Preview: Hawkeyes Take on Healthy Hoosier Team

February 6, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Indiana jumped out to a fast start this season. The Hoosiers won 12 of their first 14 games.

They rose up to No. 21 in the AP rankings with wins against current No. 10 Marquette and No. 16 Louisville. Then, injuries hit and the losses came, seven in a row, including at home to Nebraska, and on the road at Northwestern and Rutgers. To keep the skid from hitting eight, they’d have to win at then-No. 6 Michigan State last Saturday.

Unexpectedly, Indiana (13-9 overall, 4-7 Big Ten) pulled off the upset, winning 79-75 in overtime at the Breslin Center. It benefitted from some key contributors getting healthy and whole.

Junior guard Devonte Green missed four games early in the season with a thigh injury and then sat out the five contests prior to Michigan State because of suspension. Against the Spartans, he contributed 11 points (3 of 4 on threes), five rebounds and five assists.

Classmate De’Ron Davis, a 6-10 presence in the middle, was hobbled for much of the Big Ten season with a bum ankle. He played 25 minutes at Michigan State, chipping in with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Freshman guard Rob Phinisee missed time during January with a concussion. He has returned to full strength.

“They weren’t healthy. They were losing seven in a row and weren’t getting drilled so they were playing as well as they were capable,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They were 12-2 when they were healthy, beat Louisville, and then Green is out, Phinisee is out, Davis is out. It’s going to be different.

“Now they’re all back. Go on the road and beat Michigan State. That’s who we’re playing.”

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The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (17-5, 6-5) head to Bloomington for a Thursday matchup with Indiana (8 p.m. CT, ESPN). They’ve been off since upsetting then-No. 5 Michigan, 74-59, Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It looked like the Hoosiers might be short-handed again when leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Juwan Morgan (15.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG) left the Michigan State game with a shoulder injury. He returned to practice this week, however, and is expected to be ready for Iowa.

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Hawkeye forward Tyler Cook (16.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG) grew up playing against Morgan in St. Louis and messaged him after seeing the injury to make sure he was alright. The Indiana senior said he’d be ready to go on Thursday.

“Juwan and I have kind of been talking back and forth about it. He’s a good friend of mine. We’re both excited for the matchup. It will be a fun game,” Cook said.

Another fun matchup will be highly-regarded freshmen Romeo Langford from Indiana against fellow first-year standout, Joe Wieskamp of Iowa. Langford leads his team in scoring at 17.4 points per game to go with 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Wieskamp’s 11.4 points a contest rank third on his team. He’s second with 23 steals.

Langford prepped at New Albany (IN) High and was considered by Rivals to be the sixth best player overall in the 2018 recruiting class. He turned down offers from Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas to stay home.

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“He came in with a huge reputation, and I think a lot of times there is a lot of pressure on guys like him. He’s going to be the fifth pick, going to be the sixth pick, but hasn’t played a college game yet. I don’t think that’s easy. He’s handled it as well as anybody I’ve seen,” McCaffery said.

“He plays at his pace. He’s got a complete game. He can dribble, pass, and shoot. Plays defense, rebounds, they go to him late, makes big shots. Made big shots the other night in that game. Has tremendous confidence in himself. He’s one of the best players in the country.”

Despite its January swoon, Indiana still can make a run at the NCAA Tournament. It sits at No. 44 in the NET rankings through Tuesday’s games and it has home games remaining with Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin, all teams in the Top 23.

The Hawkeyes, twenty third in NET, could use a win in Bloomington to boost their resume for the Big Dance. They only play one more game (Wisconsin) against a team ahead of it in the NET ratings.

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