It took Devonte Green 25 games and a change in philosophy to become the effective guard IU Coach Archie Miller knew he could be, but the coach will take it.
Though Friday night’s 19-point outing might have seemed like a breakout game for the sophomore guard, it was more of a culmination for Green.
In four straight games of 30 minutes or more played, including 31 minutes in the 80-56 win over Minnesota, Green has improved both his confidence and production. He knows it, and his coach has seen it too.
“He’s starting to make some really good decisions on pick and roll situations,” Miller said. “He’s starting to be a guy that has his head up and he's looking for people.”
With a litany of baseball metaphors and some thoughtful reflection, Green and Miller explained that the sophomore has begun focusing on making the simple play. Before, Green used to look for home runs too much, now he’s finding singles. And the singles are leading to just as much, if not more, success.
Green found his shooting stroke early against the Gophers with 17 points in the first half on four made 3-pointers. That opened up the rest of his game, and he was able to dish out a career-high seven assists as he looked for his own shot less after halftime.
It was the second start in a row for Green, who is averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 assists per game since playing four scoreless minutes against Purdue. Green said starting has helped him feel more comfortable and play at ease.
“Coming on, just getting into a rhythm going into the game,” Green said. “Mentally getting into a rhythm and staying consistent throughout the games.”
The rest of IU’s guard rotation, meanwhile, has adjusted around Green’s emergence. Senior Robert Johnson was his reliable self with more of a defensive emphasis against Minnesota, while senior Josh Newkirk and freshman Al Durham provided 11 points and three assists off the bench.
Miller said he’s recently emphasized sharing the ball more, which showed against the Gophers. The Hoosiers assisted on 21 of their 30 made field goals and picked up their most assists in a Big Ten game this season.
Junior forward Juwan Morgan had five assists of his own, but the ball-sharing mindset will have to start in the backcourt. So far it has. Fourteen assists against Rutgers on Monday night was a step in the right direction, Miller said, and Friday offered even more encouragement.
It might take a bit more time, and even some growing pains, for IU to find the balance between sharing the ball and not overdoing it with the “home runs” that plagued Green earlier this year.
One play in particular from Green against Minnesota exemplified the perfect equilibrium. With just less than two minutes to go in the first half, Green came down with a rebound, immediately looked up and saw a streaking Morgan. Green launched a pass that went nearly the full length of the court, found Morgan’s hands and wound up being laid in for an easy two.
It wasn’t exactly the simple pass that Miller’s wanted to see more of, but it was a home run swing that Green connected on.
“Every once in a while you’re going to see him make some plays that a lot of people can’t make, because he’s very talented,” Miller said of Green. “For him to be playing the way he is right now is a really good step for our team.”
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