Late surge propels Indiana to 68-67 victory over Louisville
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Archie Miller watched the Indiana Hoosiers make all the right plays late in Saturday’s game.
He expects them to become more successful over the next few months.
Shortly after watching Romeo Langford score 21 points, Juwan Morgan add 15 and the Hoosiers use a late second-half charge to get past Louisville 68-67, Miller acknowledged his team has figured out a winning combination.
“To know a group can finish or find a way to finish with its offense or its defense is good,” he said. “There were some really, really hard plays in the game that the guys had to make and they did a great job.”
No, it hasn’t been pretty.
The Hoosiers (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten) have fought through a rash of early-season injuries to win three straight — all by one or two points — against power-conference schools.
It’s the first time since February 1987 that the Hoosiers have won three consecutive games by one or two points.
But what Miller has seen in these last three is a gritty, tough group that refuses to lose.
Langford, the hot-shot scorer who grew up 10 miles from the Cardinals’ campus, drew 10 fouls and went 9 of 14 at the free-throw line, including the two to seal the victory.
Rob Phinisee, the other freshman guard, had 10 points, six rebounds and made the 3-pointer that gave Indiana its first lead with 8:36 to play. His final three or the game started Indiana’s decisive 8-0 run.
Morgan, the established team leader, had five rebounds and two assists and Justin Smith wound up with nine points and nine rebounds on a day he also delivered well on defense.
“Their two best players, they played like it,” new Cardinals coach Chris Mack said, referring to Langford and Morgan. “I thought our guys competed but came up short. It was a great college basketball game.”
Louisville (6-3) was in control for most of it.
But after Phinsee’s final three gave Indiana a 60-58 lead with 85 seconds left, the Cardinals never recovered.
Morgan scored on a layup and completed a 3-point play. Langford followed that with two more free throws, Phinisee added another free throw and Langford sealed it with the free throws with 2.2 seconds left.
Not even Christen Cunningham’s half-court could rescue Louisville, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Cunningham finished with 16 points while Jordan Nwora had 24 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs.
To Miller, the difference is obvious.
“We’re much better, much tougher, much bigger at times on the floor than we’ve been in the past,” he said. “And we’ve been able to get stops when you need them.”
Louisville: The Cardinals appeared to be on the verge of cracking the Top 25. But a dismal second half dropped them to 1-5 all-time in Bloomington and will likely force them to wait at least another week to return to the rankings.
Indiana: The Hoosiers limited Louisville to 34.5 percent shooting in the second half. That might be enough to put Indiana back in the Top 25 this week.
Louisville: Nwora was 4 of 8 on 3s and three steals and two assists. … Ryan McMahon scored 11 points. … The Cardinals bench scored 13 points after entering the game averaging 37.9 points. … Louisville finished with its lowest point total this season.
Indiana: De’Ron Davis had eight points and three rebounds in less than 14 minutes. … The Hoosiers snapped a four-game losing streak in the series. … Indiana won despite going 4 of 14 on 3s, 16 of 25 at the free-throw line and getting outrebounded 9-3 on the offensive glass.
THEY SAID IT
Louisville: “You lose a one-possession game, and there are so many plays that you wish you could go back in time and change. But you can’t,” Mack said.
Indiana: “This time last year we were losing those games,” Morgan said. “I think this time we’re coming together as a group.”
Louisville: Is hosting a toy drive for Norton’s Children’s Hospital when Lipscomb visits Wednesday.
Indiana: Takes the week off for finals and will return to action Saturday in Indianapolis when they’ll face Butler in the Crossroads Classic.