BLOOMINGTON, IN (WFIE) - Arkansas gave Indiana its first loss of the season.It wasn’t quite able to give Indiana its last loss.The Razorbacks tried mightily, leading much of the way Saturday afternoon, but the host Hoosiers used a key 10-0 run after halftime to forge a lead and hung on for a 63-60 NIT second-round win.And a big reason why was Devonte Green on both ends of the court.
With 0:06.1 seconds left and IU clinging to a 61-60 edge, Green calmly swished two huge free throws for a cushion that required Arkansas to chuck and miss a desperation 3 at the buzzer.
“I was just confident in making them,” Green recalled of the charities. “I know I can make them. I was, ‘Let’s knock these out, and let’s go home.’ “Those free throws left Green with a co-game-high 18 points, combined with game-high totals of 11 rebounds and three steals to go along with three assists and lots of solid defensive play.”He’s good,” IU coach Archie Miller said of Green. “He’s our most important sort of cog in the wheel right now. He’s making a lot of plays. He’s shooting the ball extremely well, with great confidence.”
He had 11 defensive rebounds at the guard slot tonight. He also had three steals. He’s really turned it on here at the end. I think we’ve won six out of seven, and we probably don’t win any of them without Devonte’s ability on both ends of the floor, and I give him credit."He only practiced one day this week. He was sick all week long, the flu bug or whatever it was, so he really sort of rose up today when we needed him."
The need was overt early as IU got off to a sickly-looking start.Arkansas scored the game’s first six points and then built a 16-7 lead.But IU junior center De’Ron Davis – whose tip didn’t fall Nov. 18 at the end of Arkansas’ 73-72 win over IU in Fayetteville – hit three free throws to get a Hoosier rally going.And then senior Zach McRoberts did some characteristically helpful Zach McRoberts things.
McRoberts flew in to block a Mason Jones shot inside and went to the other end of the court and soared for an offensive-rebound tip, keeping alive a possession resulting in a banked Rob Phinisee bucket.
And after an Evan Fitzner 3, McRoberts converted an eight-foot jump-hook in the lane and, suddenly, IU was back within 18-17 with 8:30 left in the half.
It was a series of sequences revealing how much IU had missed its oft-injured senior co-captain this campaign. Here is a stat reflecting that:Indiana has played 13 contests that were either one-possession or overtime games at the end and, when McRoberts has played at least 10 minutes in those games, the Hoosiers are 5-2.
Then Green took the rally baton.Arkansas had surged back to a 25-20 advantage when Green buried a 3 from the top of the key. Then, after a Juwan Morgan free throw tied the game, Green hit a step-back 3 from the right wing to give Indiana its first lead of the game at 28-25.A pair of Morgan free throws at 0:03.2 mark then allowed IU to take a 30-28 edge into intermission.
Indiana followed that with another slow start to a half. In the first four minutes of the second period, Arkansas had it a pair of 3s, the Hoosiers had three turnovers, and the Razorbacks were back up, 40-37.And that lead stretched to 43-37 as IU failed to block out Jalen Harris, who got into the lane to successfully follow up his own free throw miss with 15:55 to play.
The Hoosiers had to respond. They did. So did their home crowd.First, freshman guard Rob Phinisee found Morgan for a bucket inside. Then – after Green and McRoberts teamed to force a jump ball that went to IU – Phinisee scored himself on a lane drive, then added a pair of free throws to swing the lead to the Hoosiers, 44-43.
By that time Assembly Hall was roaring."Once we got going, they were energized, and when we went on a run, they gave us a big boost," Phinisee said of the 12,225 in attendance. “When we had that 10-0 run, we really fed off the energy from the crowd.”
And that crowd got even louder when, after Morgan blocked a Razorback shot, he slammed home a two-hand jam off another Phinisee assist to make it 47-43 and prompt a timeout from Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.Razorback freshman Isaiah Joe responded with a 3 from the top of the key, then Harris hit a baseline floater, starting a series of four straight lead-changes.Again, when duty called, it was Green seizing the moment.
Green struck for 3 from the right wing, Fitzner hustled for a follow hoop, then Green scored on a drive to make it 56-52, Hoosiers, with 7:15 left.
And by the time Green scored off a nifty give-and-go with Morgan and Morgan added two free throws, IU had a 60-54 cushion at the 5:11 mark. Then a Davis free throw made it 61-54 at 4:25.
The Hoosiers subsequently had to win it with defense.Because they went scoreless for the next 4:19. Included in that stretch were some very close misses, (including an Al Durham 3 attempt that went all the way into the basket but still spun itself out with 10 seconds left). But the defense hung tough."
We have four out there, outside of De’Ron, who can switch and guard anybody you put in front of us," Morgan said of the Hoosiers’ stinginess down the stretch. “Just with that, we were able to disrupt some of their offensive things, and get off ball screens, and they set a lot of those.”
Just being able to get those (screens), deter passes, contest the perimeter – they were running their plays from about 35 feet out, and I think that really helped us."
Still, the Razorbacks gradually eked closer and Jones hit two free throws to pull Arkansas within 61-60 at the 0:06.1 mark.Green was fouled before the subsequent inbounds.
Morgan wasn’t concerned about Green, a 77-percent foul shooter, at the stripe with the game on the line: “I wasn’t worried about it at all.”He needn’t have worried.
So IU will now host the victor of Sunday’s Wichita State-Clemson game in an NIT quarterfinal Tuesday night, with the winner headed to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the NIT semifinals.
“We want to win every game we play,” Phinisee said. “But Madison Square Garden? I’ve never been there. So, if we do win (Tuesday), I’d just be really looking forward to playing there.”
The Hoosiers (19-15) may or may not play Tuesday or beyond with Phinisee’s classmate, IU scoring leader Romeo Langford, out since sustaining a back injury against Ohio State in Big Ten Tournament.
Arkansas (18-16) played without its scoring and rebounding leader, 6-10 sophomore Daniel Gafford, who opted to sit out NIT play with an eye toward the NBA Draft.
Gafford scored 27 in that Nov. 18 win over Indiana, while Langford scored 22 for IU.
Desi Sills, a 6-2 freshman thorn in Indiana sides all day, led Arkansas with 18 points before fouling out with 4:25 to play. He was missed by down the stretch by the Razorbacks, who also got 12 points from Joe. Arkansas hit eight 3s but, without Gafford, was outscored 30-10 in the paint.Augmenting Green’s scoring for IU in double-figures were Morgan (15) and Davis (10).
Davis was personally gratified one loss to Arkansas didn’t become two."Yeah, man, it’s a good feeling," Davis said. “I have much respect for Arkansas and this coaching staff. They recruited me for years. Indiana, CU (Colorado) and Arkansas were my top schools in recruiting the whole time.”
I respect them. They play hard. They play aggressive. But we couldn’t have them come in here to our house and knock us out of the tournament."