BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana’s Zach McRoberts earned his minutes Friday.
He could be on the verge of getting a lot more playing time.
The junior forward scored seven points, grabbed eight rebounds and helped the Hoosiers seize control early in the second half as Indiana blew out Youngstown State 79-51.
“What you see during a game is what you see in practice. It’s kind of like what we said about Juwan Morgan a couple weeks ago,” Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said. “He’s giving you maximum effort, he’s giving you hustle plays. I think we’ve figured out he needs to be a part of what we’re doing.”
McRoberts, who transferred from Vermont to his home-state school in 2015, spent the previous two seasons searching for a role.
Now he seems to have figured it out.
In the last four games, the 6-foot-6 guard has scored 25 points, snared 26 rebounds and made all of his five 3-pointers this season while shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. But his value can’t be measured merely by numbers.
He delivered the pass for the winning shot against Notre Dame and jump-started sluggish Indiana (8-6). As a result, Miller could contemplate making McRoberts part of the Hoosiers’ starting lineup after winning back-to-back games for the first time since late November.
“We always say Zach is the person you hate to have going against you (in practice) but love to have him on your team,” Juwan Morgan said after scoring 16 points to lead Indiana. “And he showed why tonight.”
Jaylen Benton and Naz Bohannon each scored 10 points for the Penguins (2-11), who have lost nine in a row and still haven’t beaten a Division I team.
Indiana used a 7-0 run midway through the first half and a 7-2 spurt at the end of the half to take a 29-20 halftime lead.
Then McRoberts opened the second half with a 3-pointer to get the Hoosiers started.
Indiana scored twice in transition and got a dunk from Morgan to make it 38-24 with 16:56 left then scored six more, extending the lead to 20. Youngstown State couldn’t get closer than 17 the rest of the game.
“With four days off, I think it really showed today that both teams were off,” Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “It was hard to watch during the first half. I think the talent, size and physicality of the game… Indiana just wore us out in the second half.”
Youngstown State: The Penguins have struggled all season and Friday was more of the same. Once they fell into a double-digit deficit, they never even challenged the Hoosiers. Youngstown State has lost five consecutive games by at least 16 points.
Indiana: The Hoosiers can’t afford any more ragged starts when conference play kicks in. Still, the ability to adapt and fight through a tough half could be crucial to their success. Indiana still has a long way to go as non-conference losses to Indiana State and Fort Wayne revealed. But it also has lots of promise as the Hoosiers demonstrated in upsetting Notre Dame.
Youngstown State: Bohannon also had 10 rebounds while Devin Haygood scored nine points. … Youngstown State shot 31 percent from the field in the first half and 33.9 percent for the game. … The Penguins missed their first 15 3s, made their next two and missed their last eight to finish 2 of 25. …They also were 7 of 14 from the free-throw line.
Indiana: Josh Newkirk had 10 points and five assists on a night the Hoosiers were 5 of 22 from beyond the arc. … Johnson and Morgan each had six rebounds. … After starting the game 11 of 30 from the field, the Hoosiers shot 62.1 percent in the second half. … The Hoosiers forced 18 turnovers.
Before the national anthem, Indiana paid tribute to one of its most famous alums — Dick Enberg, the longtime play-by-play announcer who died Dec. 21 at age 82.
Enberg earned a master’s and doctorate degree in Bloomington and was the first voice of the university’s radio network. He called football and men’s basketball games from 1957-61.
Public address announcer Chuck Crabb also noted Enberg always made time to help students and personally called coach Archie Miller after beating Notre Dame earlier this month.
Youngstown State: Wraps up a six-game road trip at Cleveland State on Monday in the Horizon League opener.
Indiana: Returns to Big Ten action Tuesday at Wisconsin