Miller Kopp has delivered some incredible games on the road throughout his career with the Indiana Hoosiers. The 18 points he dropped in Indiana’s 66-60 win against Rutgers on Tuesday night were the most points the fifth-year senior had scored in Assembly Hall, ever.
Miller Kopp: The Rutgers Slayer.
“Not just scoring the 18 points, hell, he was pretty good defensively, too, tonight,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said, “He did a lot of good things defensively for us.”
It’s certainly been a tough stretch for Kopp the past couple of months, scoring in double figures just four times since his 21-point outburst against Rutgers the first time. But that isn’t his role on the team, says Mike Woodson. He isn’t just a shooter, he harasses opposing players on the defensive end, something he has been doing his entire life with three brothers.
Braden, Anderson and Maddox are the Kopp brothers that Indiana fans need to thank. While taking on Rutgers, Kopp dove on the floor multiple times fighting for loose balls as well as defending in the faces of the Scarlet Knights. It showed on the stat sheet as Kopp had four fouls.
“That really shaped me to who I am because without them, without my brothers, you know, I'm not who I am today, and even my mom, she works her tail off,” Kopp said. “She works the hardest in my family. It really is just in my nature to grind and work and be that dude who is willing to do whatever to win.”
Sharing the floor with a now 2,000-point scorer in Trayce Jackson-Davis has certainly made it easier on Kopp. With the immense gravity that Jackson-Davis commands on the offensive end, it has helped Kopp find the openings in the opposing team’s defense and knock down shots at a consistent rate.
Not only has Kopp been a killer against teams like Rutgers, but whenever teams start to play zone defense to limit the inside presence, it helps a guy like Kopp go off.
“Miller, he doesn't get a lot of shots but he's efficient,” Woodson said. “He makes shots that he has to make, and that's huge for a team when you are trying to win.”
Indiana ended its six-game losing streak to Rutgers on Tuesday night, but Kopp also ended a streak against the Scarlet Knights as an individual. It was his first victory over the team since his freshman year at Northwestern, over five years ago. Both Kopp and Indiana can now breathe a little easier.
Taking a look back at Kopp’s last performance in Piscataway, he had his way on the offensive end with 21 points including five of the Hoosiers’ six made 3s. A career game for Kopp was ruined by an Indiana defeat, so clearly he wanted to make another statement.
Two months later, Kopp built off of that performance in December, this time in front of a home crowd, in front of which the Hoosier are nearly unbeaten. All it took was one to go through the net and Kopp was off to the races.
“Not only was he hitting shots but what really stood out to me was his effort on the defensive end of the floor, how he's sitting down and he was guarding,” Jackson-Davis said about Kopp’s performance. “He was really, really locked in on the defensive end and when you're playing like that on both sides of the ball, a player like him, he really impacts the game at a high level.”
Kopp’s defense is an added element to his game that tends to go unnoticed. The Texas native recorded two steals against the Scarlet Knights but it doesn’t include the number of balls poked loose or the hounding defense late in the shot clock. Slowly but surely, Kopp has turned himself into a 3-and-d type player for Indiana.
His defense may have gone unnoticed by fans, but Woodson has seen it and knows what Kopp is capable of on the defensive end. It is something that will serve him and the team well come tournament time in March.
“I'm proud of this team, man, because there's no quitting,” Woodson said about his team postgame. “They grind. They try to do whatever it takes to win and tonight we did that.”
A lot of things were at stake for the Hoosiers on Tuesday: trying to beat Rutgers for the first time in six games, moving up to second in the Big Ten, and racking in another Quad-One victory. For Kopp, he was looking to continue playing his role and bring home the wins.
With the victory, Indiana and Kopp captured their goals for Tuesday’s game and moved up to a tie for second in the Big Ten. Make it now seven of the Hoosiers’ last eight games with a victory, but things will not get any easier. Kopp and Co. are ready for the challenges ahead.