Archie Miller kept things moving quickly during his first Hoosier Hysteria as IU coach Saturday night.
There was no drawn-out speech, no eight-round shooting contest and certainly no time wasted. Miller paid his respects to the crowd and energized it with the subtlest of recruiting pitches while a pair of highly touted high school students sat nearby.
“This is the start of our staff’s ability to recognize the great fans that represent us every year,” Miller told the audience. “We owe you a lot more than you owe us right now.”
Then it was down to the usual business of the annual kickoff event, and a brief 3-point shootout — won by senior guard Josh Newkirk and sophomore women’s guard Ali Patberg — was followed by a quick slam-dunk contest in which sophomore guard Curtis Jones dunked over sophomore forward De’Ron Davis to take home the title.
When Miller finally got to see his team scrimmage for the first time in front of IU’s home crowd, two players in particular stepped up to face the noise. The point guards of the present and possibly the future, senior Robert Johnson and sophomore Devonte Green, turned in ball-dominant performances to lead their respective squads in scoring.
It was just an October scrimmage, and a sloppy one at that. In one five-minute span in the first half, Green traveled, had his shot blocked and missed everything but the air on a 3-point attempt. Throughout the two halves of play, Johnson missed well over half his shot attempts.
But with IU’s two other point guards, Newkirk and freshman Al Durham, both sitting out for precautionary reasons, Green and Johnson were forced to go head-to-head for nearly all of the 24 minutes the Red and White Hoosier teams played against each other.
The end result was a game-high 14 points from Green and 12 points from Johnson as Green’s red team beat Johnson’s white squad, 40-31. Both nailed two 3-pointers and showed plenty of aggression while drawing fouls on the other.
Green downplayed his seemingly increased assertiveness and instead focused on the sloppy aspects that did stick out throughout the warm-up game.
“We played good defensively,” Green said. “I think we could definitely cut down the turnovers and just work on playing as a team.”
Jones, for his part, made his presence felt from behind the arc after flashing his leaping ability earlier in the night. The sophomore made two 3-pointers and unsuccessfully launched plenty more. He was more willing to admit that he and his classmates — Green and Davis, the sophomore forward — will look to turn it up a notch this season.
“I guess we kind of are stepping up a little bit more, being more aggressive,” Jones said.
It wasn’t exactly a forceful declaration from Jones, but it wasn’t an evening for declarations to be made. IU’s first exhibition game is still one week away, and the Hoosiers won’t play a real game until after the calendar turns to November.
But there was basketball played inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday night for the first time in a long time, and some players needed to control the action. Green, Johnson and Jones wound up being among the standouts, but Miller seemed confident and pleased with his entire group.
Before the scrimmage was even played, the coach was self-assured enough to issue an optimistic guarantee.
“I promise you right now with who they are as people, and how they’ve accepted and embraced our change, it’s going to give us a chance to have some special moments down the line,” Miller said.
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