Indiana forwards proving to be very reliable

Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) dunks against Michigan in the first half of a game in Ann Arbor, Mich. Saturday. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana forward Collin Hartman (30) defends as Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) shoots in the second half of a game in Ann Arbor, Mich. Saturday. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller signals against Michigan in the first half of a game in Ann Arbor, Mich. Saturday. (By The Associated Press)

In the past week, Indiana men’s basketball fans have watched their favorite team play well (for 36 minutes against Duke) and play poorly (for 36 minutes at Michigan). So it is anyone’s guess as to just how the Hoosiers (4-4, 0-1 Big Ten) will play tonight against Iowa (8 p.m., BTN) at Assembly Hall.

“That’s kind of what these two games in three days are going to do,” first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller said following Saturday’s lopsided loss to the Wolverines, “not allow you to dwell.”

Whether Indiana defends well against the Hawkeyes’ perimeter attack could fluctuate, as well as how the Hoosiers ability to take care of the ball. But what more than likely can be counted on will be the level of play that Miller gets from forwards Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman.

The two veterans have been very reliable in recent play.

“He’s the one bright spot in the game,” Miller said of Morgan Saturday. “He was on the boards.”

Morgan has been “on the boards” of late.

In the past five games, he has averaged over seven rebounds per game and grabbed eight against Michigan, including three at the offensive end.

“He gave us 24 points and eight boards in 32 minutes,” Miller said. “He was the one guy, he really went to work.”

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Morgan was the lone Indiana player to score in double figures against Michigan, as he totaled a career-best 24 points. That level of performance – at both ends – has become a trend for the 6-foot-8 junior.

Over the past four games, Morgan has averaged over 18 points per game after averaging just nine points per game to open the season through four games. And he isn’t simply jacking up shots.

Morgan was shooting just 42.9 percent from the field after four games to start this season, but he has connected at a 65 percent clip over the past four games.

Though he was the lone offensive threat against Michigan, he was matched on the glass by Hartman, who has quickly bounced back from ankle and groin injuries in the preseason to become a big factor for Indiana over the last week or so.

“We haven’t had him, so he hasn’t played,” Miller said of Hartman following the Duke game. “But literally, I think today he played 16 minutes and he practiced for the first time back to back leading into this game all season.”

“He’s a big, big part of what we’re doing because of who he is as a teammate, his leadership, his experience level; he’s fearless. I think once you start to see him get in there, more and more you’ll see our team get a little bit better and look a little bit better.”

The 6-foot-7 grad student scored 11 points against Duke, and grabbed eight boards against Michigan. Without Morgan and Hartman, it is frightening to think about how bad the Michigan loss (69-55) would’ve been without those two.

“Collin,” Miller continued, “you can see he’s a big-game player. You can see right now, just in terms of him being back engaged because he’s with the guys, it’s a whole different locker room with him.”

SEASON OF SHARING

One thing that has been very impressive in regards to Indiana’s play this season under Miller has been its ability to share the basketball.

In the Hoosiers’ first seven games, Indiana passed for double-figure assists in every one, including an astounding 25 assists in a win over Howard last month. However, in Saturday’s loss, Indiana totaled just seven assists on 22 made shots.

“Our guards didn’t make plays for others,” Miller said. “That was the big thing.”

“If you are playing guard at this level, and you are setting ball-screens and playing in transition, you have to have the ability to make somebody better. Early in the game, especially on the road, that is your thought process: Move the ball, share it, work it and make somebody better.”

Fifth-year guard Josh Newkirk leads Indiana with 23 assists, while sophomore Devonte Green (20), freshman Al Durham (19), and senior Robert Johnson (18) are close behind.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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