Looks can be deceiving, and despite the final score showing a blowout win for IU against Arkansas State on Wednesday night, the game itself was tight throughout.
A strong close to the first half for the Hoosiers made it look as though they would breeze to an easy victory inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, but their opponents had other plans.
Arkansas State cut the IU lead to just three points in the middle of the second half and forced the Hoosiers into mistake-filled stretches that kept things close. It took a late run from IU to finish off the 87-70 victory and give the Hoosiers (3-2) their first winning streak of the season.
“I give our guys credit, they were able to fight through it and get some stops,” IU Coach Archie Miller said on his postgame radio show.
Junior forward Juwan Morgan turned in a second straight standout performance as he delivered a career-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds. Morgan was balanced in his scoring as he provided double-digit points in each half and made all 10 of his free throw attempts.
In his last two games, Morgan has scored 43 points and collected 18 rebounds to go along with six blocks. For the veteran forward, it’s been a welcome emergence for Miller after Morgan struggled and battled injury in IU’s first few games of the season.
“He started to get some confidence by playing inside first,” Miller said of Morgan. “Starting there sets him up for success.”
Arkansas State used a zone defense to slow IU down in the beginning of both halves. The Hoosiers trailed 16-12 in the early going, but went on a 15-5 run from that point. At the break, IU led 47-33 and appeared to be in position to coast to a win.
But the first 10 minutes of the second half saw the defensive lapses and carelessness that’s plagued IU at times throughout the young season. The Red Wolves cut the Hoosier lead to three at multiple points in the middle of the second half, and Arkansas State trailed 63-60 with 8:25 remaining in the game.
Like they did against South Florida on Sunday, the Hoosiers locked down the rest of the way and ended the game on a 24-10 run. When it was all said and done, IU’s defense and ball control — the Hoosiers had just eight turnovers in the game, the fewest they’ve committed all season — wrapped up the win.
Sophomore guard Devonte Green finished with 12 points and made three 3-pointers in the first half. Senior forward Freddie McSwain led the Hoosiers on the glass with 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. IU won the rebounding battle 43-33 on the night as Arkansas State shot just 42 percent from the floor.
IU will wrap up its Thanksgiving week schedule on Friday with a game against Eastern Michigan, which beat Arkansas State 76-59 a week ago. Eastern Michigan will present the toughest test of the week for IU and an opportunity for the Hoosiers to take a three-game winning streak into their matchup with No. 1 Duke next week.
“We were fortunate enough to win tonight,” Miller said. “We’ll take it and learn from it. We’ve got a very quick turnaround playing against an excellent Eastern Michigan team.”
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