A promising first half didn’t deliver the results IU Coach Archie Miller wanted in New Jersey on Wednesday night.
After the Hoosiers struggled their way to a split record in its opening weekend, IU hit the road to face No. 22 Seton Hall in the third game of the season.
The Hoosiers (1-2) hung with the Pirates for 20 minutes, but familiar problems reared their ugly heads again as IU let the game slip away in the second half and lost 84-68.
Two freshmen, guard Al Durham and forward Justin Smith, earned their first career starts as junior forward Juwan Morgan and sophomore guard Devonte Green both came off the bench. Morgan and Green entered the game as questionable due to recent injuries, but both they and their replacements in the starting lineup played big roles for IU.
Green came off the bench early and hit four 3-pointers in the first half, which was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams go through lengthy scoring droughts. IU found itself down 10-2 early, but bounced back by forcing Seton Hall into some sloppy offensive play.
At the break, IU had forced 11 Seton Hall turnovers, but the Hoosiers gave it away 10 times themselves. The Pirates led 33-32 after the first half.
“We felt good about our effort level at the half,” Miller said on the postgame radio show.
But the second half was a different – or maybe the same old – story. Problems that plagued IU in its first two games returned, as the Hoosiers turned it over often and were burned by the three-pointer yet again. Seton Hall finished the game 9-of-17 from deep, with five makes coming in the second half.
Eight more turnovers after halftime gave IU 18 in the game, while Seton Hall was able to limit itself to just four giveaways in the final 20 minutes. The Hoosiers shot better in the second half and finished the game with a 49.1 percent field goal percentage, but fouls and turnovers allowed the Pirates to pull away.
Senior center Angel Delgado took over late for Seton Hall by scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half. Delgado also shot 7-of-11 from the free throw line as IU fouled Seton Hall 25 times in the game. Senior guard Desi Rodriguez led the Pirates with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
For IU, the underclassmen led the way as they have most of the season. Senior guards Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson combined for 20 points but turned the ball over seven times. Green and Durham, meanwhile, had 26 points and just two turnovers between them.
Miller, who’s harped on limiting turnovers throughout the young season, cited them as a major reason for IU’s loss after the game. The Hoosiers have now turned the ball over 49 times in three games. Those numbers won’t fly with Miller, or any coach for that matter.
Miller called on his senior ball handlers to lead the way in limiting turnovers moving forward. Newkirk and Johnson have struggled this season, often looking hesitant and unsure.
They, along with the rest of the Hoosiers, will have three home games next week to straighten their problems out before No. 1 Duke comes to town. In those three contests, Miller’s biggest priority will be obvious.
“Guys have to understand taking care of the ball is the most important thing,” Miller said.
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