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  • Associated Press Indiana guard Devonte Green scored 15 points in the Hoosiers' season-opener Tuesday against Chicago State. He also had three assists.

Friday, November 09, 2018 1:00 am

Miller's task: Defining roles for his deep team

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana vs. Montana State

Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington

When: 8 p.m. today

Records: Indiana (1-0), Montana State (0-1)

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM

Indiana opened the season Tuesday with an easy 104-55 victory over Chicago State, a struggling program with one winning season since 1986. As a reward, the Hoosiers get a matchup tonight at Assembly Hall with Montana State, a struggling program with one winning season since 2004.

Indiana is still trying to sort out its rotation and figure out roles for as many players as possible. The Hoosiers have one of their deepest teams in recent memory, with as many as a dozen players potentially getting important minutes as the season goes on.

The big victory over Chicago State did little to make those roles more clearly defined. The Hoosiers had 12 players score points and 14 played, despite guard Aljami Durham and forward Race Thompson missing the game because of injuries. The bench scored 51 of Indiana's 104 points, more than Indiana's reserves scored in any game last season.

“It's hard,” coach Archie Miller said of playing-time decisions. “You want those guys to all have their opportunities. Every guy is at a different stage in terms of where they're at, in terms of learning what we want and how we want to do it.

“None of them are perfect. But the only way they get better is to have their opportunities to do it under fire.”

One player whose role is already well-known is freshman Romeo Langford. Langford led all scorers with 19 points in the season opener on 7-of-12 shooting. He also dished three assists. He was as-advertised in his Indiana debut, particularly deadly in the open court. He'll likely be Indiana's go-to perimeter scorer this season.

Langford, the fourth-leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball history, was not the only freshman to make his claim for more playing time, however. Point guard Rob Phinisee scored six points, but he really made his mark defensively, grabbing five steals and bothering his man everywhere. 

“I felt Rob played real well,” Langford said. “He didn't play like a freshman guard's first game in Assembly Hall. He showed that he can pass the ball and everything that he's capable of doing. He basically translated his game from high school into college.”

Phinisee and Devonte Green have battled for minutes at point guard since practice began and both made statements Tuesday. Coming off the bench, Green was Indiana's second-leading scorer with 15 points, and he added three assists. 

Green and Phinisee will each play plenty of minutes this season, and Miller even hinted that the two could play together for stretches.

“Devonte can play with Rob,” Miller said. “We have that ability to do that. And it gives you two guys off the dribble, I think, that are your best creators. Hopefully in time you see those guys as being able to be in attack mode.”

Phinisee's performance on defense was particularly impressive because Miller thought the overall effort on that end of the court was mostly sub-par, and he's expecting improvement against Montana State. 

The second-year coach wants the Hoosiers to do a better job of fighting through screens and communicating. Although Indiana is still working a half-dozen new players into the rotation, Miller didn't want to use that as an excuse for poor effort and execution.

“Inexperience and youth is something that you have to deal with early,” he said. “And we're going to have to deal with that. But those guys gotta get sped up as our older guys gotta get more dialed in.”

Miller said Durham and Thompson are unlikely to be ready to play against the Bobcats, but they could return Wednesday against Marquette.

dsinn@jg.net