Indiana trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and was still down 65-57 with just over two minutes left before rallying to knock off No. 18 Notre Dame, 80-77, in overtime in the nightcap of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon.
Juwan Morgan led the way for the Hoosiers with a career-high 34 points and 11 boards. He scored the final 12 points of regulation for the Hoosiers, including a layup with 13 seconds left that forced overtime, and then had eight of the 15 Hoosier points in the extra period.
The Irish were up 77-74 when Morgan scored and got fouled on a layup with 11 seconds left. He would miss the free throw, but Zack McRoberts grabbed the miss and found Morgan for the go-ahead dunk:
Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell would airball a three at the other end and, after a pair of Indiana free throws, Bonzie Colson’s half-court heave rattled in-and-out and Indiana headed home to Bloomington with the best win of the new Archie Miller era under their belt.
Here are three things to know from Indiana’s win:
1. This win says more about the Indiana mentality than the talent in the program
Let’s be frank about this: Indiana had no business winning this game. Notre Dame was in control throughout. They were up 14 midway through the first half. They pushed the lead back to double-digits early in the second half. They were up eight with little more than two minutes left. There was every opportunity for Indiana to roll over and die, and they didn’t. The Hoosiers kept fighting and kept clawing and kept scrapping before, eventually, forcing overtime and winning in the extra frame.
The final possession, the play where McRoberts outworked Bonzie Colson for one of his seven offensive rebounds and found Morgan at the rim for a dunk, personified that mentality. There’s no quit in this group this season, and what we saw on Saturday is such a far cry from what we saw out of the Hoosiers in a season-opening loss to Indiana State. Indiana’s future under Archie Miller is bright, even if the present is a rebuilding season where Indiana will be at a talent deficit more often than not.
2. That said, Juwan Morgan is really good
Morgan broke out on national television on Saturday, but if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the Indiana junior has been excellent this season. He entered Saturday averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 boards, and after the 34 points and 11 boards he put up, he’s not reached double-figures in seven of his last eight games. He has three double-doubles during that stretch and popped off for at least 24 points three times. Morgan is precisely the kind of undersized and skilled four-man that Miller had so much success with at Dayton. It’s not exactly surprising that he’s been able to have this kind of success.
3. A veteran team like Notre Dame should be finishing games like this off
It really is that simple. If Notre Dame, who has a senior point guard and a senior all-american power forward running the show, cannot protect a 14-point lead against a 5-5 Big Ten team, if they cannot close out a win when they’re up by eight points with two minutes left, then should we really be talking about then as a top 15 team?
Frankly, no, we shouldn’t. Not when they’ve now lost three of their last five games. Not when they blew this lead less than two weeks after losing at home to Ball State. Not when that loss to Ball State came a week after they went into East Lansing and got run off the floor by Michigan State. Lack of size and lack of depth were concerns for Notre Dame entering the season. At this point, they’ve become real issues.
And here’s the irony of it all: No one would be mentioning it if Austin Torres had made one of two free throws with the score tied and 0.8 seconds left.
But he didn’t.
So those underlying issues get brought to the surface and discussed ad nauseum.