Juwan Morgan was exhausted during his postgame press conference Tuesday night.
The emotional and physical investment made by IU’s senior forward this season, through IU’s current run of 11 losses in 12 games and in particular during the home loss to Purdue, has taken its toll.
Barring a meeting in the Big Ten Tournament, Morgan will finish his IU career with five consecutive losses to the Boilermakers. It's a streak Morgan said is different than a rough patch against other teams.
“Any loss is tough, but especially it being my last time,” Morgan said after Tuesday's game. “Being able to play them in Assembly, it just hurts a little more.”
The weary look on Morgan’s face was evidence of the effort IU put toward the rivalry game, and something that noticeably lacked during other moments this season.
Coach Archie Miller singled out IU’s 15-point home loss to Nebraska on Jan. 14 as a moment when’s IU’s confidence became shaken.
“A lot of different guys just feel that letdown, and it just kind of weighs on you,” Miller said. “That’s the biggest thing we have to focus on moving forward is continuing to keep sort of what we had going here tonight, but more so what we had going on in practice.”
While IU’s on-court belief may have wavered, time will show how the Hoosiers react to an emotionally draining game.
Remarkably, and in spite of, IU’s 13-13 overall record and its 4-11 mark in Big Ten games, Miller’s team still has an available path to the postseason.
The Purdue game marked the first of four consecutive games for IU against opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. No. 21 Iowa is next for IU, and it will be the real test of whether or not the “drastic changes” promised by Miller after last week’s loss to Minnesota are here to stay.
“I think it’s a change in mentality, just that we have no choice but to maintain,” Morgan said. “These last few games we still have a chance. Everything we want is still in front of us.”
From a temporary-change perspective, a rivalry game against the Boilermakers, likely the last one for players like Morgan and senior guard Zach McRoberts, would be easy for the Hoosiers to get motivated for.
Moments from Tuesday’s game — be it rebounds and steals from the hustle of McRoberts, or tenacious defense played by sophomore guard Al Durham and freshman guard Romeo Langford against Purdue junior guard Carsen Edwards — all worked in the favor of Morgan’s assertion.
IU is looking to change the standard for effort and energy as the season comes to a close.
“We were still fighting on defense, fighting after loose balls, and I think just going for it when shots aren’t falling,” Morgan said. “If we keep that mentality on the defensive end, then it’s going to be a tough team to stop.”
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