Indiana earned a blowout win over No. 24 Marquette with a 96-73 home win on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers made this one look easy thanks to a balanced offense and a solid defensive effort as they earned the Big Ten another win in the annual Gavitt Games.
Here are three takeaways from this one.
1. Indiana is potentially deeper and more talented than anticipated
Coming into this season, Indiana was expected to have plenty of depth. A top-ten freshman class headlined by a five-star recruit will help with that sort of thing.
But even without upperclass vets like guard Devonte Green and forward Zach McRoberts in the lineup on Wednesday night, Indiana had plenty of options in scoring at will on Marquette. While it’s true that Marquette’s defense has been underwhelming since last season, Indiana’s balanced offensive outburst was pretty impressive.
Shooting 63 percent from the field, Indiana had five double-figure scorers led by freshman Romeo Langford’s 22 points (more on him in a moment). Graduate transfer big man Evan Fitzner provided a great offensive lift by scoring inside or knocking down three-pointers as he chipped in 16 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. Forward Juwan Morgan (13 points), guard Al Durham (13 points) and freshman guard Robert Phinisee (12 points) also had solid outings.
While returning veterans like Morgan and Durham are expected to have nights like this, Indiana has to be enthusiastic about its newcomers. The freshman backcourt of Langford and Phinisee was outstanding on Wednesday. Fitzner shouldn’t be expected to be that hot on a nightly basis, but he provides a nice floor-spacing option at the five when Indiana needs to change things up.
Once Indiana gets Green and McRoberts back in the rotation, they’ll be able to throw waves of bodies at opposing teams. Freshman Jerome Hunter is another potential rotation piece who is also currently missing. A top-65 defense (via KenPom) from a year ago should be even better. And Indiana has to be thrilled that a young backcourt is playing so well on both ends so early in the season.
Indiana is going to have off-nights with some of their younger players. That sort of thing happens during a long season. But we just saw the type of output this team is capable of. And it’s definitely better than anticipated.
2. Marquette needs to figure out a defensive identity
It’s no secret that defense was going to be Marquette’s big question entering the season. The Golden Eagles missed the NCAA tournament last season in large part because they had the No. 12 offense and No. 182 defense in the nation (via KenPom). When the Golden Eagles needed critical stops in big games last season, they struggled to bear down and get a stop.
Things didn’t look much better for Marquette’s defense on Wednesday night. Surrendering over 90 points on 60-plus percent shooting, the Golden Eagle defense was abused by a balanced Indiana offense that scored however they wanted. The Hoosiers were 9-for-20 from three-point range, as Marquette didn’t do a particularly effective job of limiting quality perimeter looks.
With Marquette maintaining much of its rotation from last season, the major question is going to be how will this defense get better? New pieces like Joseph Chartouny are supposed to help defend on the perimeter. Others like Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. Although known as more defensive-minded than many of the team’s newcomers, Nebraska transfer forward Ed Morrow has struggled to find consistent minutes early in the season.
That means, at some point, Marquette’s returning veterans need to look in the mirror and figure out how they’re going to get stops. We know this team has the capability to put up tons of points thanks to Howard and the Hauser brothers. All three players finished with 18 points each against Indiana. But Marquette has to improve on the other end of the floor if they want to make any kind of splash in the Big East.
3. Romeo Langford is living up to the preseason hype
Entering the 2018-19 season perhaps no freshman in the country faced more pressure than Romeo Langford. While Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson are more highly-touted, they aren’t in-state heroes tasked with bringing a basketball-crazy program back to respectability.
Langford proved on Wednesday night that he’s living up to his lofty preseason expectations with a very good game against the Golden Eagles. Finishing with 22 points, five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks, Langford filled up the stat sheet in a number of different ways. Known as a scorer during his prolific prep career, Langford’s length and natural timing was impressive on the defensive end, as he helped trap Marquette point guard Markus Howard on multiple occasions.
The scary thing is that Langford didn’t even shoot the ball particularly well in this one. Langford was 8-for-15 from the floor and only 1-for-5 from three-point range. It helps immensely that Langford can create offense for himself by consistently getting to the charity stripe, as he was 5-for-7 from the free-throw line. If Langford can find his perimeter shot, then he has the potential for 30- and maybe even 40-point outbursts.
The good news for Langford is that he still had a great all-around game against a top-25 team with big expectations. There’s still room for Langford to grow and get better. But this is the kind of start Indiana fans were looking for out of their new star.