BLOOMINGTON — After Indiana was outscored 14-5 in bench points Wednesday night against Northwestern, coach Archie Miller challenged his second unit to provide more production.
IU’s bench responded in a big way in its 66-54 win over No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers outscored the Buckeyes 31-18 off the bench, a big factor in the upset win.
“Everybody who played in the game had a positive impact for the most part, and it was just a good team win,” Miller said. “You’re not going to beat a team like that without a lot of guys contributing.”
Part of the reason for the increased bench scoring was Miller’s decision to move senior guard Devonte Green to a bench role. Sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee made his first start of the season, with junior Al Durham starting at the two-guard spot.
Green scored 19 of IU’s 31 bench points.
“I try to lead the guys on the floor every time I’m on the floor,” Green said. “I mean, I guess today I just happened to be a big part of the bench, but everybody that came off the bench did play well and did what they needed to do in order for us to get this win.”
Miller thought Green helped spark IU’s second unit.
“As a coach, I look for finishers,” Miller said. “And when he comes in the game, it’s a little different feeling coming off the bench, having in my opinion a guy that can maybe be your most dynamic player. So that’s a big deal for us, as we’ve searched for punch off the bench or rotation, one thing we’ve missed coming into the game (is) having a guy be aggressive.”
Green wasn’t the only bench player who gave IU a lift. Redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter, a Pickerington, Ohio, native, had five points and an assist in close to nine minutes off the bench. All five of Hunter’s points came from the foul line.
“Jerome Hunter played the best game of his college career, and he gave the best minutes all season long at that wing position,” Miller said.
Miller said Hunter’s high-level play allowed him to give junior forward Justin Smith more of a breather and mix and match in the frontcourt with junior Joey Brunk and freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis in foul trouble in the second half.
Sophomore forward Race Thompson (three points, two rebounds) and senior forward De’Ron Davis (two points, three rebounds) also provided tough minutes guarding Ohio State center Kaleb Wesson in the post. Indiana played with a rotation of 10 players, as sophomore forward Damezi Anderson sat out due to an illness.
IU freshman guard Armaan Franklin was pulled at the 10:18 mark in the first half and did not return after failing to hit the floor for a loose ball in the first half. The possession ended with an Ohio State turnover on a shot-clock violation, but Miller still confronted Franklin as he returned to the bench.
“Armaan, although he didn’t play as many minutes, it’s going to happen to a young guy,” Miller said. “He’s got to be ready next game to play a lot of minutes.”
SPECIAL DAY FOR FAN
It was a special day for 76-year-old IU fan Frank Farris, who attended his first game at Assembly Hall. Farris, a Fort Wayne native who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., became a Twitter sensation thanks to his emotional response posted on video to a Christmas gift he received from his daughter Michele Reed, which was tickets to Saturday’s Indiana-Ohio State game. When opening the gift, Farris was near tears, saying “I’ve never been there.”
After watching the video, Indiana athletic officials upgraded the seats for Farris and Reed near courtside and showed them on the Jumbotron before the game.
IU recognized its basketball alumni during halftime against Ohio State. IU basketball team physician Dr. Larry Rink also received an award from IU athletic director Fred Glass for 40 years of distinguished service. Former IU standout forward Alan Henderson, a member of the Hoosiers’ 1992 Final Four team, addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support.
“The common denominator has always been the fans,” Henderson told the crowd. “We do know how badly you want to win. … Stay behind the team, stay as positive as you can, to keep Assembly Hall as the best college basketball arena in the country.”
Despite several rumors of a possible appearance Saturday, former IU coach Bob Knight did not attend the game. Knight was a Ohio State player before going on to coach the Hoosiers to three national titles from 1971-2000.
Instead, Knight attended a doubleheader at Marian University. Knight has attended games at Marian over the years to support former IU center Steve Downing, who is now the school’s athletic director. Downing played at IU from 1970-73.
Miller was asked a question following the Ohio State win about his favorite flavor of chewing gum for games. No surprise, Miller is superstitious when it comes to the flavors he chooses.
“The black cherry was my go-to for a long time, but grape was the flavor of the day here today,” Miller said. “I think I had grape the last time that we had played well at home, where I felt we played well. So I went with grape, and I stuck with it, and without question grape is now the go-to as we move forward. If you like gum — man.”