INDIANAPOLIS — This was the game that junior forward Juwan Morgan took over.
After trailing for most of the game against No. 18 Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic, Morgan took matters into his own hands. Late against the Irish, he became an unstoppable force for the Hoosiers at one point scoring 16 straight points for the Hoosiers.
Morgan notched a career high in points with 34 and helped carry IU to an 80-77 victory over Notre Dame in overtime.
Late in the game, the Hoosiers downsized their lineup. That unit found great success in getting IU back in the game.
“We found that lineup was really working for us, both defensively and offensively," Morgan said. “As we kept getting stops, they just kept feeding me the ball, putting me in great positions to score. That was the result.”
Whenever the Hoosiers needed a bucket down the stretch, they fed Morgan in the post to score. He was their constant as Notre Dame had no answers for him late in the game.
Trailing by eight with 4:24 left in the game, Morgan scored 12 straight points for IU and helped get the game into overtime. In overtime, he had the Hoosiers first four points and scored eight in the period.
His dunk with eight seconds left in overtime was the play that won IU the game. Morgan had missed an and-one free throw, but junior forward Josh McRoberts corralled the rebound and shoveled it to Morgan for the dunk.
That play capped off Morgan’s day.
In the five games leading into Saturday, Morgan was averaging 17.5 points per game as he had become one of IU’s most consistent players on both ends of the court. This season, he has only been kept out of double digits three times.
IU Coach Archie Miller said Morgan has been playing exactly like he practices, with confidence in his approach.
“He has good footwork and I think the thing he has right now is he has great toughness around the basket,” Miller said. “He’s not falling away. He’s not getting knocked to the ground. There’s no flailing.”
His emergence in recent weeks has come right as IU’s schedule got more difficult. While IU lost to Duke, Michigan and Louisville, Morgan was impressive in each of those contests.
Going up against one of the best players in the country in Notre Dame’s senior forward Bonzie Colson, Morgan might have outplayed him when it counted most.
“I just knew that he was going to come in and was going to put a great fight,” Morgan said. “It’s like that’s going to be your job. You got to take the challenge, and you got to do something with it.”
Morgan accepted the challenge and even though Colson scored 29 points, IU still won.
Shooting 67-percent from the field in the last four games, Morgan has taken on a bigger role for the Hoosiers.
“I think he’s really playing within himself,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “Once he saw that he could do that and get results, I think he just got better and better and that gave him a lot of confidence. We’re behind him 100-percent. I know he’ll continue to get better.”
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