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IU men’s basketball is back to full health at the perfect time



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IU men’s basketball coach Archie Miller yells during the first half of the game Dec. 7 in the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. IU will play Nebraska on Friday night. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

One of the major storylines surrounding the IU men’s basketball program this season has been the sheer depth head coach Archie Miller has at his disposal.

It’s normal for coaches to play 8-9 players for a standard rotation throughout a season. At times, it’s shorter due to how important postseason games are. But for Miller, it’s been nearly two years since he’s been given the luxury of a bench full of available scholarship players to choose from.

The 20-point loss at Wisconsin on Saturday marked the 60th game in a row IU didn’t have every scholarship player available. It wasn’t known if that would change anytime soon due to the ongoing injuries sophomore guard Rob Phinisee was enduring which lasted over four games.

But just a couple hours before IU tipped-off against the University of Connecticut, it was announced that Phinisee would be able to play. It wasn’t known at the time how much he’d play, but IU needed every minute it could out of him due to only having three other scholarship guards in the rotation.

Phinisee only played a little less than 13 minutes, but he instantly made his presence felt with his defensive effort, leadership and steadiness with the ball. 

“He’s played more in tonight’s game than he’s practiced all year,” Miller said after the game. “He was ready to go from an experience level.”

The Hoosiers played all 11 scholarship players against UConn and sophomore forward Race Thompson was the only one to log minutes who didn’t provide any statistic from the win.

According to ESPN, it was the first time in over 20 seasons IU won a game without a double-digit scorer. It was also the first time this season IU shot less than 40% from the field. But 10 different players did provide something to the scoring column.

With Nebraska coming to Bloomington on Friday for a Big Ten matchup, IU couldn’t ask for a better time to have everyone available.

It’ll also be the first conference game for the Cornhuskers and the end of a 3-game road trip. They’ve lost their last two games away from Pinnacle Bank Arena a combined 36 points. 

Nebraska has a balanced offensive attack with four players who average double-digits, three of which are guards in senior Haanif Cheatham, sophomore Cam Mack and junior Dachon Burke Jr.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for IU going forward. Nebraska may be 4-5 but still presents an opportunity to get the first Big Ten win of the season. It’s difficult to predict if Miller will continue to use an 11-man rotation going forward but with Nebraska and two more nonconference games coming up, he still has time to figure it out before traveling to No. 4 Maryland in early January.

“All 11 guys have a chance to play,” Miller said. “Not afraid to play any of them. We just have to be really mindful around each other every single day how hard it is to coexist with 11 players who expect to play.”

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