The Hoosiers have now won their Big Ten opener.
Jordan Guskey, IndyStar

Juwan Morgan has been the linchpin for Indiana’s offense this season and coach Archie Miller has never tried to hide that.

Miller lamented after IU’s win against Northwestern that he didn’t give his senior forward a couple of  breathers he thought Morgan needed in the second half. Those breaks could have kept Morgan fresh. But Miller didn’t want his “ace” on the bench. The Hoosiers and Wildcats were battling every possession — no team led by more than five points all game — and Miller needed every advantage he could muster.

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So if freshman guard Romeo Langford had not stepped up when Morgan left the game with an apparent injury to his left leg with 3:30 left, the Hoosiers might have lost their Big Ten opener. Morgan’s absence left a void offensively, and if he isn’t healthy enough to play Tuesday against Penn State the Hoosiers will need to replicate what they accomplished late against the Wildcats for a full 40 minutes.

“You feel really comfortable being able to play through (Morgan), because he’s an unselfish player and he’s also a very good one-on-one player,” Miller said after the win. “He takes the pressure off the other guys at times. Able to play inside out. Able to get the ball to the paint where you can collapse them.”

Langford may lead the Hoosiers (6-2, 1-0 in Big Ten) with his average of 18 points per game and Morgan may be second at 16.3. But that single statistic doesn’t do justice to explain the effect Morgan has on IU’s offense, which doesn’t have any other players averaging double figures in points. 

He’s second on the team in assists behind freshman guard Rob Phinisee and first in offensive rebounds. He creates for his teammates, like his steal in the opening minute against Northwestern that led to a layup for sophomore guard Al Durham and IU’s first points. And his mere presence can open up room for teammates to drive into the paint or find open looks on the perimeter.

Morgan does more for IU than just score.

“When we saw him go down there was definitely some concern,” sophomore forward Justin Smith said. “But we already know in any game it was next man up.”

Smith, redshirt senior guard Zach McRoberts and more will have to step up if Morgan’s injury forces him to miss IU’s first road game in Big Ten play against the Nittany Lions. Penn State (4-3, 0-1) has lost to Bradley and DePaul — and DePaul  was picked before the season to finish last in the Big East. Penn State did knock off now-No. 15 Virginia Tech at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Penn State led on the road against Maryland at halftime, too.

Junior forward Lamar Stevens leads the team with 22.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He scored 20 last season against IU when Penn State lost in Bloomington, 74-70. The Nittany Lions are tied for the conference lead in steals per game with 8.4, and they shoot 70.2 percent from the free-throw line compared to the Hoosiers’ 62.4.

But even though Penn State averages a Big-Ten worst 69.7 points per game to IU’s 80.4, and hit a Big-Ten worst 42 percent of its shots compared to IU’s 52.9, and have a rebounding margin of just +0.9 compared to IU’s +5.8, the Hoosiers are going to the Nittany Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center and could be playing without their star senior.

“This year the Big Ten definitely has a lot of very good teams, probably pretty much all the teams are very good and can win a game on any given night,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a dogfight every night, but we’re ready for it.”

Miller agreed. “We go to Penn State on Tuesday and that’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said. “I just can’t imagine playing in this league in January and February. I just don’t see a team that’s not very good.”

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Jordan Guskey on Twitter at @JordanGuskey or email him at


The Hoosiers have now won their conference opener.
Jordan Guskey, IndyStar