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Shambolic second half defense results in loss for IU men’s basketball



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Freshman guard Romeo Langford runs the ball up the court against Maryland on Jan. 11. IU lost to Maryland 78-75.  Photo courtesy of Corey Hart/The Diamondback Buy Photos

During the second half of IU’s 78-75 Friday night road loss at Maryland, IU Head Coach Archie Miller often found himself angered and exasperated by the defense played by his team.

Midway through the half, once the Hoosiers had lost a 10-point lead, Miller finally had enough.

The Fox Sports 1 television broadcast of the game cut to video of Miller inside the IU huddle of coaches and players during a timeout.

“You’ve conceded on defense right now,” Miller said angrily at the assembled Hoosiers, not knowing what else to say or do to try and galvanize his team.

IU had an eight-point halftime advantage, which grew to 10 points just seconds into the second half after a layup from senior forward Juwan Morgan.

Then it all fell apart. 

Maryland used a 16-0 scoring run to take control of the game and earn a lead it wouldn’t surrender. The run featured baskets of all kinds, from jump shots and layups to free throws and dunks.

The Terrapins dominated several key statistics using their front court players in the second half to dominate the Hoosiers. Maryland had eight offensive rebounds to IU’s two, nine second-chance points to IU’s two and 22 points in the paint to IU’s 12.

IU was expected to be at a disadvantage in the front court due to the size and strength of Maryland sophomore forward Bruno Fernando, who asserted himself to the tune of 17 second-half points, part of his season-high 25-point scoring performance. Fernando made all eight of his second-half field goals and also had eight rebounds in the second period.

Maryland’s front court supremacy was helped by IU sophomore forward Justin Smith picking up his fourth foul of the game with 14:05 remaining.

Prior to Friday’s contest, Miller said freshman forward Jake Forrester was available to play, while junior forward De’Ron Davis was a game-time decision. Davis was able to fill in for Smith for four minutes, although Miller told reporters postgame that he probably shouldn't have played Davis.

Forrester didn't play, leaving the responsibility to redshirt senior forward Evan Fitzner to provide quality minutes at both ends of the court.

While the Hoosiers outscored the Terrapins by 22 points with Smith on the court, when Fitzner played, Maryland outscored IU by 24 points.

In his 18 minutes of game action, Fitzner went 0-3 shooting the ball and had just two rebounds. 

He was part of an IU contingent of bench players which struggled to play well. IU’s four bench players — Davis, Fitzner, freshman guard Rob Phinisee and senior guard Zach McRoberts — combined for two points, no field goals, five rebounds and three assists.

Those two bench points came thanks to Phinisee, who was cleared to play earlier in the day after being sidelined with a concussion since Dec. 19. Even so, Phinisee’s points came from the free-throw line with seven seconds left and the Hoosiers down by two possessions.

Maryland’s advantage around the basket allowed junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. to both drive to the basket and get points from the foul line. Cowan finished with 24 points and dished out seven assists to lead all players.

The second-half offensive surge by the Terrapins, and defensive failings of IU sharply contrasted what was one of IU’s best first-half performances in recent memory. 

Instead of another sluggish start, the Hoosiers raced out to an 11-2 lead inside of four minutes. That start came courtesy of an unfamiliar cast of scoring characters as Smith, junior guard Devonte Green and sophomore guard Al Durham had 21 of IU’s 35 first-half points.

That scoring help dried up in the second period, forcing freshman guard Romeo Langford to take over offensively. Langford scored 20 points in the second half, including eight free throws and a pair of three-pointers to finish the game with 28 points, tying his career high.

Morgan was only able to contribute eight second-half points of his own, and no other Hoosier had more than five in the second period, as IU’s offense became too overly dependent on its star players.

IU, now 12-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play, returns to action Monday night at home against Nebraska.

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