Indiana forward Juwan Morgan bringing ‘energy,’ production to winning Hoosiers

Arkansas State's Ty Cockfield and Indiana's Juwan Morgan reach for a loose ball during the second half of a game Wednesday in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana's Juwan Morgan dunks during the first half of a game against Arkansas State Wednesday in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller yells to his players during the first half of a game against Arkansas State Wednesday in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
South Florida guard David Collins, left, fouls Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) during a recent game in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)

Indiana basketball is immersed in a stretch of games in which the Hoosiers will see a good portion of zone defense from its opponents, which in theory, means a lack of production from the free throw line.

Juwan Morgan obviously isn’t majoring in basketball “theory,” however.

The Hoosiers (3-2) will host Eastern Michigan (4-0) Friday at 4:30 p.m. (BTN), and first-year coach Archie Miller said the Eagles’ zone is “the second best zone I’ve ever seen,” next to the famed defense of Syracuse. However, in the past two Indiana wins over South Florida and Arkansas State, Miller’s team has seen its share of zone, yet Morgan has thrived against it.

The 6-foot-8 junior ward has attempted 20 free throws combined in the two games and he has made 19 of those shots, en route to a combined 43 points.

“Energy,” Miller said of Morgan’s play in a postgame press conference Wednesday after his team beat Arkansas State. “He’s brought a lot of energy to the table. We’re not seeing many man-to-man (defenses) either. We’re playing against a lot of zones, so he’s doing a good job in tight spaces.”

Morgan injured an ankle in the Hoosiers’ win against Howard 11 days ago, which limited him to just five minutes. But he bounced back immediately to play 28 minutes in a loss at Seton Hall, which has kick-started a run in which he is playing great basketball at both ends of the floor.

“I thought,” Miller said, “just in general, he’s finished better. He’s kind of done that not only this game, (but) I thought we saw signs of it at Seton Hall, as well.”

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Against the Pirates, Morgan got the minutes, but he totaled just eight points. He did manage to grab seven rebounds against one of the bigger, stronger and tougher front courts that the Hoosiers will see all season. But he took his game to another level four days later against South Florida.

In that game, he grabbed seven offensive rebounds and finished with 15 points and 10 boards, as Indiana played a magnificent second half to win easily.

“He’s playing with some great confidence right now,” Miller said, “and it has nothing to do with jump shots or anything like that.”

Miller has emphasized to Morgan that his effectiveness needs to begin with activity in the paint and stretch out from there, not the other way around.

If there has been an area of poor play – at least statistically – by Morgan this season, it has been his 3-point shooting.

Morgan has never been a great long-range shooter (he made just 10 last season), but he has yet to make one in five attempts this year.

“We have tried to center him on the game for him starts inside out, not outside in,” Miller said. “That is a big part of it. Whether you’re playing against South Florida or Arkansas State, he has pretty much duplicated the performances, which starts with energy, tough plays, able to finish in and around the basket.”

“He hasn’t taken very many jump shots. He hasn’t had the ability to really even look at it.”

Morgan only missed two of his 11 shots against the Red Wolves Wednesday and made every one of his 10 free throws to score 28 points. That raised his average to nearly 13 per game and he also increased his rebounding numbers to almost six per game.

As much as Miller likes Morgan’s production offensively, he is thrilled with what he is doing defensively.

“He’s a versatile defender for us,” Miller said. “His physicality on the glass and in the paint is much different than it was earlier in the season.”

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