For a team adjusting to a new coach and learning a new system, the first half against South Florida was more of the same for IU.
Struggling with turnovers and defensive lapses, the Hoosiers looked destined for another close game on Sunday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against a lower-tier nonconference team. Instead, IU found answers to those problems on both ends of the court and breezed past South Florida in the second half.
Behind an energized performance by junior forward Juwan Morgan, IU defeated South Florida, 70-53.
“I thought Juwan Morgan basically jump-started the team in the second half,” IU Coach Archie Miller told reporters. “He played extremely hard. His work on the glass was great and he gave us confidence. Told Juwan he continues to play like that he's got good days ahead of at this moment.”
It wasn’t hot shooting that helped IU cruise past South Florida. Rather, it was free throw shooting — which had been an issue for the Hoosiers in their first three games — that became the backbone for IU’s second-half success. IU made only one three in the second half, but scored 37 points thanks to going 14 of 17 from the free throw line.
In the second half, Morgan only went two of five from the floor, but he profited from going nine of 10 from the free throw line along with pulling down eight rebounds.
“He was fantastic,” Miller said. “It wasn't just about shooting threes; it was about playing hard. I thought he played hard on both ends of the floor. The offensive rebounding was unbelievable effort. And then 10 free throw attempts kind of shows the aggressiveness that he played with tonight.”
Going into halftime, IU trailed South Florida by one as the Hoosiers struggled in the first half with turnovers. While the Hoosiers shot 55 percent, they turned the ball over nine times and allowed the Bulls to have 14 second-chance points.
That all changed in the second half. With only three turnovers in the second half, IU’s offense looked crisp and the Hoosiers moved the ball with confidence.
“I thought the second half we were able to control it a little bit more,” Miller said. “Didn't take as many chances with the ball.”
IU’s defense was improved in the first half, but the Hoosiers once again struggled giving up threes. South Florida shot 57 percent from beyond the arc in the first half with senior forward Peyton Banks having 15 points and three 3-pointers. In the second half, IU held Banks in check has he only had three points.
South Florida shot one of 10 from three in the second half as IU’s defense only gave up six field goals the entire half.
"It was just coming together on the defensive end," Morgan told reporters. "We are at our best when we're in transition and it makes the offense so much easier when you are going three-on-two, two-on-one."
Miller said he was proud of his team’s effort on that side of the ball and said his team is getting better on defense. It’s been an area that IU’s has been focusing on the most.
“And I think our guys understand right now that that's not going away,” Miller said. “We're going to have to continue to be just a tough-minded group up here."
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