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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 1:00 am

Motivation on minds of IU coach, Morgan

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

NIT

Indiana

vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington

Records: Indiana (17-15), St. Francis (18-14)

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM

Indiana is playing postseason basketball in March. It just isn't the tournament the Hoosiers hoped for when the season began.

The team's near-miss for a spot in the NCAA Tournament leaves Indiana a No. 1 seed in the NIT and hosting the St. Francis Red Flash of the Northeast Conference at Assembly Hall in the tournament's first round tonight.

The Hoosiers (17-15) enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, but motivation is always a question after missing out on an NCAA bid. Coach Archie Miller insisted Indiana will be ready to take on the Red Flash.

“Our message is that at the end of the day if you have an opportunity to put an Indiana jersey on, you better be ready to play,” Miller said. “For us, obviously there's disappointment, but at the same time there's also opportunity. We need to focus in on the opportunity.”

“I told the guys, there's two types of teams in postseason play,” the coach added. “Ones that are excited to keep playing and, whether it be down or out, not as excited, these teams get eliminated very fast.”

One player who likely will not have much trouble remaining motivated is senior forward Juwan Morgan. After the Hoosiers' loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, Morgan said he hoped his Indiana career hadn't ended. Though he also expressed disappointment in missing the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, he emphasized he's excited to keep playing for the Hoosiers.

“Playing in the postseason is great,” Morgan said. “We're going to go into it ready to win.”

The Hoosiers last played in the NIT in 2017, the final year of the Tom Crean era. Indiana was eliminated in the first round with a loss to Georgia Tech, capping a disappointing season for the defending Big Ten champions.

In a strange coincidence, Morgan was watching a replay of that loss to the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, reminiscing with OG Anunoby about throwing no-look passes to the Toronto Raptors forward when they were teammates. Although Morgan enjoyed seeing one highlight of himself dishing to Anunoby for a go-ahead dunk, reliving the rest of the game was less than pleasant.

“It sucked,” Morgan said of the 75-63 loss. “It was terrible to go out that way, especially how we started out that season. It just hurt. I can use it as a lot of motivation, echoing to all the guys, making sure they don't feel what I felt then.”

From this point forward, every game could be Morgan's last with the Hoosiers. The same could be said for freshman Romeo Langford, who is a good bet to depart for the NBA at the end of the season.

Langford, the Hoosiers' leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, will try to play in the NIT, despite some speculation about whether he would skip the tournament to begin preparing for the NBA draft. The New Albany native is day to day with a back injury, according to Miller, an issue that flared up during the Ohio State game and forced him to go to the locker room during the game to get treatment.

Langford is questionable to play against St. Francis (18-14).

dsinn@jg.net