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Archie Miller focuses on defensive shortcomings in season-opening win for IU men's basketball



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Freshman forward Damezi Anderson guards Chicago State from scoring. IU defeated Chicago State 104-55 Nov. 6 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

Most coaches find an area for their team to try and improve in, even after a blowout win.

But IU Coach Archie Miller had a fair number of complaints with the way his IU team played during its 104-55 win to open the 2018-19 regular season Tuesday night.

From missed free throws to miscommunications on defense, Miller made it clear the Hoosiers have much to improve on the court despite their comprehensive victory against the Cougars.

"I didn't think, from our staff's perspective, we had a real good feel defensively on what we were doing out there," Miller said. "We have a lot of work to do on that end of the floor."

Miller referenced IU's on-ball defense, as well as communication breakdowns when Chicago State ran screen plays on offense as two of his main issues with his team's defensive performance. As far as getting back in transition, he said there were times when IU did and didn't fight to get back on defense.

These complaints may not be apparent to someone glancing at the box score from Tuesday's game, but they certainly were to Miller. Chicago State made just 19 of its 60 field goal attempts, including a woeful five of 21 shooting performance on 3-pointers.


Senior forward Juwan Morgan scores against Chicago State. IU leads 53-32 at halftime. Anna Tiplick Buy Photos


The Cougars actually shot worse from the field by 14 percent in the second half compared to the first, but the final 20 minutes of the game were when Miller thought his team's defense was its worst, something senior forward Evan Fitzner said Miller told the team postgame.

"I think we can do a lot better defensively," Fitzner said. "Be tougher. They ran some stuff that we hadn't seen before, so we have to do a better job of adjusting to that."

Offensively, the Hoosiers used a big scoring night from freshman guard Romeo Langford to pull away from the Cougars before halftime. Of Langford's team-high 19 points, 17 of them came in the first half, along with four rebounds and three assists for the New Albany, Indiana, native before the break.


Freshman guard Romeo Langford scores against Chicago State. IU led 53-32 at halftime.  Anna Tiplick Buy Photos


Langford said he didn't feel any pressure before his first regular season game in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and that he stayed focused on making the right basketball plays.

"I thought in general in the first half he was very efficient," Miller said.

The return of junior guard Devonte Green from a thigh injury meant that IU used Green, freshman Rob Phinisee and Langford at the guard position with each player bringing a different ability to the court.

Langford said Green was a good scorer and Phinisee specializes in passing the ball well. The trio played more than 20 minutes in the game and each player had a plus/minus of at least +27, but Green was inconsistent shooting the ball, going five of 12 on field goals and leading the team with four turnovers.

Langford said he worked in practice during the week on advance passes, which allow IU to move the ball quicker and further up the court on offense to get easier shot attempts.

But Langford also wasn't immune from the free throw shooting issues that plagued IU in the game. The Hoosiers made only 19 of their 33 foul shots, and Langford madejust five of his 11 attempts from the charity stripe.

"At the end of the day it's black and white," Miller said. "You make them or you don't make them."

Miller made it clear that IU wants to be fouled and wants to be a team opponents force to shoot free throws. The 33 free-throw attempts by IU were the most for the team since its season-opening loss last season to Indiana State. In that game, Miller's first as head coach, the Hoosiers made 23 foul shots.

In his second season, Miller will continue to emphasize the importance of taking advantage when his team gets sent to the foul line.

"Our aspiration as a team is to be a team that continually attacks the paint and rim," Miller said. "To get fouled is something that we really, really want to get out guys focused on attacking."

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