When IU Coach Archie Miller was hired, he was tasked with bringing toughness to the IU program.
Against No. 1 Duke, IU showed the beginning signs of a new toughness as IU hung with the talented Blue Devils until late in the game. Like in Duke’s two previous wins over Texas and Florida, Duke pulled away late to take a 91-81 victory Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
For most of the game, IU was right with Duke shot-for-shot. It wasn’t until Duke’s firepower took over in the closing minutes that Duke was able to seal the deal.
The Blue Devils’ defense, which had been struggling to contain IU’s offense in the second half, ramped up late to win the game.
“That’s what they’ve done in all of their comeback wins,” Miller said. “They turn it up at another level. Their talent, their size, their athleticism can really get into you.”
In that final stretch, Miller said Duke kept IU’s guards in front of Duke's defenders, but it was the free-throw line that killed IU. While IU’s offense didn’t have a basket in the last 5:26 of the game, sophomore forward De’Ron Davis missed four free throws with the game in the balance.
“I think towards the last part of the game, we started getting fouled more," Davis said. "That’s on us to hit our free throws. Although we didn’t match bucket-for-bucket, we were getting fouled. We knock down our free throws, we’re right there.”
Behind senior forwards Collin Hartman and Freddie McSwain Jr., along with junior forward Juwan Morgan, IU kept the game within reach and even had the lead. Even without Davis, who got into early foul trouble, IU outscored Duke by four points in the paint in the first half.
“It takes a whole team to compete with a team like that, and guys did a good job of being ready when their names were called,” Johnson said.
Offensively, IU moved the ball with precision and didn’t turn the ball over until late in the first half. Senior guard Josh Newkirk led the way with eight first-half points.
When Duke went into a zone defense late in the first half, IU’s offense struggled and it looked like Duke would get a cushion going into halftime. The Hoosiers went more than five minutes without a basket until senior guard Robert Johnson hit a 3-pointer to stem the tide.
To start the second half, Duke pushed its lead out to 10.
“They really bullied us one-on-one,” Miller said. “They were going one-on-one right at us, and we weren’t ready to absorb the punch. Once we were calmed down, we came back and dug ourselves out of it slowly but surely with some good possessions offensively.”
Freshman guard Al Durham hit a three to stop the bleeding. Going on a 19-7 run, the Hoosiers retook the lead after Hartman had five quick points off the bench.
Behind 12 points from Davis, IU traded blow-for-blow with Duke until the last stretch of play.
After a put-back by Hartman with 5:26 left, IU led by one, but that was the last basket IU would score. Duke would never trail again as it stretched its lead out late in the game behind strong offense and IU's lengthy offensive drought.
Even with the difficult end to the game, Miller was happy with the intensity his team showed against the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I thought in general our guys were ready to play,” Miller said. “They weren’t scared or afraid of the moment. And I think you saw throwing punches, they got knocked down a few times. They came back. And just learning how to win, learning how to win that type of game.”
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