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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Indiana freshman guard Romeo Langford scored 19 in his first regular-season game with the Hoosiers to lead them past Chicago State.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018 1:00 am

College Basketball Indiana 104 Chicago State 55

Youthful Hoosiers start season strong

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – There was a pull-up jumper from the baseline. There was a driving transition layup, plus a foul. There was a one-handed tip-in.

Romeo Langford scored in a plethora of ways in his official Indiana debut, pouring in a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to lead Indiana to an easy 104-55 victory over Chicago State on Tuesday at Assembly Hall in front of an announced crowd of 17,222.

“Really wasn't any pressure,” Langford said of his first game as a Hoosier. “Really couldn't wait, all of our freshman, just to get out here and get our first game in Assembly Hall under our belt, so it felt really good.”

The Hoosiers' season opener was competitive for a good portion of the first half, but then Langford exploded, scoring 11 straight Indiana points to help push his team's lead to 34-23 with 5:58 left in the half. By the end of the first 20 minutes, Langford had 17 points, Indiana led by 21 and the freshman was getting to the rim any time he wanted.

The Hoosiers (1-0) never let Chicago State back in the game and kept building their lead in the second half. The game was effectively over after Indiana came out of the halftime break with an 8-2 run, helped along by a pair of big dunks from sophomore Justin Smith, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

It was a solid all-around performance for the Hoosiers, who shot 57 percent from the field and held Chicago State to just 32 percent.

Coach Archie Miller has implored his team to push the ball up the floor off turnovers, what the Hoosiers call “advance passing,” and Indiana racked up 25 points off 20 Cougars turnovers.

Despite the gaudy defensive numbers for the Hoosiers, they know there is still plenty of room to improve. In fact, Miller said he didn't think Indiana was particularly good defensively.

“I thought Chicago State really pushed the ball hard on us and they gave us opportunities where we were really going to have to fight to get back,” the coach said. “At times we did (get back) and at times we didn't, so that's step one.

“Our on-ball defense, our pressure on the ball wasn't where it has to get to. ... You saw a lot of communication breakdowns and then you saw some guys really, to be honest with you, just fade into screens and die and we can't do that.”

One player who did have a solid game defensively was freshman point guard Robert Phinisee, who got the start, giving Indiana two freshman starters for the first time since 2014. Phinisee had six points and five assists, including a no-look pass to Evan Fitzner, but the freshman guard really made an impression on defense.

He hounded his man everywhere on the court and racked up a game-high five steals in 20 minutes.

“To be honest I'm not really used to a freshman coming in and being that tough and ready to go mentally,” Fitzner said of Phinisee. “Physically he can definitely hold his own, we've seen that in our scrimmages and again tonight.”

Fitzner was a third newcomer who made a significant impact on the game. The graduate transfer from St. Mary's had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and added six rebounds.

Also, Vijay Blackmon, who played one season at Bishop Luers before moving to Marion and 22 games at Saint Francis before walking on at IU, scored five points in his debut with the Hoosiers.