Junior forward Juwan Morgan was the best player on the court for IU on Tuesday night, which is not an uncommon occurrence in itself.
Morgan leads the Hoosiers in scoring, rebounding, blocks and nearly every other statistic you’d expect a star post player to lead his team in. The big man even tops his teammates in other categories, such as steals, usually reserved for perimeter players. And if Morgan’s last two outings are any indication, he might be turning into a bit of a perimeter presence himself.
After hitting three triples in a victory at Minnesota on Saturday, the six-foot-eight inch Morgan knocked down two more 3-pointers in IU’s 74-70 win over Penn State on Tuesday night while still maintaining the dominance down low that’s been his hallmark all season.
“He made his first two (3-pointers) tonight,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “But I also think, if you look at him — 11 rebounds, three offensive, eight defensive rebounds — those are the numbers that I’m looking at. The 21 points and some really good post-ups and really good finishes as well.”
Morgan’s early-game sharpshooting forced the Nittany Lions to respect him on the outside all game long. In the game’s closing minutes, Morgan used that respect to his advantage.
With just less than four minutes to play, Morgan had the ball on the right wing and got a Penn State defender to bite on his pump fake. A few quick dribbles later and the veteran earned himself an and-one that put IU up 63-56.
“He had to respect that I could hit that shot and he had to close out,” Morgan said. “When he left his feet, I had an open driving lane either to take it all the way like I did, or pass to an open teammate.”
Morgan has already singlehandedly won IU games this season, like his 34-point effort against Notre Dame in December that gave the Hoosiers their first signature win of the year.
But he’s still making improvements in other areas that can round out his game. Morgan tied his season best with two assists on Tuesday, and committed no fouls in 39 minutes. With IU banged up along the front line and sophomore forward De’Ron Davis out for what figures to be an extended period of time, Miller sees the potential for more games like the one Morgan had against the Nittany Lions.
“What’s gonna happen is, if De’Ron’s not out there a ton, (Morgan’s) got a lot of different types of mismatches that he can get into,” Miller said.
Penn State sophomore forward Mike Watkins provided a formidable challenge to Morgan in the paint with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but IU’s leading man said he’s fully confident against any forward he takes on.
Some talented big men await Morgan on the upcoming schedule, including Purdue and Michigan State’s NBA-caliber frontcourts. Miller will take his big guy against any others, though. As other Hoosiers begin to find their footing and jell on the court, Morgan should continue to be reliable as ever. His coach is counting on it.
“The one guy who’s really consistent is Juwan,” Miller said. “I think he’s been that way from the beginning. He’s playing at an all-conference level right now.”
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