The tenth war.
It’s something that the Hoosiers have talked about all season and refers to the last four minutes of each game. With this as its area of emphasis, IU has found great success so far this season late in games.
Amid a stretch of seven games in 17 days, Monday’s matchup against Maryland was the fourth game and third in Big Ten play that came down to five points or less. For the fourth time, IU emerged victorious in these types of its situations due to its prowess in clutch moments. Behind 25 points from junior forward Juwan Morgan and his key baskets late, IU defeated Maryland 71-68.
“Winning close games is about getting stops,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “If you can get stops, and you can find a way to hang in tough games and get stops and your team is believing that you can win a game without scoring point, that’s step one.”
Miller said that his team has become tough-minded, but its ability to close out games also comes back to its preparation.
“It's the way we prepare in practice,” Morgan said. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game in tenth war, and when it comes down to it, we made winning plays, when it comes down to five or less points.”
The stops in the second half were what made the difference.
IU’s defense buckled down and held Maryland to 31-percent shooting in the second half. Junior guard Zach McRoberts said that difference was due to a greater focus after halftime.
“I thought in the second half we were much better on the ball,” Miller said. “I thought we challenged things at the basket. It was a very physical game.”
However, the Hoosiers’ offense wasn’t much better as they only made one more made basket than the Terrapins in the second half.
Yet, in the key moments, IU came up with the critical baskets to secure the victory.
Following a made three-pointer by Maryland guard Jared Nickens with just over six minutes to go, the Terrapins went on a quick run to go up five.
Even though IU gave up that run, Morgan said he saw growth from the team because they knew what they had to do before Miller called a timeout.
“We just knew we had to get a stop and turn it around before things got out of hand,” Morgan said. “When he called that, it was pretty much a player-driven timeout. He didn't have to say much; we knew what we had to do and we got it done.”
After the timeout, the Hoosiers promptly answered back with a 7-0 run with Morgan scoring the first five points of that burst. That run was keyed by strong defense by the Hoosiers as they forced five turnovers in the last five minutes of the game.
Nickens hit another three to pull Maryland within one, but on both ends, IU closed out the game without too much stress.
The victory was IU’s fourth in five games and over its best opponent since defeating Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic Dec. 16, 2017. The Hoosiers are getting some momentum right as a brutal period of games reaches its apex.
“We’re on an incredible run,” Miller said. “It’s an unprecedented run. Seven games in 17 days. Three time (with) two games in three days in three consecutive weeks with the second game being on the road. That’s a tough task.”
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