(Photo Credit: IndianaHQ)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The battle of Indiana teams commences for the 8th year in a row as Indiana gets paired up with the event-leading Butler Bulldogs. Going into the event, Juwan Morgan was certainly the player to watch as he racked up 34 points and 11 rebounds in last year’s comeback win against Notre Dame. In fact, his 34 points would be an event all-time high and his 11 rebounds would be tied for fifth most impressive performance off the glass.
He would break records yet again in the 2018 edition of the Crossroads Classic.
Indiana defeats Butler in a thrilling 71-68 show. Freshman guard Robert Phinisee was the hero of the game, making a near-half-court three with time expiring to give the Bulldogs their third loss on the season.
What now seems like a running theme since the Marquette game, Indiana unsurprisingly dragged its feet offensively to start the first half. They trailed by as much as 11 against Butler’s three point barrage. The only source of energy for the Hoosiers was last year’s event star Juwan Morgan. He led all scorers with 18 points in the first half and broke the Crossroads Classic points scored for a single game record with his final production line of 35 points. Notably, Juwan was 7 of 7 from the free throw line.
Despite the win, Archie Miller may want to reconsider how he opens games because the energy levels for the Hoosiers have not matched opponents in recent memory.
Juwan also took care of business defensively. He controlled the block against Butler’s bigs, while also having two monster blocks early on. Even though Juwan picked up his first foul at the 17:35 minute mark, he did pick up a second foul in the first. That being said, Archie sat down Juwan for lineups featuring De’Ron Davis and Zach McRoberts.
Romeo Langford took the baton from Juwan and became significantly more effective when he decided to navigate into the paint, rather than shooting outside fadeaways, although they are just so pretty when they go in. Romeo Langford drew a game high 4 fouls in the first half.
LaVall Jordan had his team aggressive and attacking. The combination of guards Thompson, Baldwin, and Jorgensen tore up the Hoosiers in the interior as well as behind the arc. The trio combined for 28 points and 13 assists.
While not truly a guard, you should also add Sean McDermott to that group as well. The Anderson, Indiana resident killed Indiana from deep, shooting 6 from distance and finishing the game with a team high 20 points.
Whenever Indiana had a good possession, Butler always seemed to follow closely with an opportunity of their own. Indiana native Joey Brunk played impressively down the stretch for Butler. The Bulldogs were effective for each possession, hen they missed, they caught offensive boards to extend their set.
LaVall Jordan dialed up the frontcourt during the second half. While the emphasis was on the guards in the first period, the offense flowed primarily through Joey Brunk. Interestingly when Indiana was able to handle Brunk and disrupt his positioning, they were able to claw back from behind and close the score gap.
Apart from a dash of Devonte Green and Robert Phinisee here and there, the rest of the game had the spotlight on Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. At one point around the 11:40 mark, Juwan and Romeo knew they wanted to score and ran a set with them off of a break down the left lane. They played with intention and Juwan demonstratively placed the ball for Romeo to drive in for the lay in. Morgan began to impose his will on the game.
Even though the Hoosiers tailed very closely to Butler, they did not get a chance to even tie up the score until 3:54 remaining off of a pair of Juwan Morgan free throws. The snowball rolled after that and Indiana took the lead shortly.
To close out the game, Indiana with the help of Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan, and Justin Smith buckets took the lead a handful of times before holding on to the last possession tied at 68 a piece. Devonte Green dribbled out the shot clock but was not able to find a teammate until there was 3 seconds left. Robert Phinisee dialed a 40 footer with time expiring to move the Hoosiers to 9-2.
(Source: Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
To close out the non-conference schedule, Indiana hosts two sub-270 Kenpom teams: Central Arkansas on Wednesday and Jacksonville on Saturday. The Hoosiers look to wrap up with two more wins before the players and coaches get nearly ten days before their next match up. You can catch Indiana’s contest against the Central Arkansas Bears at 7 pm on BTN.