Hoosiers Hang On Against Maryland
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Sometimes you have to make the other guy blink.
Sometimes you have to dig deep, play hard and battle as if Michigan State misery never happened.
And sometimes, if you're the Indiana Hoosiers, you have to finally -- finally -- shoot to your potential.
Monday night Maryland came to Assembly Hall and IU was more than ready, finding resolve instead of frustration, production instead of futility.
And, finally, a 71-68 victory.
"Our guys really competed and played hard," coach Archie Millersaid. "We had great concentration. Our leadership the last few days was really good."
And then …
"Being able to get Juwan back was a big key."
That would be junior forward Juwan Morgan, who wasn't about to let an ankle sprain keep him out of the game – or even the starting lineup. He hurt the ankle in the first half of Friday night's 28-point loss at Michigan State. He spent the second half of that game getting treatment ... and getting ready.
"The first day (Saturday) I was in a lot of pain," Morgan said. "I didn't think I'd be able to play. I continued to get treatment. I started to feel good.
"It hurt not being able to practice. The way they were going at it in practice, the way they were giving it their all, the least I could do was come out and give it my all."
That meant 25 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. He scored 12 straight crunch-time points when IU was seemingly on the verge of a collapse.
Morgan wasn't about to let that happen.
"The more he played, as he got more comfortable, the ankle was a non-issue," Miller said. "He played though the adrenaline."
This was no surprise. Morgan did, after all, play with a banged-up shoulder as a freshman that required postseason surgery. He's always shown toughness when others turned soft.
"He played great for us on defense and offense," teammate Zach McRoberts said. "He did a little bit of everything. You see how important he is."
Added Maryland guard Kevin Huerter: "Juwan is strong and athletic. He was a tough mismatch for us. He made some big plays."
Morgan is a big reason, but not the only one, why Indiana (12-8 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten) is 4-0 this season in games decided by five points or less.
"Winning close games is about getting stops," Miller said. "If you can get stops, if you can find a way to hang in tough games, if your team is believing you can win without scoring points, that's Step One.
"It's being a tough-minded group, being a team that wants to battle all the way through. That's been good.
"We also have a really good player in Juwan. In the last four minutes, he can get some things done for you."
Morgan wasn't the only Hoosier to do so Monday night.
"It's the way we prepare in practice," Morgan said. "We put ourselves in position to win. When it comes down to it, we make winning plays."
That means plays big and small.
It was a night for nasty defense from foul-burdened Josh Newkirk, all-around excellence from Robert Johnson (12 points, eight rebounds), emerging consistency from Justin Smith (12 points on 6-for-8 shooting), and more.
And when Newkirk got stripped by Maryland do-it-all guard Anthony Cowan in the crucial, closing minutes, rather than sulk, he busted down the court to stuff a Cowan layup, and get IU the ball back.
"We play to our strengths," Morgan said. "Nobody tries to do anything out of character."
Maryland (15-7, 4-5) brought an international cast with Spanish forward Joshua Tomaic, Angola forward Bruno Fernando and Slovakia forward Michal Cekovsky, but it was the Maryland-born Cowan who, as he had all season, who made the biggest difference. He finished with 18 points and five steals.
The Terrapins scored five of the game's first eight points. The Hoosiers scored the next nine for a 12-5 lead, but couldn't break away. Maryland pushed ahead 36-31 before IU surged back for a 42-39 halftime lead.
Second-half cliffhanger followed. Both teams delivered a series of body blows that could have broken open the game.
Maryland punched ahead 62-57. Morgan ensured IU punched back for a two-point lead, then four.
The Terrapins closed within 67-66 and then 69-68, but no closer.
The Hoosiers had survived, with little time to savor it.
On Wednesday they play at Illinois. On Sunday they host No. 3 Purdue.
Miller called it part of an "unprecedented run."
More and more, with wins in six of its last eight games, IU seems capable of handling it.
"I definitely see growth," Morgan said. "We knew what we had to do, and got it done."