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Three takeaways from IU men's basketball Coach Archie Miller's radio show


IU Coach Archie Miller yells at the team during IU's game against Duke on Nov. 27 in the Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.  Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

Another Monday night brought the latest edition of "Inside IU Basketball with Archie Miller" from the Bloomington Holiday Inn, as IU's second-year head coach spoke with IU radio announcer Don Fischer.

Along with this week's player guest, junior forward De'Ron Davis, Miller discussed IU's recent wins against Northwestern, Penn State and the University of Louisville, the death of former player Eric Anderson and his opinions about college basketball media polls.

Miller also gave another injury update regarding his team.

Here are three takeaways from Monday's show.

1. Miller was happy IU survived a "gut-check week," but wants free-throw shooting to improve.

The last three IU games have all been decided by two or fewer points, and all have resulted in IU wins, but better free-throw shooting would have made each game a less stressful affair for Hoosier coaches, fans and players.

IU has shot 38-58 from the free-throw line during its three-game winning streak, something Miller wants improved for the rest of the season.

"I'm concerned about free-throw shooting," Miller said. "Because you understand how valuable the possessions are, you get fouled and you go to the line and you either come up short with two or you miss the front end of a one-and-one, that's like a turnover."

In particular, IU's 16-25 free-throw shooting performance against Louisville allowed Saturday's game to be close down the stretch.

"It's something that we got to find a way to be better at," Miller said.

Three-point shooting for the Hoosiers hasn't been remarkable either this season, with the team making three-pointers 35.9 percent of the time.

But, Miller didn't have the same concern level about his team's three-point shooting compared to free-throw shooting. He said IU will be fine shooting from distance as long as it takes good three-pointers, since the team isn't built for three-point shooting.

2. The growth of freshmen Romeo Langford and Rob Phinisee has been integral to IU's success.

Freshman guard Romeo Langford was honored for the second time this season by the Big Ten Conference on Monday. Langford was named a co-Freshman of the Week along with Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis.

Langford averaged 19 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during wins against Penn State and Louisville, but it's his work on the defensive end that Miller said he's been most impressed with.

"He's an easy guy to like," Miller said. 

Freshman guard Romeo Langford loses the ball against University of Louisville on Dec. 8 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Langford scored 21 out of the 68 points scored by IU. Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

Davis said when Langford first starting practicing with IU, he was struggling with IU's defensive structure. So, as a veteran player, Davis said he tried to communicate to Langford that IU defends as a team, not as individuals, so each player isn't solely responsible for a defensive breakdown. 

Instead of focusing on Langford's scoring exploits, Miller said the IU coaching staff has been focused on making him a complete player.

Miller also praised the play of freshman guard Rob Phinisee, who made the game-winning defensive stop at Penn State and hit two important three-pointers in the Louisville win.

Phinisee has started each of the team's 10 games this season at point guard and leads IU with 35 assists.

"We don't win either game without Robert," Miller said. "When it's winning time in college basketball in the last four minutes, the last two minutes of a game, that's when the point guard rises to the occasion."

3. Miller wants IU to be a team consistently ranked in top-25 polls during his tenure as head coach.

Miller used to not care about media polls and rankings released during the college basketball season. He viewed them as unnecessary distractions for whatever team he was coaching.

That mindset has shifted somewhat since his arrival at Bloomington, something significant given the fact IU was ranked in a tie for 25th, along with Syracuse University and Kansas State University, in the Associated Press poll released Monday. 

It's IU's first time in the AP top-25 rankings since Jan. 2, 2017, meaning Saturday's game against Butler will be the first time Miller coaches a ranked IU team.

"I used to basically say 'no, I don't pay any attention to that, the end of the season is what really matters,'" Miller said. "But at Indiana I think it matters. Indiana is a program that's proud enough to understand it should be a perennial top-25 program." 

Miller said he would rather focus on how long IU stays in the rankings compared to where the Hoosiers are positioned, and it appears the team will have to try and maintain its top-25 spot without the help of redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson and freshman forward Jerome Hunter.

Thompson is still in concussion protocol for the Hoosiers, but has returned to working out and being at practice. Hunter is still recovering from his leg surgery last month, and there is no timetable for his return.

Thompson only played against Montana State this season, while Hunter is yet to make his Hoosier debut.

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