BLOOMINGTON – In an alternate universe, Romeo Langford could have been a Louisville Cardinal. Instead, he's an Indiana Hoosier and he's making the Cardinals look silly today.
Indiana struggled on offense early in the first half, but Langford kept his team in the game with a variety of NBA-level step-back jumpers and drives. On one particularly crowd-pleasing possession, he caught a pass beyond the 3-point line, took one dribble and left the closing out on the ground with a crossover dribble before finishing a tough layup at the rim. Langford has 11 points at the half and the Hoosiers stayed within striking distance despite going 2 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Before the game, I wrote that defending physically without fouling would be a key for the Hoosiers against a Louisville team that shoots a lot of free throws. Indiana has excelled in the "without fouling" part, not committing any fouls until 7:42 remained in the half, but the "physical" part has been less obvious. Too often, the Cardinals have had easy looks at the basket because Indiana's defense has been less-than-stellar. Louisville has had seven layups and dunks, which provided its margin in the early going. The Hoosiers will have to tighten up on defense in the second half and risk some fouls, otherwise Louisville will be able to get too many easy shots down the stretch.
The offense will have to get going for the Hoosiers, as well, if they're going to get back in this game. For the second straight contest, Langford has had to provide far too much of the offensive firepower. While Indiana has been able to get some good looks at the basket, especially from the outside, too many shots have rolled off the rim or bounced out. If some of those fall, this game might look different, but as it is the Hoosiers are shooting just 44 percent from the field.
Juwan Morgan in the post has been a consistent go-to on offense for Indiana, but the senior forward has been something of a ball-stopper when he gets the ball in the post. The offense stagnates as he waits to make his move, with the other four players doing too much standing around. Morgan made one nice pass out of the post to a wide-open Robert Phinisee for a 3, which the freshman drilled. Indiana needs more of that, because Morgan is struggling to connect inside against the Cardinals' size.
This was not a well-played half for the Hoosiers. The effort was there for the most part, but the execution was lacking. Still, they're only down five. If they can be a little more efficient, this game is there for them.