As the play fell apart around him on Sunday inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Juwan Morgan remained in control.
The usually sure-handed senior forward let the ball slip from his grasp during the opening minute of the second half of IU’s 89-73 regular season finale win against Rutgers, forcing him to hit the deck to fight and scrap for possession.
Morgan was successful in keeping the possession alive for IU, getting just enough force on a pass made while laying on the floor to reach freshman guard Rob Phinisee at the top of the key.
But Morgan’s sequence wasn’t done, as he cycled back into IU’s offensive flow and eventually finished a layup at the rim via a baseline assist from sophomore forward Justin Smith.
It was a play involving all three IU players who got into first-half foul trouble, but it also represented Morgan’s college career.
He commanded the situation with poise and facilitated team-focused play.
“He's just a consummate team guy,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “To me, he's one of the best players in the Big Ten in the last two years, and in our transition, he's given us a chance.”
Even as Morgan’s play has involved his younger teammates, many of whom are going through a late postseason push for the first time, he’s maintained the ability to dominate games for the Hoosiers while bullying opponents in the process.
He made his first 10 shots Sunday in front of a Senior Day crowd determined to soak in every last moment of what could be Morgan's final game in Bloomington.
IU’s co-captain now has 45 points and 16 rebounds in the last two games and was at the forefront of a team mindset change that has fueled IU's four-game winning streak to close the regular season.
“He’s become a really, really quality leader just because of how he operates and does his thing,” Miller said.
Complete with numerous standing ovations from fans, postgame acknowledgments from Miller and other graduating players, as well as the cheers generated by simple aggressive play, it was an occasion reminiscent of so many moments during the past few seasons from Morgan.
After the game, fellow senior Zach McRoberts was asked what impressed him most about Morgan as a person and player, and McRoberts even tried to offer control of the answer to Morgan.
“What do you think, J-Mo?” McRoberts said before laughing. “I think he wants to be the best in everything he does and guys see that and it's contagious.”
Despite the accolades and awards showered upon Morgan throughout his time as a Hoosier, Morgan has still made the NCAA Tournament just once, as a freshman role player player in 2016.
Praise for his performances, both past and present, continued throughout Sunday’s contest, but with IU earning a first-round bye for next week’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament by way of beating Rutgers, Morgan couldn’t help but let his mind wander to what still might become of this IU season.
“Everything we want is in front of us,” Morgan said.
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