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'Al Durham and Rob Phinisee... that's a backcourt:' Indiana guards step up in marquee win over Marquette

A lot was going to be asked of both Al Durham and Rob Phinisee Wednesday night.

It was Indiana’s first test against a ranked opponent and the Hoosiers were without, most notably, Zach McRoberts and Devonte Green due to injury. For Indiana to be successful, Durham and Phinisee were going to be key players with a shortened bench and Markus Howard, one of the best players in the Big East, on the other side.

Indiana may not have been able to ask for more than they got from that duo. Phinisee and Durham combined for 25 points and 13 assists en route to a 96-73 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Archie Miller said after the secret scrimmage against Loyola at the end of October that he knew the point guard position could be a strength for Indiana. That was on full display Wednesday.

“Al Durham, and Rob Phinisee, 13 assists and one turnover, that's a back court,” Miller said. “That's a good night for them, man.”


In just his third game for the Hoosiers, Phinisee continued to impress. Phinisee seems to have total control of the offense and is doing the little things to make himself and his teammates successful. The Lafayette, Indiana native tied a career high with 12 points and contributed eight assists.

The most important thing for Phinisee as the point guard is to limit the turnovers. That was a moot point Wednesday as Phinisee committed just one turnover. He’s learning from a former point guard in Miller, and the early returns are through the roof.

“He's a stud. I mean, he's a stud. There's not much to say,” Miller said. “Not that he's perfect, but I haven't been around a young guard in a long time that has that type of quiet calmness, that's tough, that's smart. Once he gets more experience under his belt, you know, obviously he has a very bright future.”

The compliments continued for Phinisee from his coach, but Phinisee’s backcourt counterpart was equally as impressive Wednesday night.

Durham showed flashes a season ago of the potential he has in Bloomington. But Wednesday night was different for the sophomore. He played 35 minutes, scored 13 points and dished out five assists.

Miller said it was one of the best games Durham has played at Indiana. He was aggressive on offense and his decision-making drew a good mark from his coach. Wednesday showed the work Durham has put into his offensive game.

“My teammates were really a big part of that,” Durham said. “They were looking for me, giving me good looks. But just ultimately my teammates pushing me and my coaches pushing me every day during the summer, off-season, during the season, just to continued to get reps and become a better player than I was last year.”

But it wasn’t just their contributions on offense that were impressive. The defensive performances the Hoosiers got from both Phinisee and Durham stood out, especially with a premier guard on the other side.

Howard was held to one-of-five from behind the arc and the Golden Eagles shot just 22 percent from deep.

“I thought just in general we did a pretty good job of challenging,” Miller said. “But part of being a really good defensive team in defending the three is getting back, and not letting easy ones happen or in the half court not being too spread out where you run around. We're a much more disciplined team I think here in year two than we were in year one.”

While the defense was stellar, the offense may have been better. Phinisee was approaching double-double territory with eight assists to his name to go along with 12 points, a mark he’s now reached twice this season. Durham added 13 points himself. With both Phinisee and Durham tasked with handling the ball as lead guards, they combined for just one turnover.

At times last season, the Hoosiers struggled to find a true point guard capable of doing what Miller. But after Wednesday, it isn’t too far fetched to say the Hoosiers have found their answer.

“You're starting two freshmen and a sophomore, and you're bringing a fourth player in who is a freshman,” Miller said. “To say the least, I couldn't be prouder of them. Not that they're perfect, but guys are ready to go, and that's an encouraging sign.”

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