IU Dominates Minnesota For Consecutive Wins
Joe Robbins | Getty Images
- Devonte Green has figured it out.
Not completely, of course. Indiana's sophomore guard still battles the urge for spectacle over simple, sometimes rushes rather than waits.
Case in point, the high-risk length-of-court pass to Juwan Morganthat produced a first-half basket, but flirted with disaster.
More and more, Green plays to his coach's liking, and there's plenty to like with improved decision making, aggressive offense and alert defense.
Take Friday night's 80-56 victory over Minnesota.
Green opened with eight points in seven minutes, remained mostly turnover free and was a huge catalyst in IU's second straight win.
He totaled 19 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals in a team-leading 31 minutes.
"It's mainly hitting the open man," Green said about his improved play. "It's playing simple. Not trying to make the home run play. Not trying to make the difficult play. Seeing what's there and making that play."
Green was the main reason why the Hoosiers (14-12 over, 7-7 in the Big Ten) swept both games against Minnesota this season. He found perimeter accuracy (4-for-6 from three-point range) when teammates shot mostly blanks (2-for-10). He delivered consistency when the Hoosiers lacked it, crisp passing when his team needed it.
"He's playing within himself and within the system," Morgan said. "He makes plays for others and that opens it up for him."
This is what coach Archie Miller saw in measured doses as fall morphed into winter; what he demanded when Green reverted to less mature play, and confidence edged into recklessness.
The mandate was clear -- play with simplicity and not complexity.
"That's the biggest deal," Miller said. "It's not always a home run. You can go for the single, and he started to go for singles. He's making good decisions on the pick and roll. He's looking for people.
"You still see him make plays a lot of players can't make. He's starting to make guys better."
The final straw in the transformation -- Green playing just four minutes against Purdue two weeks ago.
Miller expected him to play with poise and purpose, or he wouldn't play.
Message delivered and received.
"He started to see his way wasn't working," Miller said. "He's coming to practice with more humbleness and with more of an approach we like. With that approach, he got an opportunity and took advantage of it. He's playing as well as we've had a guard play all season."
Green wasn't ready to concede the importance of the limited Purdue play.
"It was not that much of an effect. I stuck with what I had been doing. Mentally stayed with it. Came to compete every day."
Whatever the reason, in his last four games, Green has averaged 13.7 points with 18 assists, 12 rebounds and five turnovers. He's become Indiana's second-best player behind Morgan, who for a while on Friday night flirted with a triple double. Morgan finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
This was far from a two-man show.
Zach McRoberts delivered his usual all-world hustle that produces deceptively few numbers (no points or assists, two steals, one block and one rebound). Freddie McSwain rebounded (seven) and defended at a high level, and added eight points for those who doubted his offense, and that was with missing two dunks. Robert Johnson had 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers while playing difference-making defense.
They combined with Green and Morgan for a starting rotation Miller isn't about to change unless forced to.
"They're our best five," Miller said. "That's why they're in there. They give us the best chance to start the game."
That doesn't count off-the-bench contributions from Al Durham (seven points) and Justin Smith (nine points, four rebounds).
This was far from just a Cream 'n Crimson offensive show. The Hoosiers held Minnesota to 33.3 percent shooting after limiting Rutgers to 24.1 percent four days earlier.
"The energy level is up," Miller said. "Guys are really working on the ball. Guys are really aware."
Miller added that three Hoosiers -- Johnson, McRoberts, Morgan – are "really good defenders."
"It's a team thing with us. It's been the team approach. Our guys are playing with great energy."
IU held Minnesota and Rutgers to a combined 99 points. It's the first time Indiana has held back-to-back Big Ten opponents to under 100 points since 2002.
Morgan credited an improved defensive rotation and "staying with the pack line, and not trying to over-extend."
"We wanted to not settle and give up easy baskets. We locked down on defense and as we did that, it opened up our offense."
Injury depleted Minnesota (14-13, 3-11) – it was without starters Amir Coffee, DuPree McBrayer and Reggie Lynch -- was led by Nate Mason's 18 points.
The Gophers came in struggling with nine losses in 10 games (a slump started by the Hoosiers in early January), and IU instantly ratcheted up the pressure by bolting to a 12-4 lead. The Hoosiers upped it to 24-13 before the Gophers made a run.
They closed within three points. IU pushed back for a 39-29 halftime lead, then scored the first six points of the second half.
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino called a timeout, but it was too late.
The Hoosiers cruised to victory.
"They are going to defend," Pitino said of Indiana. "They are going to play hard. They are going to rebound. They will get better and better."
That has Miller pushing for a strong finish.
"Our guys understand they have a chance to beat everybody they play," he said.