Senior forward Collin Hartman couldn’t help but knock on wood.
Before answering a question about how healthy he was after nearly reaching his career high in points for a game, he knocked on the wooden podium in the IU media room at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, hoping his recent run of being injury-free would continue.
Hartman missed the first five games of the 2017 season due to a groin injury after missing all of last season with a knee injury. During the preseason, he also suffered an ankle injury, which caused him to miss time as well.
After having his minutes increase in recent games, Hartman played 20 minutes for the second consecutive game and played an integral role in IU’s 77-64 victory over Iowa on Monday night.
“Collin is a leader,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “He’s a fifth-year guy and anytime that your seniors are out there playing well and talking and communicating, good things can happen.”
With more minutes comes greater comfort for Hartman. He said he’s taking things day-to-day as he does everything the doctors say.
“It’s a never-ending grind, but it’s part of the job, part of playing basketball,” Hartman said. “And it’s fun because I get more playing time, staying healthy.”
He wasn’t the only key frontcourt player for the Hoosiers. Junior forward Juwan Morgan also continued his recent stretch of consistent play as he notched a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds against Iowa.
“He’s sticking to the script,” Miller said. “He’s not trying to do anything that he doesn’t do in practice. If you watch him in practice, it’s very workman-like.”
Both Hartman and Morgan were essential in sparking two runs that earned Miller his first Big Ten Conference victory. When Hartman entered the game with 6:37 left in the first half, IU ripped off a 21-7 run to end the half.
That lead quickly evaporated in the second half until Hartman came onto the court. After Hartman checked in for sophomore forward De’Ron Davis with 16:19 left in the second half, IU went on a 28-10 run to stretch a three-point lead to 21 points.
“I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Hartman said. “And he’s relentless on the boards. When you play with confidence and you’re relentless, it’s hard to deny.”
Miller said Morgan shows up every day and gives great effort and has become a key figure in IU’s stability.
“We need him on the floor,” Miller said. “He gives us a presence offensively, and he gives us a presence defensively. He can guard multiple positions, and he’s rebounding the ball well.”
With Hartman back healthy and Morgan playing as well as he has in his career, IU is in good position on both ends of the court. Amid a difficult five-game stretch, Miller is happy knowing that this duo is fitting well together.
“So, you have two guys out there that can move around a little bit,” Miller said. “You can see they’re kind of free flowing when those two guys are out there. They know how to play with one another.”
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