Welcome to another edition of 6-Banner Sunday, where we highlight the six most essential IU basketball stories of the past week.
The Hoosiers had nearly an entire week of rest before their toughest conference test yet, but couldn’t keep up with No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing.
In this week’s edition:
- Hoosiers fall flat on road
- Robert Johnson’s offense reemerges
- Phinisee to enter heated rivalry
- Romeo Langford surges
- Tyra tops 2,000
- Morgan a handful, headache (also: hobbled)
Hoosiers fall flat on road
Five days after a blowout win over Northwestern, Indiana was shellacked by Michigan State, 85-57. The loss drops the Hoosiers’ record on the season to 11-8 with a 4-3 mark in Big Ten play.
Michigan State’s NBA-caliber talent and inside-out play proved to be too tall of a task for the Hoosiers to handle. The Spartans led for the entirety of the final 35 minutes,
More concerning than the defeat is the uncertain status of star junior Juwan Morgan. Morgan went down late in the first half after stepping on his own foot. Morgan eventually headed to the locker room under his own power but left the arena on crutches.
Indiana is calling it a left ankle injury, but no further update has been provided. His status for Monday’s home tilt with Maryland is uncertain. If Morgan is forced to miss significant time, the Hoosiers will have to find a way to persevere despite the absence of the two most impactful frontcourt players.
The Hoosiers don’t have much time to reflect on their disappointing performance at Michigan State. The loss marked the start of a seven-game-in-18-day stretch for the squad.
More from East Lansing:
- Assembly Call Postgame Show
- Postgame video: Archie Miller, Justin Smith and Robert Johnson
- The Minute After, Notebook, Five Takeaways
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Robert Johnson’s offense reemerges
As Big Ten play nears the halfway point, Indiana’s backcourt star is refinding his offensive game. Senior guard Robert Johnson has scored 76 points over the last four contests, the most in his career over a four-game stretch.
The resurgence of Johnson’s scoring firepower has sent him surging up the school’s all-time scoring chart. His 21-point effort in East Lansing brought his collegiate total to 1,244 points, vaulting him to the 32nd spot in IU scoring history, ahead of Dick Van Arsdale and James Blackmon, Jr.
Eddie Cotton of The Hoosier Network has more on Johnson and his importance to what remains of Indiana’s postseason hopes:
Johnson is playing the best basketball of his career and it is coming at the most important time in his career.
The questions surrounding him in the past have seemingly always been mental. Whether it be this fear of him never reaching his full potential or this everlasting concern for Johnson’s ability to become a leader, Johnson’s mental make-up has always been at the forefront. Now, it appears as if a new found level of confidence and support has pushed those questions to the side.
“It’s the guys around me, the coaching staff, my teammates,” Johnson said after Indiana’s victory over Northwestern. “They never lost faith or confidence in my ability to shoot the ball, so I give all the thanks to them.”
If Morgan doesn’t dress tomorrow evening, Johnson’s ability to carry the offensive load will be even more crucial.
Phinisee to enter heated rivalry
When Indiana 2018 signee Robert Phinisee visits West Lafayette next season to face the Boilermakers, he’ll be playing in front of the same fans that longed for him to join their team.
The star point guard for McCutcheon High School, located in Lafayette, has been living in Purdue country his entire life. Tippecanoe County’s all-time leading scorer, Phinisee knows he’ll have a target on his back from the moment he steps foot in Mackey Arena, yet he has no hard feelings towards his hometown school.
“I don’t hate Purdue; I am a hometown kid. I just feel like IU is the best fit for me,” Phinisee told WISH-TV. “It isn’t a ‘I hate Purdue’ now because I chose Indiana. I still have love for my hometown.”
Before he enrolls at IU, Phinisee still has plenty to play for. The future Hoosier would like to make a deep run in the state tournament before moving to Bloomington.
I feel like it’s a pretty open sectional this year. It’s not really favored to one team. Really we have to keep building off this win and keep doing what we’re doing and I feel like we have a big possibility to win sectionals
Langford surges up scoring chart
Romeo Langford, the lone top-five 2018 prospect yet to commit, continued his record-breaking season for New Albany this weekend with a pair of wins.
On Friday evening, Langford, who will decide between Kansas, Vanderbilt and Indiana in the spring, recorded 36 points in a nationally televised win over Princeton (Ohio).
The next day, Langford poured in another 30 points, leading his team to victory over Evansville Reitz. Langford’s senior-season scoring average now sits at 32.8 as he continues climbing up the state’s all-time scoring charts. Langford’s high school total is currently at an astounding 2,513, good for 7th in Indiana history. The state record of 3,134 points, set by Damon Bailey, is within reach, but Langford would have to average nearly 42 points per contest over the remainder of the season and reach the state finals to surpass Bailey.
Inside The Hall was on location Friday and published highlights and an interview featuring Langford.
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Tyra tops 2,000
Heading towards the final months of her collegiate career, IU senior guard Tyra Buss is cementing her legacy as perhaps the greatest player in IU women’s basketball history.
In a matinee contest on Saturday in East Lansing, the prolific scorer led the way for Indiana with 26 points, lifting the Hoosiers to a four-point victory, their second of the Big Ten season.
Buss hit her first seven shots of the night, and in doing so, became the first player in IU women’s basketball history, and the sixth in program history, to eclipse 2,000 career points.
The Indiana Daily Student has the game recap, which includes this striking quote from head coach Teri Moren.
“She was blistering hot in the first half. She mentioned before that she had never won here in Lansing. Even last night when we were walking out of dinner, you could just tell she was ready.”
Morgan a handful, headache (also: hobbled)
Zach Osterman wrote an insightful piece in the lead-up to the Michigan State game that viewed the development of Juwan Morgan’s game through the eyes of opposing coaches who have been tasked with trying to stop him.
One team who actually did a decent job of containing Juwan was Fort Wayne, and it’s a strategy you can expect other teams to try to follow in the future (whenever Juwan is back on the court).
Ultimately, Coffman said the most effective strategy Fort Wayne employed against Morgan came at the other end. The Mastodons opted for smaller, quicker lineups, trying to drive on Indiana’s forwards and get as many as possible in foul trouble, not just Morgan.
It worked well enough — Morgan picked up his second foul with 11 minutes left in the first half and sat until halftime. He would play 24 minutes in a 20-point IU loss, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds but shooting just 6-of-14 from the floor.
Coffman handled Morgan about as well as anyone has in the last two months, and he still described gameplanning for the junior forward as “really overwhelming.”
While Juwan’s second-half absence against Michigan State didn’t change the outcome of that game, and he struggled to get involved when healthy in the first half, we saw what a difference Juwan makes for this team in a more evenly matched game against Northwestern. Needless to say, the Hoosiers need him on the floor.
So … when will he return? No one is sure. Terry Hutchens reported on Twitter yesterday that an IU spokesperson said the next update on Juwan’s status will be on Monday. If he warms up with his teammates, take that as a great sign. If he doesn’t, and especially if he strolls out in street clothes, then let the worrying (and expectation adjusting) begin.
And with that, the joy of hanging Banner #6 is now one week closer.
Thanks for your continued support for The Assembly Call. We’ll be back next weekend with a new roundup.
Now go enjoy yourself a 6-banner Sunday.