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COLUMN: IU basketball continues to show it finds ways to win



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Senior forward Juwan Morgan scores against Illinois on Jan. 3 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU defeated Illinois, 73-65. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

The IU men’s basketball team didn’t do anything spectacularly well Thursday night except one thing — win.

The Hoosiers’ 73-65 victory over Illiniois wasn’t necessarily about how they found a way to come away victorious or who stepped up to lead the way in the process.

Those haven’t been the important things for this team all season, because one way or another, IU has found a way to survive.

And I suppose that’s all that truly matters in the end.

Yet if we must divulge the how and who of Thursday’s victory, let’s do it swiftly.

The how was the same it has been all season, really. 

The way the Hoosiers played, particularly in the first half, wasn’t the prettiest product Coach Archie Miller could have hoped for. But they used a mostly flawless defensive outing that included forcing six shot clock violations to eventually pull away and make up for runs of frustrating offensive futility. 

Those stretches were quite maddening at times, like the one in which IU couldn't buy a bucket for over five minutes in the first half. In that time Illinois went on a 12-2 run to take a 25-15 lead. 

Yet as they were surrounded by a crowd that was hankering to holler about the slightest semblance of a Hoosier run all night, IU somehow found a way to rally and tie things up by halftime.

As for who stepped up for the Hoosiers on the night, that was the same as it has been all year too. When freshman guard Romeo Langford scored his team’s first 10 points of the second half it was the beginning of IU distancing itself from a far inferior Fighting Illini squad.

Now that all of that’s out of the way, let’s get to what was truly the most important aspect of Thursday’s game, why this victory was so vital in the first place.

It’s no secret Illinois is scrounging on what is the lowliest of tiers in the conference this year. Further, in a Big Ten that is as loaded and deep as it is this season, these are the kinds of games the Hoosiers absolutely have to win.

Thursday was about stuffing fluff into a cushion IU can fall back on in case they falter against the conference’s middle-to-upper tier.

It’s also no secret that in the midst of the top-heavy state the conference is in right now, IU’s early schedule has been about as easy as it could get against the likes of Illinois, Penn State and Northwestern. That will soon change in the Hoosiers’ next game at the Big Ten’s best in show, No. 2 Michigan on Sunday. And stretches like the one late in the second half, where a slew of turnovers allowed Illinois to get back within four points with just over two minutes to go, will need to be eliminated against the Wolverines.

Yet it all harkens back to what’s truly important with this team — the Hoosiers continue to show they’ve found ways to put themselves in position to win almost every game they’ve played this year.

At some point, we just have to accept that no matter how ugly it may get at times, getting that win is what really determines if each game is a success or not.

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