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Inside Presence Makes the Difference for IUBB Against Arkansas

Indiana Basketball got its revenge in another close battle against Arkansas in the second round of the NIT 63-60 on their home floor today.

Devonte Green drives toward the basket Saturday during Indiana’s NIT win over Arkansas (Kurt Spitler/HN).

Both teams were missing their star players. Indiana was without freshman guard, Romeo Langford, who was out with a back injury. Arkansas’ sophomore power forward Daniel Gafford elected not to play in the NIT to avoid any possible injury before the NBA draft.

The absence of the two changed the dynamic of the game, as Arkansas struggled in particular without Gafford.

“Having played Arkansas one time already and having a little familiarity with them helped,” Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller said. “With them having their big guy out makes it a little different game plan.”

Back in November, when the two teams met last, Arkansas won 73-72 in large part due to Gafford’s effort. The sophomore forward was an absolute force and the best player on the floor for either team.

In that early season matchup Gafford had 27 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and two steals.

Indiana senior forward Juwan Morgan spoke highly of Gafford’s play from their first meeting and attributed Gafford’s impact going beyond the stat sheet.

“They still had a lot of shot blocking presence, but I think it was just the difference of height,” Morgan said. “He changed a lot of the baskets around the paint even if he didn’t block it. He was changing or altering the shots and we took a lot more outside shots than we wanted to.”

No Gafford meant no problems for the Hoosiers operating in the paint, both on offense and defense. Morgan and Indiana junior center De’Ron Davis had free reign to work the inside.

“He (Davis) and Juwan together give us our most physical presence where we can throw the ball inside, and they do a good job obviously on the offensive glass for us, as well,” Miller said.

The Indiana offense had far more freedom to work in the post without Gafford on the floor and Morgan and Davis took full advantage of that.

Morgan finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and a steal. Davis had 10 points to go along with three rebounds, with an assist and block too.

The two big men combined for just under 40 percent of Indiana’s total scoring.

The Hoosiers dominated the Razorbacks in scoring down low. Practically every post feed to Morgan or Davis ended up in a good look at the basket or a foul. As a result, Indiana outscored Arkansas in points in the paint, 30-10.

“Having De’Ron back is a big key in that,” Morgan said. “Another big body in there that’s able to move as well as he is on the block, people have to respect that.”

Indiana will compete at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall one last time Tuesday night for a spot in the NIT semifinals, as the Hoosiers await the winner of Clemson and Wichita State. 

It’s safe to say that after today’s performance from Morgan and Davis down low, Coach Miller will look much of the same in the quarterfinals.

“I’m assuming without knowing either team, we’re going to need our biggest, strongest guys ready to go for these next two,” Miller said.

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