The demise of Indiana had included losses in 12 of its previous 13 games, and many were caused by team-wide execution mistakes in key junctures. By no means is Langford alone, as Archie Miller’s young roster had been 1-7 in single digit games since 2019 began.
But Langford, specifically, had missed three critical shots during that stretch.
His 3-point attempt at the buzzer against Iowa would have won the game in regulation. His missed free throw against Purdue would have given Indiana the lead with 23 seconds remaining. His missed 3-pointer vs. Ohio State would have handed his team the 55-54 lead with 12 seconds remaining. The Hoosiers lost all three.
“I mean, just finally I hit one,” Langford said. “I know the past two times I had it in my hand at the end of the game, it didn’t come out as we planned. I just learned from mistakes in the past two, settling for a jump shot, and I felt like they couldn’t stop me getting to the rim. That’s exactly what I did, and I made the shot.”
Tuesday’s win was a marathon in many ways. The Hoosiers responded from a demoralizing overtime road loss to Iowa with six 3-pointers in the first half, a season-high. A focused brand of basketball led Indiana to a 13-point lead with 12:40 to play, but then Miller pulled Langford and senior Juwan Morgan for rest. His lineup imploded, spawning a 20-3 Wisconsin run and 54-50 lead with 6:53 remaining. The Hoosiers were in trouble of dropping their sixth straight at home, a rare feat in Bloomington.
Miller’s young roster found a way, despite seeing Morgan and fellow starter Justin Smith both foul out and summoning the likes of freshman forward Race Thompson – who played 21 minutes of exceptional defense in his third career game.
“I kept calm because my teammates, I know they have faith in me,” Thompson said. “They keep telling me I’m good, like you got this. This is what we do for a living. There was no reason for me to be nervous or nothing. That’s what we do. I think I just played to my strengths and did what I had to do.”
Indiana had two chances to win it before Langford’s game-winner, but the 3-point heaves from Phinisee and Al Durham did not connect. Indiana and Wisconsin combined for 24 points in ten minutes of overtime periods. Tuesday’s game was neither pretty nor impressive, yet the Hoosiers remained their level of confidence. They snapped a lengthy home losing skid, reinvigorated their locker room, and remained in-play for a Big Ten Tournament first-round bye.
“I felt like the last three games really reminded us of ourselves in the beginning of the season,” Langford said. “Just how hard we’ve been playing and hold ourselves on defense, even though we came up short. Especially tonight, we went in two overtimes. Beginning of the season, we didn’t give up on like if a team made a run on us. Wisconsin made a run on us. We got up by ten, and they came back and took the lead, and we didn’t panic and just stayed with it.”
For Indiana to end this season successfully, Miller wants his Hoosiers to play with confidence and energy. He acknowledged that even earlier this season, his team wasn’t always playing ideal offense — but it was playing smart defensively and with a competitive effort that handed IU victories. The Hoosiers understandably lost that during a demoralizing streak of close losses, but Miller has seen IU’s moxie return in the past three games. He sees more confidence, energy, and effort.
“It’s hard,” Miller said of retaining confidence despite losing. “Negativity, losing, all that stuff isn’t fun. But I think our guys have taken a pretty good approach … I think just in general you’re starting to see the team sort of resemble itself a little bit just in terms of how how you can play hard when things aren’t going well.”
Indiana’s season now marches to Saturday’s rematch with No. 6 Michigan State in hopes of securing a season sweep of the Spartans. Any remaining, or future, postseason hopes would benefit immensely from doing so. After Saturday, the Hoosiers will close at Illinois and home against Rutgers. As the conditioning of junior forward De’Ron Davis continues to progress, and Thompson gets integrated, and the Hoosiers play with more confidence, there is certainly a chance of Indiana salvaging its season after all.
“We learned from our mistakes for the ones that we lost and kept on battling, and we came up on top today,” Langford said.