BLOOMINGTON — Saturday night’s win at then-sixth-ranked Michigan State may have been a season-saver for Indiana. It was, at the very least, second-year coach Archie Miller’s signature victory with the Hoosiers.
IU was in a free fall, losing seven straight, before rallying from six points down to upset the Spartans 79-75 in overtime on their homecourt in East Lansing, Mich.
Only time will tell just how impactful the win was, but if nothing else, the Hoosiers hope it propels them forward.
“This win’s a big confidence-booster for us,” freshman guard Romeo Langford said after scoring a team-high 19 points Saturday. “[We want] to keep the momentum going on for the rest of the season.”
Indiana (13-9, 4-7) will try to keep that mojo going as it hosts No. 20 Iowa (17-5, 6-5) at 9 p.m. tonight (ESPN) at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“A win does a lot, especially through the month of January as we obviously didn’t play very well and we didn’t have a whole lot of spunk, so to speak,” said Miller, whose team entered Wednesday ninth in the league while the Hawkeyes were tied for sixth. “But a win can do a lot for confidence, more so than anything. And I think our guys have practiced the right way coming back off the weekend trip and we have moved on.”
The good news for IU, and Hoosier fans, is that Juwan Morgan has been practicing. The senior forward injured his left shoulder in the first half of the Michigan State game while diving for a loose ball and didn’t play after that. Initially there was some concern that Morgan had reinjured the shoulder that he had surgery on in 2016. Further tests, however, revealed that wasn’t the case. The squad’s second-leading scorer (15.9 points per game) and leading rebounder (eight per game) is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight.
“He’s been back at practice the last couple days and doesn’t see any setbacks,” Miller said Wednesday. “I think we avoided maybe a bigger problem, again, being in that shoulder. I think he was really, really scared at the time. He’s had some instances there. But I think as it got calmed down and he got home and got some therapy and some treatment he’s feeling good and he hasn’t missed a practice.”
The Hoosiers will need him against the Hawkeyes, who have a potent inside tandem in 6-foot-9 junior forward Tyler Cook (16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and 6-11 sophomore forward Luke Garza (15.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg). It isn’t just those two, though. Iowa, which is No. 1 in scoring (77.6 ppg) in league games, also features 6-6 freshman guard Joe Wieskamp (11.4 ppg), 6-1 junior guard Jordan Bohannon (10.3 ppg) and 6-5 junior guard Isaiah Moss (9.8 ppg).
“Iowa is coming in as good as advertised,” Miller said. “They have a great one-two punch inside with Garza and Cook. And they also have tremendous shooting and depth, and [are] one of the best offensive teams that we’ll see all season.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 74-59 upset of then-No. 5 Michigan last Friday night. In that win Garza had 19 points and eight rebounds, while Wieskamp contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Six-nine junior forward Ryan Kriener added a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) off the bench for Iowa, which gave the Wolverines trouble with their switching defenses.
“You are going to have to recognize the sort of zone that they’re playing, whether it’s traditional, [or] whether it’s more of an odd-front matchup. And sometimes they will even drop back man-to-man,” Miller said. “So they can keep you off balance a little bit with that and take away the rhythm. They have done a really nice job with that over the course of the season.”
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, enter the homestretch of their season with six of their final nine at Assembly Hall after playing six of their previous eight on the road.
“We always love playing at home in front of this environment,” sophomore guard Al Durham said. “I feel like us just being home gives an extra edge to us and just makes us feel good and gives us time to get treatment, and stuff, and stay off the road and just be home in a good environment and be comfortable.”
IU will follow up tonight’s game by hosting Ohio State at 1 p.m. (CBS) Sunday.
“[The Buckeyes are] having an excellent season,” Miller said. “Being back at home hopefully should give us a little bit more confidence coming off [last] weekend.”