Granted, the Hoosiers still defeated the Aggies by 14 points to improve to 5-1 this season, but the game required maximum effort from the home team in order to win.
IU didn't lead in the game until there was less than six minutes to go, but a 31-point performance from senior forward Juwan Morgan ensured IU would have a two-game winning streak entering next week's trip to Duke, the team currently ranked No. 1 in the country.
Here are three takeaways from Friday's win against UC Davis.
1. Despite the freshmen additions, Juwan Morgan remains the focal point of this IU team.
Morgan willed the Hoosiers to victory against the Aggies. He played all 40 minutes of the game, finishing with 31 points. He shot 13 of 18 from the field and five of seven from three-point territory. It was also another double-double showing from the forward, who finished with 10 rebounds.
"We needed everything he had," IU Coach Archie Miller said. "Without him playing all 40 minutes, I didn't feel we would be able to win the game."
IU's offense looked disjointed and out-of-sync for long periods against a UC Davis team that wasn't particularly big at the forward positions. Freshman point guard Rob Phinisee appeared hesitant to drive the ball into the paint, going just one of five shooting field goals, while forwards junior De'Ron Davis, senior Evan Fitzner and freshman Damezi Anderson missed a combined four shots while making none.
This left a gaping hole in the IU offense, despite the 20 points scored by freshman guard Romeo Langford.
This is where Morgan thrived.
During the first half, he scored 15 straight points for IU to turn a double-digit deficit into a three-point deficit. This stretch included three consecutive three-pointers in less than 90 seconds of game time.
"I've always been confident in my shot," Morgan said. "I've always considered myself a shooter. It just was a matter of time before they started going in."
Morgan helped power IU as it outscored UC Davis 40-24 in the second half, and he gave IU its first lead of the game via a layup with 5:43 to go. He and Langford then made back-to-back three-pointers to help push the IU lead out of reach.
The 31 points scored by Morgan were just three away from his career high of 34 scored last season.
2. UC Davis stayed in the game because of its three-point shooting and IU's poor team offense.
Morgan and Langford combined for 51 of IU's 76 team points. This was in part because they took a combined 29 shots, but also because other Hoosiers were stagnant and reluctant to create offense on their own.
Turnovers were a concern for Miller at halftime as the Hoosiers had eight in the opening period and finished the game with 15. Certain offensive possessions seemed to be without an end goal in mind for the Hoosiers, as they struggled to get near the basket and didn't deal well with double teams from Aggie defenders.
UC Davis shot 50 percent from three-point land, making 10 of its 20 attempts. This figure reached a game-best percentage when the Aggies had made eight of their 14 attempts early in the second half.
The drives to the basket by senior guard TJ Shorts II, who finished the game as the Aggies' leading scorer with 16 points, resulted ball rotations by the Aggies on offense.
This process took most of the time on the shot clock, and if the Hoosiers were caught out of position trying to go from the interior near the basket to outside trying to guard the three-point line, the Aggies more often than not made the shots.
"Obviously, that was the worst our defense has been all season in terms of being able to get stops," Miller said. "Thought the last six minutes, seven minutes we were a little better on the ball which kept them in front of us."
3. IU's three-point shooting got better, while its free-throw shooting remains a concern.
For the first time this young season, the Hoosiers made more than half of their three-point shots.
IU finished with a 10 of 17 shooting performance from distance, which was not only the best rate of the season at 59 percent, but also the largest number of threes made in a game.
Half of these came from Morgan, who worked on his distance shooting during the offseason.
But, closer to the basket the troubles remained for the Hoosiers.
IU went 14 of 21 from the free-throw line, bringing the team's average this year to 62.5 percent. There has been improvement in the last four games from the Hoosiers at the foul line, though, after they shot 40 percent against Montana State and 57 percent against Chicago State.
Opportunities to score will be limited Tuesday night when IU visits Duke, and any wasted chances could loom large in the outcome of the game.
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