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COLUMN: IU basketball's win over Marquette was monumental for Archie Miller


IU men’s basketball Coach Archie Miller yells to his players during the game against Marquette University on Nov. 14 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Ty Vinson

I could feel the winds of change. Everybody could.

But those winds were more like seismic waves in a packed-to-the-brim Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday night as IU hosted No. 24 Marquette. 

The sound of the raucous crowd was eardrum shattering as the Hoosiers’ starting lineup introductions were preceded by an electric pregame video on the big screen hanging above Branch McCracken Court. 

Those roars peaked to an even louder decibel when sophomore guard Al Durham and senior forward Evan Fitzner scored 13 straight IU points, ballooning their early lead to 19-4.

The noise reverberated off the walls and rumbled through the stadium. They probably could’ve heard it a few hundred yards across the street at McNutt Quad. 

Hell, they probably could’ve heard it in Martinsville.

It literally rattled my seat.

“I thought the atmosphere was crazy,” freshman guard Romeo Langford said. “Especially for my first experience against a ranked opponent in Assembly Hall.”

IU’s eventual 96-73 victory felt monumental, and it most definitely was.

By all accounts, this was the most important victory of the Archie Miller era so far. One might argue the Hoosiers’ thrilling 80-77 overtime victory over Notre Dame at last year’s Crossroads Classic could deserve that distinction, but Wednesday’s win felt different.

It felt like the beginning of something.

Yes, this was a resume builder. Many fans had been clamoring for a top-25 ranking for IU after starting the season at 2-0, but let’s not kid ourselves — that was a mere pipe dream after playing two RPI-murdering pushovers in Chicago State and Montana State. 

A win against a ranked opponent like Marquette, let alone the shellacking they laid down on the Golden Eagles, would be the true test of IU’s clout.

But it still felt bigger than that.

Freshman guard Rob Phinisee dribbles the ball in front of a Marquette University player Nov. 14 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  Ty Vinson

We’ve all heard the hot takes, tall tales and theories about IU’s plethora of depth and on a night the Hoosiers needed it the most, that gossiped depth presented itself.

With a defensive stalwart in senior guard Zach McRoberts and one of the team’s main ball handlers and better shooters in junior guard Devonte Green out with injuries, the Hoosiers needed multiple players to step up.

Fitzner and Durham supplanted them with smooth moxie.

Fitzner came off the bench and once again showed the kind of outside shooting weapon he can be — one Miller didn’t have last year.

He was absolutely unconscious from the field, shooting 6-7 overall and nailing all four of his 3-point attempts on his way to 16 points.

“Without question he fits our style,” Miller said. “I knew it from day one. He's a confident guy. He's not questioning what's going on. He's playing with great confidence.”

Meanwhile, Durham stepped into the starting spot voided by McRoberts and unleashed probably his best performance as a Hoosier. He finished with 13 points and was able to handle the ball and run the offense when freshman Rob Phinisee was grabbing a breather. 

He also showed the kind of long, rangy defender he can be, while splitting time with Phinisee holding Marquette junior guard Markus Howard to sporadic shooting and eight points below his season average.

“I thought it was one of the best games he's played, he was aggressive on offense, made great decisions on the drives to pass,” Miller said. “Obviously he has to play a lot of minutes right now, so we were fortunate he was able to hang in there.”

If nothing else, Wednesday night brought on a whole new level of energy.

Langford showed the craftiness that made him one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, the Hoosiers played with a high-octane, blistering pace and shot an efficient 63.6 percent from the field — the best any IU team has shot since Miller has been in charge.

Freshman guard Romeo Langford dribbles the ball down the court against Marquette University on Nov. 14 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU defeated Marquette 96-73. Ty Vinson

And if the screams and downright anarchy that was playing out in the IU student section weren't evidence enough, the fans are already starting to believe in something bigger and something better too.

During the pregame video that amplified the crowd to a new maximum unseen anytime last season, there was a moment in which grainy footage of Branch McCracken, Steve Alford and Keith Smart is fast-forwarded through like one would on an old VCR tape. It skips ahead to present day, showing the current players throwing down dunks and gliding through the air, all to the tune of "Welcome to the Party" by Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump, which sent the students into a unified chant along with the beat.

That may have been the closest representation of what Wednesday night actually felt like.

This was the moment all the pieces started to come together and Miller truly began to make this program his own.

This was the beginning of something new, something different.

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