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Balanced effort on offense helps men's basketball defeat Eastern Michigan


Sophomore guard Devonte Green charges the basket and attempts a layup during the Hoosiers' game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers beat the Eagles, 87-67. Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

IU Coach Archie Miller called Eastern Michigan's zone defense "the second-best zone I have ever seen" prior to Friday night's game against the Eagles at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The IU (4-2) offense made light work of Eastern Michigan's zone defense in a 87-67 victory, a win in which the Hoosiers recorded 19 team assists compared to only eight turnovers.

"I think the shot selection, being able to play inside the zone and out, was pretty good," Miller said. "Guys got good looks and were able to knock them down."

Miller said it was the first time he really saw players like senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk make shots, and the game felt different as a result.

Johnson led IU players with 18 points in the win, while Newkirk had 17 points. Both players caught fire from three-point range as well, as the pair combined to shoot 9 of 12 on three pointers.

"I credit my teammates," Newkirk said. "They do a good job of finding me and I knock down the shots."

Newkirk also did well when distributing the ball Friday, turning the ball over just once while posting four assists. 

Ball security has improved for the Hoosiers in recent games, as they also only turned the ball over eight times against Arkansas State on Wednesday night.

One player in particular, freshman guard Al Durham, has continually taken care of the ball this season. Durham hasn't committed a turnover since early in the second half against Howard on Nov. 12.

"You're not going to find a guy early in his career who's this steady," Miller said. "He's much more of an efficient player. Straight line. Doesn't need to have the ball in his hands a ton to be effective."

Early in Friday's game it was senior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. making an impact for IU. McSwain finished with a career-high 10 points and added nine rebounds for the Hoosiers.

"Just keeping my body on my opponent," McSwain said. "Trying to use my quickness around them, boxing them out and trying to beat them to the ball."

The Eagles and Hoosiers were locked in a tight battle until there were about nine minutes left in the first half. IU took a 19-18 lead on a jumper by sophomore forward De'Ron Davis, a lead the Hoosiers wouldn't relinquish.

IU's five-point halftime lead was bolstered by a 26-13 scoring run by the Hoosiers to begin the second period. From there, it was smooth sailing for IU.

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The loudest cheers from the Assembly Hall crowd didn't come during the second-half scoring run, though, but rather with just over eight minutes to go in the first half.

Senior forward Collin Hartman, who just seconds earlier checked in for his first game action since March 25, 2016, made his first shot attempt in his return. 

Hartman hit a corner three pointer for his only basket, but it was a shot that seemed to invigorate both his teammates and the IU crowd.

"He was cleared yesterday," Miller said. "Lo and behold, bangs his first three and I think obviously a lot of pressure out of the building for him. Keeping him healthy and getting him back, reacclimatized into the lineup is really important."

After what Miller called an irregular start to the season schedule-wise, the Hoosiers will have a five-day break until next Wednesday's home matchup with the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils. 

"I they're as talented as a team in college basketball this season," Miller said. "We know what we're getting on Wednesday night."

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